San Sebastian, Spain - Day 2 cont'd.
After a brief rest--and thorough check and re-check of our directions--we headed off to Akelare
to catch the sunset over the Bay of Biscay. The restaurant sits relatively high up, on a bluff that overlooks the ocean. The dining room was quite literally overwhelmed with sunlight, almost to the point of discomfort. More than a few diners were were sporting sunglasses until the sun went down. Still, it was very pretty from our window table.
Here, the sun is, thankfully, behind the clouds. A few minutes before it was not, making it very warm. I had to remove my suit jacket, something I dislike doing.
A box of canapes?
This cute idea would come full circle. You have here an encased vichyssoises in a cocoa butter shell, a tuna fritter of sorts, some kinda of olive-bread cracker, and a blood sausage roll.
Mussel encased in a sea gelee with tempura kelp, encased almond butter with a mini baguette, solid martini in a straw.
There were two tasting menus on offer. Two of us ordered the one, and one of us ordered the second. There were also a couple substitutions because we're annoying like that. I believe each menu is 135.
Pearls of foie gras and sour salad
Hmm, very similar to Wylie's foie gras in-the-round. This was a frozen dish, so I believe the LN2O was in use. Nice sour dressing on the greens.
I got broad beans with onion paper and raw mushrooms
A much lighter starter. I was super impressed with the beans themselves. So much flavor in a tiny package.
False risotto of vegetables with beetroot yolk
This was a very cool dish. Each vegetable was very tender but maintained its unique flavor. At first I thought the red orb was just a beet juice s'fer. It was actually an egg yolk lightly poached in beet juice. Amazing colors.
I had cuttlefish ravioli and gnocchi with squid eggs
Thin slices of raw cuttlefish encased gnocchi made from cuttlefish.
Scallop cooked in salt with pumpkin
The scallop is cooked in a mini Staub pot filled with seasoned salt. The scallop is then removed tableside, dunked into a small glass of pumpkin soup. This dunking not only washes off the salt from the scallop but also seasons the soup. Pumpkin candy and roasted pumpkin garnished the plate.
I received "egg pasta" with wild mushrooms
I really liked this idea of taking a totally classic dish and totally turning it upside down. Here, the pasta is made with egg white and egg yolk. A generous serving of wild mushrooms was the heart of the dish though. I certainly don't prefer this version to the original, but the idea was a fun one.
Sole in a sea of coral
So here's all kinds of "caviar" and caviar with some fish. I thought both these fish courses were a bit of a step down on the execution front. The skin could've been crisper and I wasn't in love with either of these accompaniments. Very good, but not excellent; I think innovation was put before taste here.
I was served red mullet with sauce "fusili"
So here we have two fillets of red mullet with a heavy spice rub. The sauce is gelatinzed pasta flavored with parsley, soy sauce, and garlic. I thought this was a bit much as the pieces of pasta didn't add much to the dish and kind of looked odd.
Lamb, aka "You've never seen anything like this before"
So said the waiter when describing the dish earlier. He would've been correct had we not just had lunch at Mugaritz a few hours earlier. It's quite amusing how these dishes were almost the exact same. I actually thought this dish was tastier but Mugaritz version pushed the idea of "burnt" much harder and was more convincing. Accompaniments were black tempura vegetables, mint candy that was melted with a tableside application of jamb jus.
My mother received beef in coppered potato and juice sponge (their translation, not mine)
That is just as copper as it looks.
And I had roasted pig
Various sweet accompaniments and a ham fat emulsion. This was very good, but my Spanish pig standard still remains with Abac in Barcelona.
Materialized aromas of port
Components of red fruit, cocoa, and soil. Served with a glass of port for comparison's sake. I enjoyed this, but my mother felt it was much too large to be a pre-dessert.
I received Milk/Grape, Cheese/Wine in parallel evolution
A nice, modern take on a cheese course.
Like our mains, we also each got different desserts.
"Another Apple Tart"
Unless they're trying to be super ironic about it, I think the more accurate translation would be, "The Other Apple Tart." What you see here is a thin sheet of apple gelatin printed with edible ink. Beneath is a rectangle of eggless pastry. Really cool looking, but the gelatin sheet was a bit hard to cut.
Apricot with cherry and French toast
The shell was filled with a chilled apricot curd.
For my main dessert I got gin and tonic on a plate
It's difficult to see but there's a mound of clear gin gelee on the plate. Lemon sorbet and some peppery syrup finished out the dish. Nice and light, but I liked the mojito/cigar dessert at Can Roca much more.
But wait, sausage and bread as petits fours? How strange!
Potato chips seasoned with sugar, chocolate-nut "sausage," sweet bread roll, wine with fruit juice infusion. How clever.
This was a really fun meal. I don't think all the dishes were three-star quality in taste, but the experience was a very valuable one. If one places a high value on novelty and creativity, as I do, then I highly recommend this restaurant. I liked it more than Mugaritz, I think. My sister, however, disagrees.
This meal would also mark the first use of our Relais & Chateaux dining certificates. As I'm sure you'll agree, starred meals with the current exchange rate become very, very expensive. Thankfully, we have lots and lots and lots of American Express points. In fact, I would hazard that at least half of this trip was paid for, in some way, using points. Airfare, our hotel in San Sebastian, and many of our meals.
The dining certificates were a source of stress for me because they're denominated in dollars. Though I checked with R&C USA headquarters many times to ensure they'd be accepted in Europe I was still nervous. Dropping $800 on a meal after a $700 lunch was not high on my mother's list of things to do. Using the certificates was always a bit nerve-wracking but would go as follows. When we requested the check we would take out the required number of certificates. We would then awkwardly tell the waitstaff about them and have them calculate the total in dollars. We would then leave the appropriate number of certificates and some token gratuity, like 20 or so. I'm not sure if this is appropriate. Maybe we're all going to hell. But that's how this meal was "relatively free," such that there was effectively no cash outlay on our part. Yay!