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San Sebastian, March 2008


Daniel
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Thanks everyone, thanks Huey.. Its nice to keep in touch with eveyone.. Egullet is a living encyclopedia with cool people.. We drove around some vineyards and then went to Biaritz.. It is beyond description or what crappy photos I might have taken.. there was a QuickSilver Surf competition.. We watched people hit crazy waves created by the rocks.. I am talking people were riding tubes..

Drove along the coast, came back to watch the sunset in San Sebastian.. Sat on the beach and drank campari with fresh orange juice, bacharans, and had some tapas.. Will add photos of both beaches tonight as I cant wait to see the photos..Sitting on my terrace waiting to make room for the last round of the night

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Sorry everyone, I mispelled Biarritz.. Its a beach in France right on the border of France and Spain...

Here are my crappy little photos..

One of my only photos of Biarritz..

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Sundown in San Sebastian..

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To the left:

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To the right:

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Why not:

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View in front of our apartment:

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You should get a shot of that government building when it is rainbow-colored :) If you look right over that bridge while standing on it, you can see fish dancing in the shallow water that people are trying to catch.

We were there on a Sunday night, at 10, afraid we wouldn't be able to get anything to eat, and right there we found some very good sushi. Not exactly what you go looking for in Spain, but it was surprisingly good and at that time, I certainly wasn't going to be picky.

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10 is dinner time for us.. Or it has been every night of our trip.. I know what sushi place you are talking about. It seems to be crowded every night... We made the mistake of having chinese food while we were here. Not so much a dinner but, a going home, needed soup type of dinner.. We were looking for a place that had a green salad and soup.. We were tired of tapas, getting sick, looking for some steamed greens and a green salad... I will post a review of the experience soon.. But it might say something of my Spanish that I get along better speaking Chinese.. Leaving today, its bitter sweet.. So happy to go back to New York.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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That's another reason we had sushi -- we just needed something different. None of it was local -- I asked -- but it was still quality.

I loved Biarritz, too -- gorgeous area, had the best lobster I've ever had at one restaurant (La Maison Blanche), and at another restaurant had the absolutely stereotypical French maitre'd and poor food to match.

So I know where you are coming from -- it has been two years since I was there and I can still pull those details...

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I love Gandarias. Fantastic service, and they sell Belondrade (beautiful white wine) by the glass... Mmmm

me too... like a one trick pony I drank the Belondrade y Lurton only at Gandarias for the 4 days we were there....interesting husband and wife wine!

Agree a really good wine - the sommelier at Arzak had recommended it to us last time we ate there. They also serve it in a great tapas bar in the old town in San Sebastian (sorry don't know the name - one of the larger ones in the last street to the north of the town), they keep their better wines by the glass in a dispenser which keeps the air away from the open bottles, and they have Riedel glassware for the good wines.

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A little out of order here.. But this is a restaurant we went to after going to lopez de heredia vineyard.. We loved the wines here and started buying bottles from the years of our birth. When we asked them to see where they kept the bottles, the mistaken our request for a private tour.. Lucky for us, they were more then happy to show us around..

After spending most of the morning there we were ready for lunch.. We stopped by this place.. The name escapes me but, it was fantastic.. LA VIEJA BODEGA They are known for their roasted suckling lamb and all around wonderful service and food.. It was a good sign when the great grand daughter and GM of Lopez De Heredia happen to be sitting at the table next to us..

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Not the best photo of the outside but the inside had a relaxed elegance..

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We started with a shrimp sort of egg roll which was suprisingly Asian.. Rather common for a New Yorker I suppose but, I am sure this is pretty unique for the Spanish Country Side.

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We went on to share a porion of fideos with shrimp and red mullet in a crayfish sauce.. This was wonderful.. And the restaurant split the dish for us and served it in two seperate bowls.. It was the perfect amount.

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The star of the show, the moment we had been waiting for since we left San Sebastian.. After passing my 400th flock of lamb, I was pretty much about to pull over on the side of the road and start gnawing on a leg.. I believe the wood they were using was Grape Vines from what I made out.. The lamb was wonderful.. Often times you hear people describe lamb favorably by saying there was no "lamby" taste.. This was crazy lamby and crazy good.. The skin was perfect, the meat was moist, and it was sitting in this lamb stock with lamb juices that was absolute heaven.. I couldnt stop eating the thing.. And luckily enough, there was enough meat for 4 people..

Its also feels very primitively comforting to have a piece of meat that also can be used as a club incase the waitress tried to clear early.

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Just another shot of the wonderful dish:

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To go with the lamb we ordered red peppers roasted on the same grill:

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Grill:

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I can not recall having a better dessert then this.. This was an unsweeten passion fruit granita, topped with a fresh yogurt cream ice cream, sitting in a wonderful thick white chocolate sauce.. It was outstanding.. The tartness of the passion fruit was eased by all the accompaning flavors.. The dish was outstanding..

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There was another dessert that I dont recall.. It took a lot of restraint on both our parts to not have re-order the first dessert.. I kind of wish we did...

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If you are ever in Haro, this place is really special and so worth going to.

Edited by Daniel (log)
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Some random tapas place in Haro:

These were the best fries I had in Spain.. They were boiled first.. Three different dipping sauces.

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Some beautiful shrimp:

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This was interesting: It was a little pickle in a cornichon type pickle, stuffed with tuna, wrapped with an achovy with an olive and pickled pepper. Really good..

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Some crawfish:

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One thing I really enjoyed in Spain was the use of idiazabal cheese in desserts.. From ice cream to cakes and rice pudding it was everywhere.. In this dessert there was a thin layer of cheese in the cake layer as well as bits of cheese in the cream.. It was awesome..

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This was given to me for free by one of the owners of a local tapas spot we hung out in Haro.. He was really nice and we spoke for awhile one night.. This was Fresh Bellota Ham he carved off the leg.. He then added a red pepper powder and this wonderful olive oil.. It was beyond.. Top 10 ham experiences of my life.. Haha

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Edited by Daniel (log)
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  • 1 month later...

La Vieja Bodega that Daniel mentions in one of his posts is a very good restaurant in the small town of Casalarreina in Rioja. Highly recommended.

athinaeos

civilization is an everyday affair

the situation is hopeless, but not very serious

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  • 1 month later...

As there doesn't appear to be a specific Mugaritz thread this would seem to be as good a place as any.

We had a good to exceptional meal at Murgaritz and reading back through this thread it is interesting to see that some of the criticism matched our own but the highs outweighed those so all can be forgiven.

The Amuse of potatoes was great fun, I was pleased to see Rachel laughing her socks of at them as her attitude towards high-end meals has turned less than complimentary after some relatively poor meals costing large sums of money.

An essay on Salads; warm Lettuce hearts soaked in Vanilla Brine, a dressing of Balsamic vinegar and country milk skins. I thought at this point that the meal might go downhill. The Vanilla brine was noticeable but the balsamic dressing was so slight that it didn’t provide the acidity that the dish needed, it was as though the cut side of the lettuce heart had merely been shown the dressing. I think it could have been better with better seasoning.

We were right back on track with a ravioli filling of Crab and Spring peas in a bluefish consommé and pearls of vegetables. Stunning broth, delicately flavoured with a hint of fish poured over two little rectangles of crab and spring peas. Beautiful

Sheep Milks Curd, seasoned with hay and toasted fern. Pumpkin glazed in savoury syrup. This dish was pretty awful, it was completely devoid of seasoning, my notes describe the dish as completely flat. Maybe with some salt or acidity this would have changed, if they were trying to provoke I have no idea but in the kitchen at the end of my meal we were asked whether there was anything we didn’t like. We both replied the curd and before even explaining why the executive chef (I forget his name) asked “not enough salt?” before describing their “philosophy” of salting things lightly. It was as though they knew that dish was a) incorrectly seasoned or they are trying to get a reaction. If the latter why?

Heart of baby leeks roasted over vine cutting and bathed in a stock infused with molluscs, crushed citrus fruit. Another great clear broth, with razor clams and leeks. Both of us thought that the broth had juniper (or a hefty slug of gin) in it but were advised that it was something else which bore no relation to its flavour. This shouldn’t detract though. Another lovely dish.

Sauteed red mullet fillets were served over vegetables and liver stew. A really nice piece of mullet, I forgotten the complete construction of this dish now but there was also botarga, lovely spring onions and a hint of ginger.

Escalope of Duck Foie Gras, chargrilled, accompanied by the slight bitterness of fresh broad beans. Mastiha resin and red cedar leaves. As described! The foie was beautiful, both in texture and flavour, using broad beans for the bitter element was a nice idea.

A Piece of beef, roasted and Perfumed with Vine Cutting Embers, fragments of thyme and natural anthocyans. Cinders salts and crisp radishes. Firstly our beef was actually Veal from a farmer close to the French border. Described in the kitchen as having been fed “on its mother’s milk for three months and then one month of eating just eggs”. It was stunning, the best veal I have tasted. Visually it was pretty stunning, completely black and white, the “burnt” vegetables coating the veal which was so evenly cooked I thought it must have been done sous-vide but I was assured that it was grilled. The radishes added the only white element to the dish and along with the black bread "cinders" it bought a nice crunch. The radishes themselves were excellent. Looking at it you would have sworn that at least one element was going to taste burnt or caramelised but none of this occurred, it should have been dry, there were “burnt” things everywhere and not a drop of jus or sauce. A real 10/10 dish for both of us. Superb. We were lost for words for a few minutes afterwards.

Tradition, Ocean and land: braised Iberian pork tails and pan fried Langoustines, reduced braising juices infused with Iberian Jamon. This was another good dish though after the veal it suffered in comparison. I thought the langoustine decent enough and the gelatinous and crunchy texture of the tail was lovely though it was stuck in my teeth for a few minutes afterwards prompting Rachel to return form the bathroom and hand me one of the toothbrushes. :laugh:

At this point we were asked if we were still hungry or if we wanted more dishes, this was unexpected as we had come to the end of the savoury portion of the menu, in hindsight I should have said yes and gone with the flow or taken a look at the menu. Rachel was finished at this point and instead I asked if I could perhaps sample some cheese. A beautifully plated cheese course with 6 cheeses and six accompaniments followed. Beautiful to look at, decent but not mind blowing cheeses.

Violet ice cream, hot almond marzipan, shavings of spiced bread and green tea. Beautiful ice cream, and the textural and temperature contrasts were interesting and most importantly tasted good.

Crunchy milk sheets with confit kidney beans, Citrus peel sherbet, orange blossom and cumin water. The least impressive of the desserts the kidney beans came as a puree which was grainy. (When I say least impressive we still bth gave it 7/10)

Rachel subbed in the Interpretation of Chocolate, once again , visually this was fabulous and I was assured by Rachel that it was a good chocolate dessert. For myself Frozen white chocolate sphere over broken nut brittle and distilled cocoa. The clear cocoa was poured into my spectacular white chocolate spehere at the table. Great white chocolate, lovely slightly burnt brittle. Beautiful.

Overall a very good meal, some good ingredients (some great), some seasoning issues but as an overall experience one of the best. A mention to the service as well which was wonderfully elegant, at times it seemed like it had been choreographed, silently gliding across the floor, moving at pace without seeming hurried. Wonderful to watch.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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  • 1 month later...

Looks like I'm in a minority here. I ate in Mugaritz last week and also in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, a fine dining restaurant owned by Martin Berasategui. I had some serious problems with Mugaritz, both in respect of the food and the service. See my write-ups of both experiences on my blog:

http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/mu...-at-office.html

http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/gu...ou-can-eat.html

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I ate at the Guggenheim as well - I thought it a massive disappointment. Dishes like the Pasta really were undercooked which was interesting but for me served little or no purpose and the joselito broth that accompanied would have been nice if it had managed to display any of the flavours that Joselito has, a complete waste of time. Nothing form that meal sticks in my mind at all, well overrated IMO.

"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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I'm really sorry you has such a bad experience at the Guggenheim, Matthew. Maybe they simply had a bad day and you were an unfortunate victim. Everywhere has up and down days, as I know from my own daily experiences. The pasta was deliberately cooked slightly short of al dente and I guess this is won't be to everyone's taste. The day I ate there the flavour of the jamón ibérico stock was superb - really pure - but maybe it was too weak the day you were there. Do give the place another go as I have no doubt in my mind as to the quality of the cooking.

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Looks like I'm in a minority here. I ate in Mugaritz last week and also in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, a fine dining restaurant owned by Martin Berasategui. I had some serious problems with Mugaritz, both in respect of the food and the service. See my write-ups of both experiences on my blog:

http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/mu...-at-office.html

http://aidanbrooks.blogspot.com/2008/07/gu...ou-can-eat.html

You coments on Mugaritz are interesting. It is a restaurant that does split opinions, for every rave review there seems to be a negative one. We ate there last September and had a superb experience - great food, great wine and great service.

We are booked in, in a few weeks time, hopefully it will be similar to that one, and Mathews, rather than yours.

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  • 3 weeks later...

We return to Mugaritz nearly a year after our first visit in September ’07. Again, I have the same dilemma. Lots of good reviews mixed with some worryingly poor ones. We had an excellent meal on our last visit; will we be disappointed this time? Is it better to try something new and not chance tarnishing the memory? So this time I vacillate between Mathew Grant’s positive review and Aidan Brook's critical comments.

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Luckily I persevere. It turns out to be glorious day, and the countryside around the restaurant looks great, on the way in we check out the restaurant’s herb garden. We took a taxi to the restaurant and again had no problems finding it, the fare is approx €22 each way and it took about 15 mins from hotel (and about 10 mins wait for it to arrive on the return). They are building a new motorway in the hills close to the restaurant so this could make driving confusing.

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We sit in the courtyard for a Txakoli and the amuse bouche of potatoes coated in white clay served with aioli, and some pimentos de padron done in a tempura style. Both are fine, the potatoes need a good scoop of aioli to make them tasty but you get a good size bowl so this is obviously the idea, and the little peppers are very moreish. Even though this is the second time we have had the potato rocks they are still fun.

There is a choice of two set menus, we selected the more innovative menu Naturan which is €125 a head as opposed to the slightly cheaper, more traditional €95 menu. We also asked the sommelier to pair wines with the meal as we had done this last time and it worked well.

Once we were seated in the restaurant our first dish arrived which was an addition to the menu. This was very tender baby squid with tender white beans in a deep, fishy broth. It was very good.

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On to the menu (the capitalization is from the menu):

FLOWERS, flowers, flowers is a mound of crispy fried artichoke slices, mixed with fresh and colourful flower petals. It was wonderful very fresh, and garlicky, with lots of interesting tastes mixing together. This was served with “Quinta Apolonia de Belondrade y Lurtron” 2006.

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CRUNCHY BITES OF TARO AND COCONUT over grilled sardine ice comes as a small mound of white crystals at the side of the plate, with thin shaving of taro/coconut stuck into it, to this they pour a fish broth. It is a very fishy dish; the white crystals are very cold fishy ice that slowly melts into the stock. It is an interesting dish; the flavours are good but maybe too intense for me. My partner loved it though. This was served with “Nikolaihof Hefealbzug Gruner Veltliner” 2007.

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VEGTABLE CARPACCIO accompanied by a sweet and sour dressing, D.O. Idiazabel cheese chippings and vegetable splinters is an intriguing description and even more so when it arrives. The “vegetable” is sliced thinly, is translucent and red and looks just like a plate of bressola. It is scattered with toasted hazelnuts and pine nuts, and dressed with translucent slices of cheese, and herb leaves. The taste is amazing; really outstanding. Everything comes together really well, and it really stimulates discussion. What is the vegetable? Is it celeriac? No, it turns out to be watermelon that has been char grilled and then marinated, which really changes its flavour. From speaking to the waiters it seems the identity of the vegetable is a culinary joke, designed to challenge and amuse the diners. The joke worked for us, it is a really outstanding dish that takes a number of ingredients and takes then to a totally different place. Picking up on Aidan’s comment about it not tasting of watermelon: I think that was the point.

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HEART OF BABY LEEKS roasted over vine cuttings and bathed in a stock infused with moluscs. Crushed citrus fruit had good crisp leeks with slices of razor clams in a clear broth with some small white flowers. These had a really interesting bitter taste that complemented the dish very nicely. A good clean tasting dish. This was served with “A. Mann Piniot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 2005” from Alsace.

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HONEYED FISH STEW accompanied with roasted chicken livers and generous slices of truffle. Interesting textures and deep flavours contrast this dish nicely with the previous ones.

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SAUTEED MULLET FILLETS seared over vegetables and liver stew is a piece of shiny, glistening mullet that looks like it has come straight from the sea. We are told this is achieved by cooking it with a thin layer of Jamon fat that dissolves during the cooking. The texture was really melting and moist, was it cooked sous-vide to achieve this? Unlike Aidan’s experience I thought it was well cooked, yes it was soft, but not over cooked and the explanation of the jamon treatment explains why it didn’t have a traditional crispy skin. This was one of my favourite dishes – I could have easily eaten another portion. It was served with “Bodegas Naia Naides 2006” and the previous white wine. The two wines were interesting because they changed the flavour of the dish.

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A PIECE OF MILK VEAL, ROASTED AND PERFUMED WITH VINE CUTTING EMBERS and fragments of thyme, cinders, salts and crisp radishes seems to be becoming a Mugaritz classic, on my last visit this was a dish made with beef, it is now made with very pale veal. To me it is an improved dish with the flavour of the veal working very well with the charcoal flavours. Mathew’s description of the dish is very good and I won’t try to better it. The wine with this course was a “Nita de Meritxell Palleja 2006”.

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Tradition, ocean and land: braised IBERIAN PORK TAILS and pan-fried LANGUOSTINES. Reduced braising juices infused with Iberian “jamon” was again on the menu on my first visit and I think I enjoyed it more this time. I agree with Aidan that the langoustine gets a little lost in the intense flavour of the pork and jambon, but I think it adds balance to the dish giving it a contrasting texture and a foil for the intense porky-ness of the dish. My partner summed it up – she is now hooked on pig’s tails.

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We were offered an extra course of “Cheese and accompaniments” which worked well. A plate of six local cheeses and then a separate plate of six dots to pair with each cheese – including a macadamia nut, some intense orange marmalade, finely cubed apple, some cherry jam, and what looked like a dollop of vegemite (it wasn’t).

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Evoking a spring morning: MILK ICE-CREAM, sun-ripened red fruits; mild textured aniseed herb buds was served without an accompanying wine, and the sommelier suggested we simply drank water to enhance the experience. The dish is a layer of ice cream, mixed berries, and light meringue. The flavours were spectacular, interspersed through the fruits were very intensely flavoured herb leaves – tarragon, basil and mint. The placement of the herbs meant you ate a leaf with each mouthful; the intensity of all the flavours was outstanding. Quite a revelation.

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WARM PUMKIN BITES with sweet and bitter accents is an intriguing dish, a big cube of roasted pumpkin with a vanilla infused sweet potato puree on one side, and a bitter chocolate a cream combination on the other. It was a very interesting dish, with contrasting flavours. Interestingly we may have experienced a slightly different dish to a similar one that Aidan had. Ours was definitely sweet potato rather than pumpkin puree and chocolate not coffee. Served with “Jimenez-Landi Bodegas Jime Nez-Landi 2005”.

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Interpretation of vanity: MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE, cold almonds cream and cocoa bubbles another dish I have had before, a moist chocolate mouse rather than cake with big chocolate bubbles, if these were smoke filled we missed them, so again I suspect the dish has been tweaked since Aidan was there. The bubbles add interest to the presentation but overall it was quite a boring chocolate dessert, even though it was very tasty. Served with “Bodegas Alvear PX De Anada 2004”.

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Aidan, in his review makes a number of comments about the service, and I must agree with some of them. From what I could see the FOH team splits into two, a very experience female sommelier and an equally experienced maitre’d. When they served us it was faultless. Other staff seemed a lot less experienced, almost like trainees, and it was here we saw some errors. We nearly had seconds of the amuse bouche; a plate was nearly cleared whilst my partner was still eating, and some plates were presented the wrong way round (corrected by the maitre’d). The wine service was a little patchy, the senior sommelier was pouring our wine selection occasionally helped by a younger sommelier, they never missed a wine/dish pairing but at times they cut it fine. However, unlike Aidan there were no half drunk glasses – every drop was drunk. We speak no Spanish and it was evident that whilst the more experienced staff were able to explain dishes in the detail the less experienced didn’t have the English skills to do so – maybe this is why some of the staff spoke to Aidan in English – even though we don’t speak Spanish is wasn’t really a problem to us, and we had fun with the staff as they tried to help us.

Overall it was a really good meal, the food was better than my first visit, which I think is down to the ingredients that are available in early August i.e. more flowers. In the last year I have been lucky enough to try Feran Adria’s and Heston Blumenthal’s restaurants and both were equally superb. Three restaurants all pushing the boundaries of modern food in quite different ways, from our experience Mugaritz deserves to be in this league.

Total bill for two was €464, the two menus are €250, cheese was €12, wine €160 for two, with water and Txakoli adding €12.50, and tax €30.42. The food is good value (even with the poor euro/pound exchange rate) but I found the wine was a little overpriced. Whilst they were all good wines I found the pouring lacked generosity and I often sat with an empty glass. On our previous visit it had been far more generous and so this was slightly disappointing.

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MB - worth visiting but not if the choice is between that and Arzak or that and Mugaritz. MB's farmer's egg was brilliant and his greatest hits menu (which was 140E in 2007) delights both the eye and the palate even if the narrative of the meal is undermined by having to accommodate so many signature dishes.

Mugaritz was more memorable - it was possible to delineate an arc to the meal and the setting (starting outside, dining inside and concluding in the open once more) added to the theatricality of the experience. Hoping to visit later this year after such a wonderful meal in 2007.

I'm surprised at the less positive noises regarding the Guggenheim - the remit of the restaurant seems to be more constrained than the big hitters mentioned in this thread yet on both of my visits the food seemed to be conspiring with Gehry's structure to further eclipse the actual contents of the building. The roasted roseval potato with raw bean juice is one of the finest dishes I've eaten

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  • 2 weeks later...

Chef friends of mine from London and New York ate at Mugaritz last week and reported to me: "Our meal at Mugaritz was fantastic, even better than the last one. You must go back and try again." So it sounds like I was right and it was just a bad day at the office when I went. We all have days like that in our restaurants.

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  • 1 month later...

Just back from a long weekend to San Sebastian, the trip being built around our Sunday lunch at Mugaritz. I was interested to see how this panned out, partly because of some of the variability of opinions on this board, and partly because I wondered whether it might be a bit too avant garde for my parents’ more conservative taste.

The headline is: I had one of the most intelligently constructed and delicate, almost ethereal, meals it has been my pleasure to eat.

Let’s get the niggles out of the way first.

The countryside around S.S. is gorgeous, lush alpine hills and mountains. Very pretty. And Mugaritz is right in the heart of it…and makes almost nothing of it ! This is not a gripe about the style of the place. I really liked the natural simplicity of the dining room; much preferred it to the Louis XIV bling of many of the Parisian 3*s, for example. But the farmhouse has no view; the terrace is a poor kind of thing; and it sits next to a small road that was just remarkably busy for a Sunday lunch.

Next up the nibbles-while-you-wait. Deep fired shrimp; fine; unremarkable shrimpy whitebait. And the famous potatoes in clay. Witty to look at, utterly pointless to eat. Wasn’t even a particularly flavoursome potato. Mum nailed it though – it’s like the Kaolin we used to take as medicine; great idea: the starter has an indigestion tablet built in. By this time started to wonder whether the whole thing would be up itself in terms of pretentiousness (some of the ‘concept’ blurb on the menu reinforced this image, as did the website which is a triumph of form over function: artistically inspiring but almost impossible to find little bits of info like “when are you open” or “what do you have to eat” etc.).

Then the meal started…

My father and I went for the cheaper of the two tasting menu’s – it simply appealed more. There was no way on earth Mum could manage to eat, let alone enjoy, 9+ courses so we had pre-arranged with the restaurant (who were very helpful about this) 5 picks from their ‘Historic dishes’ selections. I won’t do a blow by blow but some of the highlights:

The pasta-less ravioli of crab. Not just formed from “only the white meat” but utterly, utterly blemish-less selection of that meat encasing just a fragment of raw chestnut that added a counter-point moment of bite and astringency to the evaporating experience of the crab in your mouth.

The lightness of the cheese gnocchi, almost more like tasting a soft meringue and perfectly set-off by the slightest of salty tangs from the pork consommé it bathed in.

Shoulder of suckling pig. Perfect; some structure to the flavoursome meat that merged into almost an emulsion between the meat and the subcutaneous fat before the crackling itself. The crackling had been cooked on the joint but was still wafer thin, crisp as you like, and totally smooth (no ridges or bubbling). Somehow they had transformed a cut of meat into an experience like a savoury crème brulee.

I could say there were a couple of dishes (from around the 15 or so we tasted between us) that fell below “sensational” the duck foie with mustard seeds was so generous a portion that it rendered the dish a bit-one dimensional. I didn’t get much out of my loin of tuna. The ‘essence’ served with the white chocolate dessert was anonymous.

But, Dear God, that’s to be picky. What about the melting pot of sublime richness that was the pork tails and langoustine ? The eggy-figgy heaven of the French Toast with ice-cream ? The separate definition of every grain of cous-cous, that clung to the perfectly sweet langoustine ?

A few things stand out – the service was excellent (not quite the gold-medal winning Grand Machine of Auberge D’Il…) but engaged and engaging, with a sommelier who selected knowledgeably and modestly from the Spanish range. (Also English-speaking which, I’m embarrassed to say, is helpful).

The lightness of the cooking was exceptional. I never ate at Loiseau’s, so I cannot tell you if this was cuisine a l’eau but sauces had vanished to be replaced by the most fragrent and limpid of consommés or an inherent moistness in the pairing of ingredients.

I was expecting pretension but got simplicity. From memory I cannot recall any dish in which there were more than three distinct flavours on the plate.

And not a gesture wasted: the single flower and peppercorn than came with the daikon radish really did add perfume and zing; the slight fronds of herbs which rested on the bleached-white pebbles of gnocchi could be tasted as a tiny background note.

What else to say ? Little, other than “go there”. It has two Michelin stars. I left thinking that if that doesn’t deserve three, what has a boy to do ?!

Elsewhere (and briefly in San Sebastian)…

A good, honest, hearty lunch at Gambarra (all spellings in this post are approximate. Pretty much everything approximate after my weekend’s alcoholic intake, in fact…) Perhaps a bit too much butter over the magnificent Neck of Hake (for 2) and too bludgeoning a richness to the caramilised onions that complimented my baby squid but quality and freshness was spot on.

Alona Berri. Loved it. Creative, well executed pinchos, and very friendly, helpful staff. Just a pleasure to eat here and the “Delices del Ulio” pinchos was worth the trip over the canal into the more distant (real, local…) part of S.S. in itself.

And the usual gamut of tapas bars. Of which particular mention to the one on the corner right by the Santa Maria del Coro church (which is carved out of the rock in the old town) it was called something-or-other beginning with “V” (Bar Vargaras ???). Not because the pinchos were exceptional (though there were pretty fine and special mention to the plates of sweet ham…) but because the staff were so accommodating in find a table at the back where elderly parents and those not cut out for the stand-while-you-eat game for prolonged periods could nevertheless carve out a corner and enjoy the food and the bar.

So, second visit and fell in love with the place all over again. Barcelona feels like a place that wants to attract you; wants you to “experience” the city. San Sebastian feels, elegant, comfortable and ‘lived-in’. “You’re welcome to join in…” the city seems to say “…but you understand we’d be doing this anyway, right ?”.

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  • 2 months later...

Before I forget, let me post a few words about my last meal at Mugaritz a month or so ago. The menu did not differ much from the ones above. Chef Aduriz had already decided what I was going to eat, so I did have to submit to his wishes. And, as usual, my meal at Mugaritz was outstanding.

A dish that I have not seen mentioned was an amuse that was served after the clay potatoes. It was Fried artichokes with black pudding (the black pudding coated the artichokes). It was incredible.

As were the now-famous "Ñoquis." The herbs were: Purple Dill and regular Dill; Parsley, Caraway, and Agastache.

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The Carpaccio is one of the best dishes I have had this year

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Leeks

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Some of the dishes that I have not seen mentioned are the Kokotxas in a very garlicky broth, the foiegras, "estofado de pescados melosos."

The wine pairing was excellent.

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The service was also excellent. I only have great things to say about Chef Aduriz and his team.

L,

BTW, can we have a MUGARITZ-only thread?

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  • 2 weeks later...

sorry to perhaps go astray from the current mugaritz v. mb trend as of late...

will be in bilbao/san sebastian next week and doing some last minute planning.

a few questions:

car or no car? i think we will opt for public transit unless we decide on a day trip to the countryside (i.e. biarritz, or to vineyards), as our trip is short - less than a week. also, necessary to have an intl driver's license? i hear it's cheaper to elect to drive a manual car,....

any highly recommended vineyards ( i did see the above posts about one in rioja) that offer tours/restaurants/possibly accomodations?

would be interested int eh same for cheese (i also saw a reference to the town of idiazabal).

ive seen some interesting things online about "agriturismo"....offering lodging in more rural areas for a more 'basque country house' experience.. has anyone done this? any must see destinations outside of ss/bilbao that would require the use of a car and/or reservations/planning?

thanks so much and this thread has been a wonderful resource and source of inspiration for our trip!

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