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cabrales

San Sebastian Restaurants: Recommendations

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I'd appreciate members' input on what restaurant in or around San Sebastian might be interesting, when combined with 2 meals at Arzak, one meal at Berasategui and one at Akelare. I am looking for a restaurant at the level of the other ones. Perhaps I might end up choosing another meal at Berasategui (?). :wink:

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Scott -- Hi again :laugh: When you have a chance, could you discuss how far away from San Sebastian this restaurant might be -- there seem to be indications it is 10 minutes away from San Sebastian by car? The location map on the restaurant's website also makes it appear as though the venue is very close.

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I am probably going to choose Zuberoa, which the website seems to indicate has a gorgeous setting. However, as background, have members sampled the cuisine of Urepel, Panier Fleuri or Ramón Roteta? :blink:

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I have determined that there is an evening train from Hendaye (a French town close to San Sebastian) to Paris (Austerlitz). This enables me to be in San Sebastian for yet another meal.

Do members have input on what restaurant would be best to add to visits to Zuberoa, 2 meals at Arzak, Berasategui and Akelare? Are there any more two-stars close by?

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With growing local autonomy in the semi-autonomous parts of Spain--Galicia, Catalonia and the Basque Country, even Michelin has started toolist San Sebastian by it's Basque name--Donostia. (And Pamplona is now Iruña.)

Akelare and Zuberoa are the only two star restaurants in the area. Arzak and Berasategui are the three stars. All this courtesy of the 2002 Michelin guide.

Annoyingly, none of the Basque multistarred restaurants are really located adjacent to hotels. It's much the same in Catalonia.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

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While the food is not to the level of the starred places, I think it would be a shame to miss out on a tapas meal in the old quarter of San Sebastian- it's a food obsessed place and the depth and diversity of the dishes is pretty amazing. One could easily do a 45 course tasting "menu" across 8-10 places, complete with txacoli (local "green" wine)- a very satsifying evening, IMHO. The market is worth a serious visit as well- one of the best in terms of overall quality in Europe. I think it is out of season, but the local delicacy is baby eel- worth seeking out if available. I also hope you make it to Bilbao. The museum is worth visiting even if you don't go inside.

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I second what Charles posted.

We spent a little over 2 weeks in Spain not long ago. Tapas were good and fun everywhere. But, the San Sebastian tapas were unique and incredible.

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Re: Tapas in San Sebastian.

Here is a selection from our journal:

"We ventured out, starving, and found a bar with amazing looking tapas. I admit I was intimidated because Zeb kept telling me how different the language was up here and, although I had become somewhat comfortable ordering in Spanish in the south (I can say “two beers, please” and “two more beers, please” like nobody’s business), I wasn’t sure I could speak whatever the language is up here. Zeb had to step up and order the food. There was a bowl of stuff I would have sworn was some sort of stewed chicken in a sauce that I thought I wanted, so Zeb skillfully pointed to it and grunted. In our minds, here is how the exchange went:

Zeb (pointing): We would like some of this.

Bartender (rubbing his stomach): You want some of this to eat?

Zeb (emphatically): Yes! Yes!

However, after getting and tasting the dish, this is apparently how the exchange really went:

Zeb (pointing): We would like some of this.

Bartender (rubbing his stomach): You sure you want some of this - this intestine stew?

Zeb (emphatically): Yes! Yes!

It was gross. Amazingly, Zeb ate a bunch of it. Anyway, I swore I would step out and in the next three places we ate some outstanding tapas."

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This page is now some half dozen years old, but perhaps still relevant. Tapas in the Parte Vieja.

You'll also find some stuff on the Hotel Maria Christina and lunch at Restaurante Arzak in Donostia (San Sebastian) and the Hotel Restaurant Ithurria in Aïnhoa and the Hôtel du Palais in Biarritz as well as a few notes on Biarritz, Bayonne and the Pays Basque in France from 1996.

The tapas in the Basque region are perhaps the best in Spain although I believe those of Andalucia will give them a good run for the money. Many of the better tapas bars in Barcelona offer Basque tapas.

Finally, I would have to take issue with the very idea that tripe is gross. I believe it's callos in Spain where they are excellently prepared and I'm sure Wilfrid will back me up. Now that I'm reminded and the weather is turning cooler, what we need here is a big bowl of tripe stew with chorizos. I'm going to guess Wilfrid will back me up on that too. :biggrin:


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Although I didn't have the opportunity to go, while in Donostia (San Sebastian), someone recommended me Karlos Arguiñano's restaurant.

He is a celebrity chef a la Emeril, but you might still want to take a look.

http://www.hotelka.com


We''ve opened Pazzta 920, a fresh pasta stall in the Boqueria Market. follow the thread here.

My blog, the Adventures of A Silly Disciple.

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There's one more Basque chef who's getting attention and hasn't been mentioned yet. That's Andoni Luis Aduriz. The restaurant is Mugaritz in Errenteria (Renteria) some ten minutes drive from San Sebastian. This appears to be the closest restaurant not actually within the city limits of San Sebastian. Mugaritz has a web site--www.mugaritz.com, but unfortuantely the site was en desarrollo when I tried to access it. The October issue of GaultMillau has a three page article on him--four pages if you count the full page picture of him intently plating a salad. I don't read French well enough to translate more than snippets accurately, but clearly this is the up and coming guy to watch in the area. He's got one star now, but getting far more attention than any other one star chef with the exception of perhaps Pascal Barbot (l'Astrance, Paris).


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Mugaritz-This is the restaurant I told you Cabrales.

Adoni is a young chef who becoming a new star. One of the most respectable food critic in Spain just gave him a 9/10, like Adrià, Berasategui and Arsak. In the GaultMillau, they say that is cooking is a perfect mix of technics and poetry. His restaurant is in a very simple house is now serving some of the most interesting food in Europe. He's been working on the perfect poached egg ( that's for you Cabby :rolleyes:) for 7 months

The price of the degustation menu: 75e

Mugaritz

Andoni Luis Aduriz

20100 Renteria

Tél: 00 34 943 522 455


Patrice Demers

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Patrice -- Merci :wink: That's my final restaurant choice for San Sebastian. I only worry whether I can leave dinner by 9:15 pm. That might be difficult timing.

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I only worry whether I can leave dinner by 9:15 pm. That might be difficult timing.

Indeed. Make inquiry of when they open. That might be about when they start admitting tourists. Although El Bulli is now serving dinner at eight pm as are some other starred restaurants in Catalonia, the traditional dinner hour is much later than it is in France for a good restaurant in Spain. This has been why many of our great meals in Spain have been lunches. I recall a ten pm reservation in Girona and I'd say we arrived at a restaurant that less than half full. I believe they opened at nine. Then again in a one star in Barcelona, we arrived at ten and were the next to last to be seated.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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For traditional Basque food in Donosti, try El Bodegon de Alejandro or Urbano.

Arzak is on the up again since the daughter has taken over the kitchen.

Martin Berasategui's protegés are cooking some very exciting food at Mugaritz.

Zuberoa remains a favourite of mine.

My first meal at Martin Berasategui since his third Michelin Star was a bit flat.

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LML -- Do you choose Spanish or non-Spanish wines, very generally, when you are visiting San Sebastian? Also, what are your views on hake?

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I always stick to Spanish wines in Spain not least because non domestic product is virtually non existent on wine lists, except for the omnipresent Möet Chandon. When in the Basque country one can limit one's self further by only drinking Basque wine from la Rioja Alavesa which is the southernmost part of Euskadi.

Your question about hake is an interesting one about a not very interesting fish. Hake, or Merluza is an immensely popular and extremely bland white fish, the Chris O'Donnel of the sea. It is the kind of foodstuff indicated for those confined to bath-chairs and is best avoided as a waste of time.

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I think the most reasonable thing to do in Spain, especially for a visitor, is to drink Spanish wines. There is little reason not to drink them. I suppose that if I were a native I might want to educate myself and for that reason I would explore the wines of the world as I do occasionally here in the states. However, not to sample the local wines is, to me, missing the opportunity inherent in travel. While neither NY State nor California wines dominate my drinking here, I went out of my way to drink California wines when traveling there and will go out of my way to serve American wines to European guests in my house--particularly French guests. It's not to impress or necessarily educate them, but to offer an experience they're unlikely to get back home.

In any event, Spanish wines can be very good and my impression is that they are a real bargain in comparison to French wines in Spain or in France. There seems to be a much higher mark up on Spanish wines, than on French wines sold in this country and restaurants in Spain seem to have a lower mark up than restaurants in the US or France.

I suppose I'd urge you to have at least a glass of txakoli the same way I'd urge you to have a glass of muscadet if you were in Nantes. If not for the wine, than for the terrior. It's a good choice in a tapas bar, especially one specializing in seafood. Red wine, sherry and beer are also good choices. It's an easy going country. :biggrin:

If you look outside the Basque region and I would include Navarra as Basque, I'm a fan of albarinos from Rias Biaxas in Galicia. They're usually inexpensive, and in fact, I much prefer the fresher ones that haven't seen any barrel aging. Godellos can be nice as well, although the one producer I most often see here is not my favorite. Nevertheless, I'm hardly an expert on Spanish wines.


Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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Watching them pour the txacoli in a bar is pretty cool. Glass held below the bar, bottle way above, for a long splashy pour.

We brought a bottle home where I tried to duplicate the feat. I think I got about 1 glass full and my dog enjoyed the rest off the floor.

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Cabrales, if you're going to Mugaritz, I suggest you phone and check that the "Foie Gras Asado a la Parrilla de Carbón con Consomé de Atún Ahumado y Seco y Cerezas"* will be available, it is truly stupendous.

*Translates, roughly, as: Charcoal Grilled Foie Gras with Conomé of Smoked & Dried Tuna and Cherries.

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Mugaritz-This is the restaurant I told you Cabrales.

Chef Adoni Luis Aduriz is the subject of a Gourmet January 2003 article. An excerpt follows:

"In the past year, Spain's most rsepected food guide, Lo Mejor de la Gastronmia, ranked Aduriz the country's fourth best chef (after Adria, Berasategui and Arzak). The French magazine GaultMillau recently published a long paean to his cooking, and luminaries like Pierre Gagnaire and Olivier Roellinger have made pilgrimages to his remote dining room in the hills outside of San Sebastian . . . ."

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I read a great review of Istanbul restaurants from Michael Lewis who captured some of the best things in my native country and stayed clear of the faddish. Therefore I am a bit puzzled that we disagree strongly on Arzak. I ate there quite a few time since 98 and I only see a downward trend. They are plagued with what I call the El Bulli syndrome, i.e. trying to be original and avant-garde but in a way that is not well thought out and too chi-chi. Too bad for an old favorite. There are also quite a few service lapses despite good intentions. I had 7 or 8 meals at Zuberoa and to me it is a better restaurant than Arzak though the last meal 2 months ago was merely very good and not spectacular like the earlier ones. Beware of the old Rioja wines though; I don't believe labels are accurate. I have only eaten twice at Berasetequi and 2 months ago he delivered a great meal, esp. top in shellfish, albeit his desserts are not on par (but neiter are desserts in El Bulli). I am very curious about Casa Nicolasa. Please tell me if you tried it. For tapa bars, I can only second other people's remarks. You do not need to speak the language. Just play darts with the list on the blackboard and select from the counter. By the way, if you like shellfish try El Puerto in Santander. In November, my wife and I really splurged there: one pound of Percebes(barnacles, french call it pousse pieds I believe), 2 portions of baby eels, 2 langoustines about 2/3 of a pound each and a 3 pound langouste! All fresh and well prepared and a reasonable price. Santander is quite nice but perhaps a tad less captivating than Donostia. By the way we had an average meal at the starred Zortziko in Bilbao, although a visit there is not a bad idea to see the notorious museum which makes a good topic of converstion for dinner.

PS: Michael Lewis, if you read this I would be most curious to know how you go about selecting food/places in a new environment. I assume that you do not speak Turkish anc chances are that English speaking grand bourgeois of my county with whom you may have dallied would have taken you to "in" places in 5 star hotels or ersatz examples of "Ottoman" cuisine for tourists. What is your method?(I hope this question is not too intrusive, I apologize but I am puzzled)'

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With respect to Arzak, I have only eaten there recently. However, I wanted to suggest the possibility that any changes over time may also reflect Chef Elena Arzak's development as a chef and her increased involvement in the conceptualization of dishes. Note this is not being advanced as an alternative theory, but as a possibly relevant factor. For example, Elena devised the recipe for Pigeon "Lacado", but her Dad suggested some improvements to the dish. Similarly, Elena came up with the idea of An Egg Flower with Date "Txistorra".

I did not subjectively find Arzak's dishes to have been strained or to fail to achieve their intended purpose. :hmmm:

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