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Basque-inspired cuisine at Eleven in Ashland

Offering freshly prepared sharables inspired by the cuisine of the Basque region of Spain, Eleven is a worthwhile step off the beaten path.

I took notice when I first read about the Basque restaurant, located at 11 N. First St., Ashland. My dad was raised by his grandmother, who was born at the turn of the century in Spain's Basque region near the French border. She came to Eastern Oregon via Ellis Island with her husband, as a sizable amount of Basque shepherds and their families did a century ago.

Although I have warm, early memories of my great-grandmother, 4-year-olds rarely have adventurous palettes. My lack of familiarity with the cuisine means I can't speak for the food's authenticity, but Eleven's colorful environment, warm server and relaxed approach to dining captured a trait in my relatives that's equal parts bold and relaxed.

Eleven's menu offers an assortment of salads and entrees, all meant to be shared. The menu changes as ingredients become seasonally available. 

On a Tuesday evening, my friend and I started with glasses of tempranillo and a salad of locally sourced mixed greens, shaved Parmesan, warm, freshly grilled bacon pieces and halved roasted Brussells sprouts drizzled in a light and flavorful vinaigrette. The warm and the cool, crisp elements mixed well together, as did the crunchy Brussells sprouts and savory vinegar flavors. The ingredients were somewhat uncommon, but the combination is one I'd strongly recommend.

Next my friend and I shared the blue cheese and chanterelle mushroom tart.  I especially appreciated the savory crust, with its consistency rivaling shortbread. The warm, creamy tart, with its combination of bold garlic and blue cheese flavors, was an ideal choice for a cool March evening.

For a main dish, we went for the Lamb Loin with Kumquat Chutney, which struck me as the most rustic menu choice. The sweet and uncommon flavor of kumquat worked well with the juicy and well-roasted lamb. The entree was another meant to be shared, with two pieces on the plate, and we both agreed we'd order it again.

The restaurant also offered a selection of desserts, including apple fritters and a house-made lemon ice cream. The portion was generous and hard to finish, but the ice cream had a vibrant flavor worth recommending.

— Nick Morgan

Apple fritters and a house-made lemon ice cream are among the dessert offerings at Eleven in Ashland.