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molto e

San Sebastian

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The first night in San Sebastian, we tried tapas and we went to Casa Gandarias and Bar La Cepa( supposedly Ferran Adria's favorite). My first few shots are of Casa Gandarias, which happened to be the place we enjoyed the most.

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The vibe in San Sebastian is great, people going from bar to bar for some pinchos and having a mellow good time

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Next we tried Bar La Cepa, after trying to go to La Cuchara de San Telmo which was highly recommended but not open that evening.

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The ham is given a quick toast under the salamander before it is served to you

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The next day after some cafe con leche and some postres in the hotel and a brief rest on la concha it was time for lunch and we headed to Akelare with Chef Pedro Subijana. In 1976, Pedro Subijana and Juan Mari Arzak, the chef at Arzak, attended a conference in Madrid. There, they approached guest speaker Paul Bocuse, who invited them to spend ten days with him in Lyons and learn about nouvelle cuisine. On their return to San Sebastián, Subijana and Arzak organized a group of colleagues in an effort to try to rescue and update traditional Basque cuisine. Soon, almost unaware, they’d initiated the New Basque Cuisine movement. Chef Subijana won Spain’s National Prize for Gastronomy as the best chef in the country more than 20 years ago and has been at the head of nouvelle basque cooking ever since. Akelare is on the highest point in San Sebastian overlooking the Bay of Biscay and has been awarded 2 Michelin stars. I am not sure which is more spectacular the view or the creations of Chef Subijana.

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We ordered two different tasting menus-Aranori and Bekarki

First the Amuses:

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Sardine with a pepper indigenous to the region/ Sardina Fresca Ahumada con Pesto de Borraja y Guindilla fresca

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blood sausage in a pastry/ Dama de Morcilla con Berza y Piparras

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Hamburger of cuttlefish/ Hamburguesa de Sepia con Nube de Gambas

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Yellow pepper soup/ Soluble de Pimiento

First course-

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Foie Gras with onion, apple and corn/ Foie con Cebolla, con Manzana, con Maiz

This was very good, I would liken this to Foie truffles

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Ostras en ensalada de acelga roja y quinoa-oysters in red swiss chard salad with quinoa

The oysters were great, but the swiss chard salad was not to my taste

Second Course-

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Moluscos al Vapor con Borraja/ Steamed Molluscs with borrage

Good flavors

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Xangurro frio con sabor de Mary Germinados/ Sea tasting crab and sprouts

very nice dish

Third Course-

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Chipiron confitado, con crema de arroz y albahaca/ marinated squid with rice cream and basil

squid was cooked perfectly and I liked the addition of some of the new techniques with this dish

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Caldo de Pochas, sus gnocchis y pichon/ white bean broth, its gnocchis and pigeon

Fourth Course-

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Rape con jugo de tomate asado y huevas de pimiento/ Monkfish with roasted tomato juice and red pepper roe

monkfish was perfect

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Atun en papel cebolla, con tamarillo/ tuna in onion paper and tamarillo

Fifth course

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La terneradel cocido con zanahoria y chirivia/ Veal shanks slow cooked with carrots and parsnips-carrots are stuffed with white rice

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Presa de Iberico al Aceite de regaliz, cintas de patatas,y boniato con chufa/ Pork shoulder, marinated tomato, oxalis and onion cube

This was the first time that I was served pork shoulder rare and it was very good

Dessert

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Queso de Cabra, ensalada dulce y helado de sesamo blanco/ goat cheese, sweet salad and white sesame ice cream

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red fruit yogurt

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Tambor de calanda

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Akelare biscotti served with coffee

Akelare was a fantastic meal, in fact I wanted to go back the next day, but I had to try someplace new.

Arzak Restaurant

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Amuses-

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Cheese with dates, banana stuffed with fish mousse and puffed rice

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bacon wrapped orange

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bean soup-very good

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Foie wrapped by zucchini-first time that I had this combination and it worked

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prawn legs delicious

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squid

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poached egg with bread and mushroom

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Squid with Squid ink bread and mango with salsa of squid

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Rape con hilosy medula

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Cordero con cafe"cortado"-lamb with a coffee veil and potato with mint

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El foie de pato a la naranja

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Pichon con cera de colmena-pigeon with bees wax

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Ternera mechada con leche de chufas-stewed veal with sweet potatoes

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tortilla fea de chocolate con lechuga

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hamgurguesa do chocolate

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strawberry bubbles

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naranja con espinacas

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Arzak was a great dinner and lived up to its reputation. I liked his combination of new technique with well grounded dishes. I would highly recommend Arzak and Akelare.

My last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king. Mugaritz is 25 minutes outside of San Sebastian and may have been the best looking restaurant of the trip.

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I looked at the a la carte menu and the tasting menus and I did not find the one thing that drove me to Mugaritz-FOIE GRAS. I was told because it was summer that Foie is not on the menu because they charcoal it and it gets too hot. I have never been so disappointed with a menu omission in my life. If I was not 25 minutes basically in the middle of nowhere, I would have left, but I stayed. I will say that this meal was not really to my taste and Chef Andoni's last book was "Clorofillia" so perhaps he is going through this stage.

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frozen vodka with carrot mousse

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clams in a broth perfumed with grapefruit

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vegetables, oven roasted and raw, sprouts and greens, wild cultivated, seasoned with browned butter and dusted with seeds and petals. "Emmental" cheese generously seasoned{ the little flower on the rims of the bowl Berro de para}

I was instructed to dip the leaves in the broth and finish with the berro de para. After eating the berro de parra, my mouth was tingling for 3-5 minutes and I could not get the taste or feeling to stop with water, wine or bread.

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Borrage leaves blanched in a shellfish bouillon. Pickled garlic petals and borage flowers

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Burned and curdled cream with fig shoots and citric fruit powdered with ashes of vegetables and seaweed.

At this point, I really regreted not calling a cab when the foie was not on the menu. I really just feel that this style of food was not for me. I am in a camp that does not appreciate burned and curdled cream, in fact when scalding cream or milk in my kitchen, I really try not to burn it.

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Cod cheekand tripe stew. Crouton-like sopako, tomato and spicy parsley pistou soup

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Sauted sea cucumber, "vegetable carbon" and sweet shoots accompanied by "garlic casein".

I was told to eat the leaves and the vegetable charcoal seperately. Tip when offered vegetable charcoal skip it

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Rare tuna fillet in a concentrated fishbone stock. Lily shoots, leaves and flowers[ALlium, Tulbaghia]

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Loin of red mullet "goatfish", toasted and rested. Savory confit of rockfish and saffron. Grains of sea salt

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Lamb trotter fraised in a salted toffee of lactose and fresh cream. Ragu of beets

Well......

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French toast soaked in egg yolk, saute browned and caramelized accompanied by a reduced milk ice cream

This was the highlight of the meal and was really, really good

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The thawing of lychees and orange blossoms: A pistachio cake with lychee pulp, crystalized flowers and an ice cream dusting of orange blossoms

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A cylinder of chocolate ice cream accompanied by a cream of almonds, another chocolate and lime


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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wow, thats an impressive set of pictures. The pintxos bars bring back fond memories of my running wild in the streets with my patient girlfriend walking calmly behind me, quietly accepting "one more bite at that place over there, and thats it...I promise"

thank you for the nice post.

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Thanks, Molto. I too think Mugaritz is going through a strange, 'otherworldly' phase, which I think will be reflected in a reduced rating in the 2006 edition of Spain's largest restaurant guide...

If you happen to hit Madrid in the near future, take a taste of Viridiana's fresh duck foie gras: it's house-smoked over a hickory fire and served with a drop of Pedro Ximénez sherry on a rich brioche. It will reconcile you to foie-gras in Spain!


Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Molto, another awesome report! Your photos of Arzak brought back many memories. I was surprised how many similarities there were in your and my meal later in the courses one year apart. Then again, those courses like the lamb with the coffee veil and the pigeon were so good, they should be kept. Early on in the meals, everything was very different.

For what it is worth, the platings at Mugaritz were gorgeous. It is a shame that it didn't live up to your expectations. How did it compare to Gagnaire? The overall sensibility struck me as very similar.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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For what it is worth, the platings at Mugaritz were gorgeous. It is a shame that it didn't live up to your expectations. How did it compare to Gagnaire? The overall sensibility struck me as very similar.

Doc,

I would not really compare Mugaritz to Gagnaire. Andoni is far more of a minimalist compared to Gagnaire. Your take on Gagnaire's contrasting flavors disagreeing with each other was dead on and I would say Andoni used hushed tones. The platings were beautiful, but if the dish does not taste good was is the point. Chef G at Alinea plates beautifully also, but I did not have one course in two GTMs that did not taste good. I think that when Chef G "staged" at El Bulli that Andoni was still there. The service at Gagnaire was far superior to Mugaritz and it was more of a polished experience-though as you know and I just repeat this at this point so no one is confused-I was extremely disappointed with Gagnaire and would not recommend it.

After trying most of the top "molecular gastronomists", I really do not feel that a meal based on "tomfoolery" is the best way to use those techniques. I liked Akelare and Arzaks blending of the two worlds and I hope to see more of that in future meals. I also do not think a meal should last more than 3 hours though I have had some that have far eciplised that and not minded, but enough is enough.

Good Eating,

Molto E


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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If a very long meal is truly great such as I've had at el Bulli, Alinea, Arzak, Can Fabes, Citronelle and Per Se amongst others, the time flew and I longed for more. On the other hand, if the meal does not hit on all cylinders, it can be excruciating. A great meal provides its own energy and drive. The pacingis also extremely important. If I'm stuffed a quarter of the way through the rest of the meal becomes a chore rather than a pleasure. This last part, though not necessarily time dependant is magnified in a very long meal.


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

Not me, I can assure you. I've always believed that Martín is the best restaurant in the area and one of the best in the country.


PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

Not me, I can assure you. I've always believed that Martín is the best restaurant in the area and one of the best in the country.

Thanks for the tip, it will be Martin next time. Doc did you try Berastegui?


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

Not me, I can assure you. I've always believed that Martín is the best restaurant in the area and one of the best in the country.

Thanks for the tip, it will be Martin next time. Doc did you try Berastegui?

As far as I know, Martin = Berasategui. one and the same.


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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R U being Silly-of course, Martin Berastegui


Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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Molto,

When i visited San Sebastian a couple of summers ago, i took in Arzak & MB(also Kursaal which was fantastic value @ E15 for 3 courses & bottle of wine). Although on the whole i preferred Arzak, MB really had some magic dishes but also some mediocre ones- i think based on your report i would like to try Akelare. Thanks for your report!

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Molto,

            When i visited San Sebastian a couple of summers ago, i took in Arzak & MB(also Kursaal which was fantastic value @ E15 for 3 courses & bottle of wine). Although on the whole i preferred Arzak, MB really had some magic dishes but also some mediocre ones- i think based on your report i would like to try Akelare. Thanks for your report!

seanw,

Besides the menu at Akelare, he had a list of specials that were his takes on classic dishes from the region. If I had gone back that is what I wanted to try. The input I had on MB prior to Pedro and xyz was that he had too much going on in some of his dishes, but I would try him if I went back and I had Etxebarri and Fagollaga on the list to try also.

Molto E


Edited by molto e (log)

Eliot Wexler aka "Molto E"

MoltoE@restaurantnoca.com

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One simply has to go to Etxebarri near Bilbao for the greatest cuisine based on the simple wood-fired grill to be found in Spain, and possibly anywhere. Of the 'non-anointed', up-and-coming stars, the other musts are certainly Fagollaga in Hernani and the brand-new Iñigo Lavado restaurant in Irún, both near San Sebastián. Of the 'anointed' ones, I'd say Zuberoa is currently the most disappointing.

Had only time for one evening of tapas at San Sebastián last month while touring the French Basque country. We hit Ganbara first - and we never left. Amazing quality.


Edited by vserna (log)

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

Not me, I can assure you. I've always believed that Martín is the best restaurant in the area and one of the best in the country.

Maybe I had bad luck, but in my last trip to San Sebastian I visited Martin Berasategui and was UTTERLY disappointed. We saved it for last after trying most of the restaurants already mentioned.

I was only "wowed" by a couple of the dishes we had thre. The service was sub-par (servers were unsure what different things in the plate were) there was hair in one of the dishes, they screwed up one of the orders. I was shocked to see "molted chocolate cake" in the desserts. I have considered giving it a second chance, but have been unable to bring myself to do it. Especially since it was by far the most expensive meal we had.


Arley Sasson

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

I've only eaten at Martin twice and don't have too many trips to San Sebastian under my belt, which is ultimately where I file trips to San Sebastian. Berastategui's two meals may be at the top of my list of meals in the area and a prime candidate for yet another meal. The first great meal in the region came one day when we snuck down from France for a day to eat at Arzak many years ago. It was the meal than seduced us from France and we've been coming back to Spain on a more and more frequent basis. Mugaritz held the most promise from us for the future. I'm sorry to hear reports of decline. Akelarre, while excellent, was not as vibrant a meal as yours appears to be. All I can is that when I return, I'll still have a hard time eliminating some restaurants from my dance card. As is, the Pais Vasco is far from the only place in Spain that deserves a gastronomic visit. It's hard to find an area where I can visit all places worth trying in the time alloted to my visit.

Tapas are another story and the old city is not the only place to have excellent tapas, altough it has a certain atmosphere that adds to the pleasure. . A successful evening of tapas in San Sebastian could easily rival the gastronomic delights of a meal in a stared restaurant. I'm short on time, but there's an excellent thread or two on tapas bars in San Sebastian including one thread I posted on the last time we were in San Sebastian. If someone runs scross that thread, it might be good to link to it in this one.


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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Molto,

Interesting comment as far as MB(too much going on). As far as the tasting menu i had i thought that was not the case, the deficient dishes(imo) were more to do with technical glitches(seasoning) & the sheer contrast of inspired dishes alongside uninspired(again imo)- Also at the time i think he must of been enamoured with truffle oil as it was prevalent in several dishes which i felt was unnecessary(actually this was his first year with 3*, perhaps there was an expectation of such ingredients to be used. As i have not dined their before or since i dont know how his cuisine developed or evolved??) I certainly enjoyed many aspects of the meal although the dessert was a letdown(but that is quite common- i loved Arzak desserts & funnily enough dreadfully disappointed with Gagnaires dessert, but i did have expectations, cos the guy put his name on it!)

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One simply has to go to Etxebarri near Bilbao for the greatest cuisine based on the simple wood-fired grill to be found in Spain, and possibly anywhere. Of the 'non-anointed', up-and-coming stars, the other musts are certainly Fagollaga in Hernani and the brand-new Iñigo Lavado restaurant in Irún, both near San Sebastián. Of the 'anointed' ones, I'd say Zuberoa is currently the most disappointing.

Had only time for one evening of tapas at San Sebastián last month while touring the French Basque country. We hit Ganbara first - and we never left. Amazing quality.

What`s the name of Iñigo Lavado's restaurant? Last year I ate at NH and it was quitew good, it's good news knowing he has his own place now, I am visiting San Sebastian in november, added him to my list (together with Mugaritz, MB and Rekondo, to visit the famous cellar).

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Akelarre's "Gin & Tonic on a Plate" is just about the best dessert anywhere

Gin jelly, lemon sorbet, crispy sheets of reduced tonic and crushed juniper berries

They do desserts (& most other dishes) in half portions so you can sample more

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fantastic pictures, thank you!! they brought back great memories of those pinxos bars. I miss them!

We also had a fabulous meal at Arzak and became fans of MB at his Kursaal restaurant. Not to be missed IMHO, we find ourselves talking about those meal frequently.

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my last lunch in San Sebastian was between Mugaritz and Martin Berastegui. I choose Mugaritz because of Chef Andoni's reputation as the Foie king,

To bad because my meal at Martin last month was better then Arzak or Akalare

or El Bulli, also just wondering why does almost everyone who goes to San Sebastian skip Martin.

Not me, I can assure you. I've always believed that Martín is the best restaurant in the area and one of the best in the country.

Thanks for the tip, it will be Martin next time. Doc did you try Berastegui?

Hi Molto,

I haven't been ignoring you or this thread. I have been away and am still getting myself organized after a great trip to South Africa. Unfortunately, the only one of the great Donostia restaurants that I've had the pleasure to dine at is Arzak, which was wonderful. I would love to get back and try them all!


John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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The question with Andoni and Mugaritz is that he is to be understood and not only tasted. I know it's a complicated proposition, but worth the effort. In my opinion he is the best chef in Spain today, the only one able to go ahead beyond Adriá, using the best technology can provide but hidding it in the kitchen and showing only a kind of nature renatured, a concept so precious to Merleau-Ponty. Andoni is a philosopher in the kitchen, and not easy to give pleasure, but when you understand him it's more than a meal, it's sublime. :cool:

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