Let's get the obvious question out of the way first: how the hell do you pronounce the name of this restaurant? Like Axe, the body spray? Like ask, a question? Like at-KSEEE? Turns out the answer is "ahh-chay," like the letter "h" half-remembered from your kindergarten Spanish class. Which, come to think of it, makes sense, given that this is a Spanish-Basque restaurant.
Now that that's settled, time to discuss important matters. This is a tapas restaurant, which may get your dander up if you have an issue with the "small plates are meant for sharing" wave that's swept the nation as a minor backlash against the Americana that is the giant meat entree portion. And, to be sure, if you have more than one partner at the dining table, you won't be getting much of these plates. But they're not, like, crazy small. You'll survive.
The pinxtos are even smaller bites at even smaller prices, and we recommend getting after whichever suit your fancy. It's hard to put a price on a smoked-salmon deviled egg exploding in your mouth, but, if we had to, $3 seems in the ballpark.
If you heard the phrase "salmon deviled egg" and were concerned that you were going to be treated to another boring-ass SF California restaurant, calm your fears. The menu is unusual enough to be interesting — paella, octopus salad, skillet gambas (shrimp), duck terrine — and the preparations are all distinctly Spanish/Basque. It's a fun, interesting, tasty meal. The drinks are similarly amusing; one of our cocktails was pink, and served in an 18-inch-tall glass (it's called the Sickle). It was also delicious.
So what's the catch? The location is kind of whack, and the atmosphere reflects it. 15th and Market is not particularly accessible unless you happen to live in the made-up neighborhood that is the Duboce Triangle (which is only three square blocks, anyway). Because it's a bit out there, the restaurant is not very loud/upbeat/energetic. We feel like it could use an injection of bar scene, which maybe next door's Cafe Du Nord will bring, or something to ease the decor's sterility. Perhaps some intentional wear-and-tear?
The food and drinks are good, but it's not the most fun restaurant you'll encounter. Thus, we recommend it, but not unequivocally.
A cool little stack of pickled-thing-meat-pickled-thing on a stick. A nice palate cleanser/starter.
Cash money, if you like eggy flavors at all, hit it.
A nice slab of fatty cured meats. If terrine raises your fancy, you'll enjoy.
AWESOME. A beautiful floral pattern of sliced salty meat, topped with a dose of oil. Just a great collection of bites.
Nice, but suffers from the central octopus problem — never enough octopus. Someone give us a shocking pile of octopus on a plate and we'll get pumped up.
If you're looking for a little carb action (and,who are we kidding, you are), throw this in the mix.
Nicely-cooked shrimp in a sizzling skillet, decent spicing. You won't regret it but it's not mandatory.
Mandatory. If you have any inclination toward paella, this was the best dish of the night. A "choose your own adventure" of meats in delicious rice.