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San Sebastian Restaurants: Recommendations

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Two data points are better than one, certainly. That's why I was saying, "If you have a lame experience at a restaurant, and then it turns out that several people you trust found the restaurant underwhelming for the same reasons, you can feel a little more confident about developing a one-visit opinion." When I had a bad experience at Arpege, and two key people I trusted who had eaten there around the same time reported back with very similar observations, I became a lot more confident in my complaints about Arpege. Nonetheless, most people happily called me crazy for taking an anti-Arpege position, and I couldn't possibly have taken a particularly convincing stance on the issue just based on "I had a terrible time there and so did two of my friends." Several return visits are the necessary prerequisites to being able to take a credible absolutist position against a restaurant, especially one of that caliber and reputation.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Martin Bertasategui has gone downhill. Amongst people who've eaten there regularly, it's a fact rather than a suspicion. So I don't understand why people who have never eaten there begrudge this position. What is being said here -- that we have to wait until one of the board's 'professionals' has eaten there to give credibility to our opinions?

Everyone is aware of the danger of absolute statements; this is not something that's just been discovered. Nevertheless, life is short, Martin Berasategui is expensive, and the US/UK is a long way away. So, in order that no one wastes their time and cash unnecessarily, I think we can dispense with such guarded language. Indeed, if what is being recommended is that every write up of disappointing meal is tempered with -- but it was probably an off night, and we wouldn't want to put anyone off, etc., then we might as well not bother.

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Martin Bertasategui has gone downhill. Amongst people who've eaten there regularly, it's a fact rather than a suspicion.

One assumes the Michelin inspectors have eaten there regularly. One assumes the four people on this thread (Victor, Bux, Pedro, Marina) who have posted favorably about the restaurant have eaten there, if not regularly, then at least occasionally or once. It doesn't seem to be a fact to them.

if what is being recommended is that every write up of disappointing meal is tempered with -- but it was probably an off night, and we wouldn't want to put anyone off, etc., then we might as well not bother.

I'm simply discussing how I think a one-meal account should be interpreted. If the author draws general conclusions about the state of a restaurant based on the information gathered on one visit, it's worth pointing out that those conclusions are inductive and not based on a full set of data.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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One assumes the Michelin inspectors have eaten there regularly. One assumes the four people on this thread (Victor, Bux, Pedro, Marina) who have posted favorably about the restaurant have eaten there, if not regularly, then at least occasionally or once. It doesn't seem to be a fact to them.

No. You assume this.

Lunch after lunch, dinner after dinner Martin Berasategui is serving 'diners'. Not writers not moderators not 'destination restaurant' seekers.

These are the people that keep a restaurant in business, and just because they don't post or have their own 'webzine', it doesn't follow, and I think even you will have to agree here, that their opinion is any the less valid.

I think you're overestimating the authoritative value of your own website, which at best represents a tiny, and randomly informed, fraction of the dining public.

Regarding the Michelin guide -- try speaking to a three-star chef next time you're in Europe -- it may be the hardest star to achieve, but is also the hardest to lose.

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One assumes the Michelin inspectors have eaten there regularly. One assumes the four people on this thread (Victor, Bux, Pedro, Marina) who have posted favorably about the restaurant have eaten there, if not regularly, then at least occasionally or once. It doesn't seem to be a fact to them.

No. You assume this.

So the Michelin inspectors haven't made many recent visits to the restaurant? How long ago do you think it received its third star? 1950? Or are you saying you think Victor, Bux, Pedro, and Marina haven't visited and that their opinions are not valid? In the above list of assumptions, what am I assuming that every rational person in the world shouldn't agree with as a matter of the obvious?

I think you're overestimating the authoritative value of your own website, which at best represents a tiny, and randomly informed, fraction of the dining public.

I think you're imagining a conversation in which nobody is participating but you. Might you be surprised to realize that I am in opposition to one of our Webzine's writers on this issue?


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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[The third star] may be the hardest star to achieve, but is also the hardest to lose.

I think that's true and it's been expressed numerous times on eGullet. I've said the best time to eat at any restaurant is the year before it get's it's third star and the worst time is the year it loses its thrid star. The stars at best reflect last year's performance and the loss of a star may lag even more than the award of one.

In the meantime, it's important to note that I dined at Martin three years ago. A lot has happened since then. His empire has grown and the competition and attention has become more fierce. I have little doubt that there are things in play that will affect his focus.

I don't think Fat Guy is overestimating the authoritative value of his website when he's picked Robert, a moderator here, to report on Donostia and then noted that there are conflicting opinions and that most of them come from people who have had one shot to eat and write. It would appear that what Fat Guy is doing is warning readers not to take any one opinion here as authoritative. I will offer an opinion when I eat there next month, but it will not be an authoritative opinion as two points are hardly enough to determine a curve. If my opinion is negative, it will probably have more weight than if it is positive. I am more disturbed by off eGullet reports that Mugaritz is inconsistent than that Berasategui is on the skids.


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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One assumes the Michelin inspectors have eaten there regularly. One assumes the four people on this thread (Victor, Bux, Pedro, Marina) who have posted favorably about the restaurant have eaten there, if not regularly, then at least occasionally or once. It doesn't seem to be a fact to them.

No. You assume this.

So the Michelin inspectors haven't made many recent visits to the restaurant? How long ago do you think it received its third star? 1950? Or are you saying you think Victor, Bux, Pedro, and Marina haven't visited and that their opinions are not valid? In the above list of assumptions, what am I assuming that every rational person in the world shouldn't agree with as a matter of the obvious?

I think you're overestimating the authoritative value of your own website, which at best represents a tiny, and randomly informed, fraction of the dining public.

I think you're imagining a conversation in which nobody is participating but you. Might you be surprised to realize that I am in opposition to one of our Webzine's writers on this issue?

It is probably pointless to even post this, but:

First of all I've had some exceptional meals at M.B., but not recently.

Secondly, I don't see Victor coming out in favour of M.B.

Thirdly, whether or not M.B. is capable of producing sublime food seems irrelevant when discussing whether or not he is currently doing so.

This discussion is bound to the present state of M.B., which is declension. Although your argument is clear, I fail to understand why you take this position with respect to a restaurant you're not familiar with. Why do feel that you must re-present the various opinions in your own image? Aren't readers able to come to their own conclusions?

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First of all I've had some exceptional meals at M.B., but not recently.

How many meals have you had there recently, and will you share your comments on them? Or will this be yet another instance of you taking nasty little potshots from the sidelines while refusing to contribute actual content to the site? If the latter, please take your business elsewhere. I won't have you poisoning yet another thread on eGullet.

Secondly, I don't see Victor coming out in favour of M.B.

He said he though Robert Brown's experience indicated "a particularly bad day." Beyond that, let's ask him what he thinks. Victor?

Thirdly, whether or not M.B. is capable of producing sublime food seems irrelevant when discussing whether or not he is currently doing so.

That is correct. However, Pedro was there two weeks ago and appears to disagree completely with the assessment that MB is in decline.

I fail to understand why you take this position with respect to a restaurant you're not familiar with.

I'm not taking a position with respect to MB. I'm taking a position with respect to restaurant reporting and criticism in general, and that position is apropos of this specific discussion of MB.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Michael's voice or posts are what helps give eGullet the special distinction it has. Taking pot shots is hardly unusual and of no significance if the person taking them now and then also contributes wisdom and erudition, which Michael does in spades. There are other members who specialize in little else but pot-shots and one-liners, but not Michael. His rigorous mind and keen intellect are something I look forward to being shared on eGullet. Michael, please don't go.

I must add that Michael doesn't need to elaborate. His palate is very trustworthy and indeed his advice prior to my trip was right on the money: that Berasategui was "off the boil" and Aduriz at Mugaritz was making exciting cuisine. His advice and opinions in the Spain & Portugal Forum are second to none.

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Two data points are better than one, certainly. That's why I was saying, "If you have a lame experience at a restaurant, and then it turns out that several people you trust found the restaurant underwhelming for the same reasons, you can feel a little more confident about developing a one-visit opinion." When I had a bad experience at Arpege, and two key people I trusted who had eaten there around the same time reported back with very similar observations, I became a lot more confident in my complaints about Arpege. Nonetheless, most people happily called me crazy for taking an anti-Arpege position, and I couldn't possibly have taken a particularly convincing stance on the issue just based on "I had a terrible time there and so did two of my friends." Several return visits are the necessary prerequisites to being able to take a credible absolutist position against a restaurant, especially one of that caliber and reputation.

Not this old chestnut again!

Bear in mind

1) People can go to the same restaurant on different nights and have different opinions

2) People can go to the same restaurant on the same night and have different opinions

3) People can go to the same restaurant on the same night and have the same dish and have different opnions

(if you doubt 3) look at restaurant reviews of new openings where packs of slavering restaurant reviewers turn up at the same restaurant on the same night, have the same dish and write different opinions in there reviews. Plus manage to spel the chef's name wrong.)

Therefore

One-meal accounts from different people can be different

Two-meal accounts from different people can be different

Three-meal accounts from different people can be different

&tc

Therefore

Several return visits do not allow you to take a credible absolutist position against a restaurant, because there is no such things as a credible absolutist opinion... (post-modernism! wahey!)

cheerio

J

PS Possible counter arguments: Preponderance of evidence from multiple visits; cultural/societal norms enabling an absolutist opinion within the context of a particular society; chef was having a bad fish day

Edit: Or bad fish week in case of multiple visits :biggrin:


Edited by Jon Tseng (log)

More Cookbooks than Sense - my new Cookbook blog!

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You can walk away from a forgettable experience at a restaurant wondering if you were a victim of the luck of the draw, asking yourself if you took proper measure of the establishment. This, I imagine, is what happened to Fat Guy at Arpege. However, when your opinion is the result of quantifiable, observable events such as waiting 30 minutes for even a morsel of food; of interacting with a service staff that doesn't smile, make any attempt to engage the customer, or offer any advice or comments; and running the risk of choosing two comparable desserts from a limited selection, then you can be confident in saying that you have patronized a restaurant that is off its form.

I was confident in my assessment and, indeed, saw it bolstered by reports of some turmoil in the kitchen and a report of an experience contemporaneous with mine that mimicked many of the same aspects and events of my visit. (On the other hand, Pedro seems to have had better luck, though his comments were more of a defense of Berasategui.) Regardless, those who had been previously and enjoyed it may have been there during happier, more stable times at the restaurant. And it is possible that I and Blind Lemon Higgins, by going public with our opinions, which may be taken to heart by management, may help elicit positive comment from those who visit the restaurant in the future. This is why I always say that the major positive of complainers is their affecting change for the betterment of consumers at a later time.

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when your opinion is the result of quantifiable, observable events such as waiting 30 minutes for even a morsel of food; of interacting with a service staff that doesn't smile, make any attempt to engage the customer, or offer any advice or comments; and running the risk of choosing two comparable desserts from a limited selection, then you can be confident in saying that you have patronized a restaurant that is off its form

Based on occurrences like that, you can be confident in saying that you may have patronized a restaurant that is off its form. Perhaps you can even be confident in saying that you have probably patronized a restaurant that is off its form. But I've experienced significantly worse evenings than what you've described, and I've concluded confidently that I've experienced a level of badness that can't be explained by an off-night, and I've later come to realize that, bad as it was -- and it was really bad -- it was indeed just an off night. And that has happened to me more than once, such that as a matter of logic I simply can't accept that a single occurrence of waiting 30 minutes for even a morsel of food; interacting with a service staff that doesn't smile, make any attempt to engage the customer, or offer any advice or comments; and running the risk of choosing two comparable desserts from a limited selection is sufficient proof to conclude that a restaurant is off its form. You are a far, far more experienced diner than I, so surely you've had worse experiences that have subsequently turned out to be one-time system crashes rather than episodes in a restaurant's decline.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Geez, one is offline for a few hours, and misses such a hot debate. Well, let me recap my experience and what's being said about Martin here in Spain by some colleagues:

a) I've been to Arzak and Martin once a year for the last 5 years. Last time, Sept. 4 at Arzak's, and Sept. the 7th at M.B. (1 time to Akelare, 3 to Zuberoa, for precision's sake. Will easily return to Zuberoa, I'll let pass some time to give a second chance to Akelare). On every of these visits, I had the tasting menu.

b) Would I run a particular competition between Arzak and M.B., the score would be M.B. 4, Arzak 1 (2002). And I must emphasize that my meals in Arzak rank among the best I had in Spain, El Bulli, Can Fabes, La Broche, Can Roca, Hispania, Gaig, Racò d'en Feixa, Zalacaín, Cenador de Salvador and many others included (Peter Luger too :wink: ).

c) On these five times, I've just experience two "issues" at Martin's. The minor and latest one, to find a sumiller less communicative, and perhaps less knowledgeable (lots of guessing here) than I was used to in Martin. The other one, last year, when I requested to move to a table near to the crystal wall with the view of the countryside, and was turned down because the table in question was reserved. No one finally showed up, and no explanation was given. Would had this some kind of influence on ranking that year higher Arzak than M.B.?. Could be.

d) I can easily understand how people could be affected by other aspects beyond the pure food being served. I must admit that I can certainly have a higher tolerance regarding decoration, silverware, etc. But I wouldn't include service in that category. Besides food, I'm much pickier with wine glasses, temperature, wine list, wine prices, ... Smoke and perfume can also make me lose my temper.

And now, the "rumours":

e) Martin spends little time in his flagship. Could be, although I've seen him each and every time I've been there. Certainly, I'd agree with anyone who claims that 5 points is far from being representative. Perhaps girlcook and ginger chef can add something to this. Related to this point, comes the collorary that he's spending a lot of time and effort creating an empire. Would that be the case, he's not the first, and won't be the last. And at least, his tentacles are quite well confined to a small geographic area.

b) Martin "exploits" his staff. Delicate topic, to say the least. Working in the IT industry, I feel sympathetic to those experiencing long working timetables, close to slavery (amazing to see how more than a century of union fight can be lost in no time). I've said in a previous message that the degree of attrition Martin experiences in his staff, surely deprives him from having the kind of atmosphere you enjoy in Arzak or other places. But if this has had any influence on the food going out the kitchen, it has escaped to me.

I'm sure that I've stated the following thoughts elsewhere, but here they go again. Why am I so fond of Martin´s cooking?. Well, beyond the quality I believe his dishes have, I perceive that in Spanish contemporary gastronomic scene, and this is a more than subjective statement, there's somewhat of a polarization between two opposite trends. Once is represented, as you have correctly guessed, by Ferran Adria, which I believe trascends Spain/Europe's culinary traditions and puts product in the same level as technique, textures and temperatures, and the other trend is championed by Santamaria (Can Fabes), where tradition and having a central ingredient are key elements.The scale of this particular battle is well inclined to the side of Ferran. Nevertheless, there are components that are very valuable on both currents, and I think Martin has captured them. Tradition and product are vital to him, but he doesn't give up to apply vanguardist techniques. I believe this way can produce much more positive results than just trying to be the next Adria, pushing the envelope further (after air, I'm sure will come vacuum :biggrin: ), or becoming a tradition taliban. EMHO, some of the hottest places in Spain, are following this trend. Namely, El Bohío in a town between Toledo and Madrid, or Tragabuches in Ronda (Málaga).

If any of you have read so far, please let me know. Perhaps I should consider to buy you a dinner (you choose the place :wink: ).

PS: No, Peter Luger hasn't opened a joint in Spain.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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On the other hand, Pedro seems to have had better luck, though his comments were more of a defense of Berasategui

This is too subtle for me. At which point does a report about good experiences transform into a defense instead of a simple report?. I wouldn't qualify your report as an attack to Martin, and except some parts of my previous messages, I wouldn't say I was defending Martin, I simply was stating that I had difference experiences than you have had.

Regards,

Pedro


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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You betcha. First time I ever dined at Daniel, we were kicked out. We had a large party at a 6pm reservation, they slammed the meal at a breakneck pace, and they asked us to give up the table at 8pm -- without warning -- while we were still only part way into coffee. And that was just the centerpiece of an evening that was relatively disastrous in many respects ..... Not only that, but there was complete non-responsiveness by the restuarant when I subsequently wrote to complain.

I personally would not have gone back, and I wouldn't interpret this as just a bad day either. I think that you learned something fundamental and enduring about the restaurant, which is their attitude towards unknown diners when they have considerations that they consider more important that they have to deal with. It may never occur again, especially now that you're better known, but it exhibits an attitude on the part of the restaurant that can manifest itself in many different ways. I think that minimizing problems by categorizing them as bad days can also be a way of excusing and avoiding serious systemic issues.

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I personally would not have gone back, and I wouldn't interpret this as just a bad day either.  I think that you learned something fundamental and enduring about the restaurant, which is their attitude towards unknown diners when they have considerations that they consider more important that they have to deal with.  It may never occur again, especially now that you're better known, but it exhibits an attitude on the part of the restaurant that can manifest itself in many different ways.  I think that minimizing problems by categorizing them as bad days can also be a way of excusing and avoiding serious systemic issues.

Enduring? As I recall, Fat Guy's experience was in the very early days of a restaurant. A great chef does not make one a great restaurateur, especially not overnight. Although Daniel Boulud had brought considerable respect to restaurants where he was a chef, he had never had the responsibility of the front of the house. It was on the job training. My guess is that Fat Guy experienced not just a bad day, but an immature restaurant. Many enterprises get off on a bad start and it's not reasonable to assume they can't improve and I don't think it's all that easy to reliably ascertain an attitude from a single experience. Not going back is another story. With so many restaurants competing for a diner's business in NY, sometimes all a restaurant gets is one shot, but that bad first impression can be as much a loss for the diner as the owner, although most of us will sooner return to what we think of a sure bet rather than take another chance at a place we've already had a bad experience.


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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I think that minimizing problems by categorizing them as bad days can also be a way of excusing and avoiding serious systemic issues.

Sure. That's the flipside of it. A bad night could be a bad night. A bad night could indicate a trend. And excusing a bad night as just a bad night may be too forgiving. But the fundamental point here is straightforward: you can't ascertain a trend by looking at one reference point. No matter how bad the night is, it's entirely possible that the next day things will be a whole lot better. To refuse to accept that is to deny the reality of how restaurants -- even the best restaurants -- function.

In any event, I'm almost certain I could go into Daniel tonight and be unrecognized. I'm pretty sure I've had plenty of meals there as a nobody, and most have been in keeping with the restaurant's reputation as an excellent restaurant. A couple have not. And yes, I had a horrible night there and was mad at the restaurant for years. But shit happens. You can bear a grudge forever or you can give the place another chance. I'm glad I gave the place another chance because I think this incident turned out, in retrospect, to be an off night rather than a general trend.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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If any of you have read so far, please let me know. Perhaps I should consider to buy you a dinner (you choose the place  :wink: ).

I have indeed read that far and enjoyed the post. You may need to rent a very large restaurant. :laugh:


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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most of us will sooner return to what we think of a sure bet rather than take another chance at a place we've already had a bad experience.

Spending my own money, that's surely the way I'd behave -- it's hard to justify behaving any other way. But there have been two phases in my life when I've been able to dine out often and extravagantly on someone else's budget. First, as a lawyer with a big entertaining budget, I found myself stuck at a lot of restaurants that were chosen not by me but by clients, partners, colleagues, whatever. Likewise, when I was reviewing restaurants on a regular basis, I had a budget and often I really had no choice but to return to restaurants multiple times even if I hated them the first time. And most of the time, I'd go back a second time and it would still suck. And then it would suck the third time. And I'm quite sure it would have sucked the 100th time too. But once in awhile I'd go back that second time and it would be like a completely different restaurant. I've had that experience too many times to ever again be able to accept the proposition that anybody can firmly ascertain a restaurant's general direction on one visit.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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once in awhile I'd go back that second time and it would be like a completely different restaurant. I've had that experience too many times to ever again be able to accept the proposition that anybody can firmly ascertain a restaurant's general direction on one visit.

I think we can agree that by and large, we all play the odds. That's why we read reviews on eGullet and elsewhere and why guys who bet on the ponies, read tip sheets. :laugh:


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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I've been talking about a Michelin Espana & Portugal three-star restaurant where none of what I and Blind Lemon Higgins reported is suppose to happen, be it from busser to maitre d'hotel a desultory, deflated and distracted staff; half-hour waits for bread or amuses-gueles; similar desserts; a desperate search for wine; and (I forgot to mention) bad coffee. At lesser restaurants, I have had decent meals one time and lousy meals on the return visit and vice-versa. Lesser restaurants are crap shoots from one visit to the next, (which is why I have only a few restaurants in New York I go to with any frequency); world-renown restaurants are not suppose to be.

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and (I forgot to mention) bad coffee

This is actually a telling point. The area where I've found 3 star restaurants to be most consistent, is in serving very expensive, but also very excellent coffee.

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I have been out in Illinois for the State BBQ Championships in Murphysboro, home of the great Apple City team that produced "The Legend" Mike Mills, the guru behind a lot of the barbecue at Blue Smoke, and the great Pat Burke, his partner on the Apple City team and now the leader of Tower Rock, who won the Illinois State Championship hands down against some tough competition. I printed out and took Robert's report on San Sebastián with me, read it a couple of times and enjoyed it thoroughly. I was glad to see that he reinforced my perceptions of both Akelarre and Zuberoa, though, while I don't doubt that he had a less than glorious time at Martin's, I still believe that Martin is a fabulous chef. I assume that Robert was headed to Kaia, when the fire intervened and I was very sorry to hear that, because it is probably my favorite restaurant in SS. One thing that is lamentable about these "Let's hit all the Michelin-starred modern cuisine stars" is that you miss some of the best food in Spain in the tipico, traditional cuisine restaurants of the area. Rekondo has great food, great steaks, excellent game dishes and one of the best wine lists in Europe. Kaia and Elkano are worth a pilgrimage for whole, grilled wild rodaballo (turbot), the best in the world, IMHO. Juan Jose Castillo and his Nicolasa may be a bit stodgy, but the food is excellent and he knows every traditional recipe in the Basque Country and has written several books documenting them. Even modest places such as charming Casa Cámara in the lovely one-street town of Pasajes de San Juan, Asador Bedua near Zumaya and the local favorite Casa Urbano in San Sebastian's old quarter have excellent food. Then there are the tapas bars in Gros, some of which have tapas on Villeroy & Boch china.

About Alkalde. You didn't miss much. Although the atmosphere is great, the tapas are not so hot and it's most famous dish, txangurro (the great Basque crab dish that is one of my favorites) was a very poor version the last time I tried it quite a few years ago.

One correction: Manolete died on August 28, 1947, not July 4 and that fight in Linares in which, in Barnaby Conrad's great opening line -- "A multi-millionaire and a bull killed one another and plunged an entire nation into deep mourning." -- was not a mano a mano. Manolete and Dominguin shared the cartel that day with Gitanillo de Triana. Islero, a Miura bull, gored Manolete as he went in for the kill.

Also, many Basque asadores (with one 's') are some of the best places to eat in Spain.


Edited by Gerry Dawes (log)

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The Daily Gullet Dept. of Correction thanks vserna and Gerry Dawes for pointing out factual mistakes in the San Sebastian dining story. These rightings of the record have now been incorporated into the article.

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As I've just posted in another thread devoted to Berasategui, we had lunch at MB a little earlier in the day and it was an even better experience than our first lunch in May of 2000. Food and service were all I'd expect from a three star restaurant and overall, the best we've had since we arrive in Spain. I can´t really say much about the sommelier. We ordered a white wine we knew. The sommelier recommended a nice olorosso from Jerez with the smoked eel, foie gras green apple classic and we enjoyed the combination. I asked for a glass of red wine with our duck and did not enjoy the wine or the way it didn't work with the duck as much as I may have liked. Do most three star restaurants have good choices by the glass? I don't know. I will say that this glass cost less than a third the price of the wine I got by the glass at Arpege and wasn't much worse. I'm really disappointed to read that others had a less favorable experience than we did. On the whole I think everyone should be more influenced by good reports and ignore the negative ones unless you're willing to forgo a potentially great meal.

The really interesting thing about our lunch was the Mrs. B had to be talked into the tasting menu. She was ready for another day off from serious eating, but once that food started coming to the table her mood changed completely.


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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