Héctor Oribe is a hidden gem in Paganos that I’m glad that I found. It’s easy to get fooled by the humble exterior of Héctor Oribe. The location itself is already working against the restaurant. Located in Paganos, a tiny town in the middle of Rioja the wine region, it escapes winery hopping people unaware of the restaurant. Having said that it’s conveniently located close to Bodegas Ysios and the bigger town Guardia.
Héctor Oribe, the Basque-born founder of the restaurant gained experience from prominent institutions in the region like Arzak (3 Michelin stars) before setting up his own in 2000. This small restaurant of 50 seats has a welcoming atmosphere and the staff are friendly and relaxed. It’s a kind of place where you don’t need to think too much about how you behave and it’s all about the food.
A very straight forward amuse bouche made of a mix of bell pepper, pieces of fish and onion. Fresh and light.
This is Hector Oribe’s signature dish on the menu. The oxtail was very tender and full of flavour from the wine and garlic sauce. The meat was easily peeled off from the tail bones. Supporting the dish was a silky smooth mash of potato. I suspect there was cheese added to it which elevated the richness and creamy texture.
The selection of desserts was quite impressive for a restaurant like this. It was the biggest section in the menu so I knew this was a good sign that they are offering dessert for the right reason, not because it’s an obligation to offer as a restaurant. I was recommended to try the Peach Cannoli. The Peach Cannoli are stuffed with cheese cream and passion fruit. It was served with pineapple sherbet and vanilla oil. Although I usually shy away from desserts containing tropical fruits (I prefer to have it on its own) this was surprisingly good. It was not too sweet and had interesting textures.
I didn’t have time to explore the tasting menu but I was fully satisified of what I had sampled from the menu. It’s modern no nonsense cooking without diverging from traditions. Unfortunately I didn’t have wine because I was driving although the wine cellar next to the dining room looked very inviting. This is the perfect stop for a lunch between two winery visits in Rioja. It’s also very affordable for what you get.
For more photos from Héctor Oribe, please visit my Flickr set.
C/ Gasteiz, 5
Tel. (+34) 945 600 715