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Mugaritz and Arzak


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The dispassionate understanding of the differences of subjectivity and objectivity is the most difficult hurdle for anyone writing about food. One has to take a hard look at personal preferences but also have a complete understanding of the timeline and evolution of gastronomy. To find an audience who understands the differences and will take the definitions to heart in understanding them will be virtually impossible. One person's objectivity is another person's subjective opinion, likes or dislikes, in another reader's mind. With a subject as ephemeral as cuisine, and taste memory, it is a dream only.

the best one can do is to calibrate one's taste to certain food writer's "objective" opinion one is comfortable with (whatever that means) and build a personal consensus from there.

I think it might be asking too much...

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I certainly agree with Milla about the risks inherent in trying to discriminate between subjective and objective criteria for judgement, it has to be said not just in the case of food, but in general. I'm also sceptical about the wholesale application of the language of aesthetics to food, but that's really really another topic, even more so than one I'm about to write.

Sticking with the subjective vs. objective, let's take a very simple and classic case - oversalting. 'This food is oversalted' is as straightforward and pseudo-objective judgement as one can make. It is also, quite clearly, a matter of taste. One could oversalt a dish so massively that it would be genuinely inedible to anyone who has functioning salt receptors, but that 'objective' stage is only reached after passing through many grey areas, which are obviously subjective. I like more salt than my mother and less than my grandfather, but that doesn't make any of our tastes anything other than 'taste'... So at what point on this continuum does a subjective category become an objective one?? If it's just when the majority concur, that certainly doesn't make it objective (see Pop Idol should you need proof of that).

LXT: sorry can't get the quoting going right

As to Adria = Schoenberg, Adria is far from achieving the same level of atonality. Only about three dishes in 33 (9%) in our meal were more intellectually palatable than sensually pleasurable.

This judgement, by the way, is predicated on something very subjective - the assumption that 'atonality' - be it Schoenberg's (who hated the word) or Adria's - is concerned with an intellectual product rather than a sensual one. While this is a very common assumption, it is absolutely not a universal one, and I don't know any composer of atonal music (I'm one, incidentally) who would consider the point of their work to be 'intellectual palatablilty', at least on its own. The emotional vs. intellectual is another one of aesthetics false dichotomies for me.....

But really really far too far from Mugaritz vs. Arzak. Next time atonal music takes me to the Basque country - one of my best friends is the compostion teacher in San Sebastian - I'll try and have something to say about the food itself...

Edited by alexhills (log)
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I would be interested to hear other peoples opinions regarding Mugaritz and Arzak ( i know it has been discussed previously on this forum - however I would value some more recent observations)

I ate at both this past weekend.  I found Arzak astoundingly great - it had such an air of confidence about it and even though it was experimental it never sacrificed taste and flavour.  We had the multi-course tasting menu and each dish was as good as the last. 

I have not completely made my mind up about Mugaritz - it was certainly a more cerebral experience but not necessarily an enjoyable one.  I feel it is important that chefs try and break down traditional boundaries, however certain dishes were just plain inedible and I am somebody who can eat almost anything.

I found the whole experience challenging and confrontational and don't regret going, however I don't think I would return.

Yes I have just moved to San Sebastian last week to stay for a while. However, I was here in December and had a chance to eat at Arzak, Akelarre, Zuberoa, and Mugaritz. I know exactly what you are talking about. I came here to look for work at one of these restaurants and personally ranked them in this order Arzak #1, Zuberoa #2, Akelarre #3 and finally Mugaritz #4. I heard all the same great things that I’m sure you did. And the best way to say it at least for me is that Arzak was just straight up a 3 star Michelin restaurant from bottom to top I could not have been happier. For me the most important factor there was that the art and or visual magic of the food matched the exquisite taste. The balance was there.

On the other hand though Mugaritz was very well spoken of and certainly one of the more beautiful locations only seconded by Akelarre. I had the overwhelming feeling of someone who is walking around the modern art section of a museum looking at really interesting out there pieces and then walking into a big empty room. With vaulted ceilings of plain white only to find a plain wooden chair in the middle of the room (or a spoon pendulum in the case of Mugaritz) and saying to myself, “Is this art?”

I have been to many of the world’s best restaurants and have been a cook for nine years professionally, yet this was the first time that I ever felt that I just didn’t get it. It was comfortable enough and of the three things that I liked, they were great. Oh, and the best way I have ever been served foie gras ever. Really that was great but there were courses that just made me think that it really pushed that line of being so far out there in presentation and with flavors that tended to risk on the lighter side of the palate if at all.

So I think I know exactly why you posted this and if so. Yes I agree (?????????) Not so sure I get it.

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Milla, your are exactly correct that finding other diners whose objective criteria and tastes correlate to your own standards and preferences is the ultimate goal, but I’m not insisting on mandatory agreement when it comes to subjective preferences, only on a certain set of conventions that would comprise the objective criteria.

Referencing Alex’s point for instance, even though my opinion that Benno couldn’t properly calibrate the intrinsic brininess of the oyster juice and Iranian osetra caviar in Keller’s “Oysters and Pearls" on our first visit to Per Se, rendering the dish overly salty, could indeed be attributed to my personal subjective sensitivities, the fact that the sabayon contained bits of curdled egg on our second visit, is just that - a fact. The conventional wisdom for preparing sabayon, calling for straining, along with Keller’s stressing the importance of passing every liquid through a fine-mesh sieve at least once, makes this rendition of the famous dish objectively poor in the same way as arbitrary alterations to the score, poor intonation and missed notes in a musical work are concrete facts and never open to differing opinions among musical critics.

I’ll reiterate that applying objective principles is a tremendous stumbling block not only in food, but in every area of human activity that involves some level of subjective appreciation, be it in music, art or architecture, with many critical books devoting chapters to acknowledging this eternal battle among professional critics. Moreover, the disagreements among critics are often held up with glee as irrefutable proof of the uselessness of musical criticism. I know it only too well through my own experience sitting on the Conservatory panel for evaluating pianists’ performances during my former classical music career, and I can assure you that some of the arguments on the musical panel and the food board are startlingly similar.

Alex, my statement regarding Schoenberg was a response to athinaeos. When Adria is compared to Schoenberg, more often than not it refers to Schoenberg’s “emancipation of dissonance” in a derogatory sense and represents a condemnation of the incoherent cuisine/ music, often associated, in the minds of people, with atonality - a statement with which I disagreed, even though a correlation between Adria’s and Schoenberg’s works can be established through their similar approach of building menu/musical works around a series of textures/tones repeated and patterned in various ways.

You’re entirely right: Schoenberg didn’t like the word “atonality” and attempted to replace it with "pan-tonality," a term that didn’t survive. Therefore, “atonality” is a generally accepted and valid term when a reference to Schoenberg’s serialism is made and, in my view, is a fair representation of his departure from the tonal family of keys as was declared in Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier. ...But, as interesting as this conversation is, as you mentioned, it is quite off topic.

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Referencing Alex’s point for instance, even though my opinion that Benno couldn’t properly calibrate the intrinsic brininess of the oyster juice and Iranian osetra caviar in Keller’s “Oysters and Pearls" on our first visit to Per Se, rendering the dish overly salty, could indeed be attributed to my personal subjective sensitivities, the fact that the sabayon contained bits of curdled egg on our second visit, is just that - a fact. The conventional wisdom for preparing sabayon, calling for straining, along with Keller’s stressing the importance of passing every liquid through a fine-mesh sieve at least once, makes this rendition of the famous dish objectively poor in the same way as arbitrary alterations to the score, poor intonation and missed notes in a musical work are concrete facts and never open to differing opinions among musical critics. 

I think the problem here is that although a lumpy sabayon or a wrong note may be an objective fact, the extent to which they render poor the whole is highly debatable. Many of my favorite performances - Schnabel or the Budapest 4tet's Beethoven, Cortot's Chopin - are riddled with 'objective' errors, but posess other qualities in such abundance that those are entirely irrelevant to my mind. In another performance that lacked the understanding, direction, sound quality, of those, the same errors would be completely unpalatable to me. Likewise, if the caviar and oysters were absolutely exquisite, I'd probably not be too upset by the sabayon. I'm not, incidentally, maintaining that all judgement is subjective, rather that the distinction between the two categories is murky and can be dangerous as a way to construct evaluation.

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My parents believed all music outside the hymnbook was satanic, so I'm losing the thread of this thread. I understand painting better--Ferran compared his food to Cubism following figurative painting, and that is a very good description of his cooking style.

lxt, I won't repeat here my earlier posts on El Bulli ad nauseum, since the topic is Mugaritz vs. Arzak and Ferran always seems to suck the oxygen out of every discussion. I don't think Ferran is ONLY about technique, and I believe the idea of "objective" criteria is largely a red herring. However, as much as I have always enjoyed El Bulli, the dishes seem more like sketches than evolved compositions. It's telling that unlike other chefs who are known and imitated for signature dishes, Ferran is imitated mainly in his techniques. There is almost no El Bulli equivalent of the Arpege egg or the Bras gargoulliou. I think it is quite fair to say that he is concept and technique-driven, and that isn't a criticism since that is clearly his intention. He is brilliant and there is no one even close to him.

I think the influence of Bras, and possibly even Veyrat, is at least as strong if not stronger than El Bulli at Mugaritz.

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My parents believed all music outside the hymnbook was satanic, so I'm losing the thread of this thread. I understand painting better--Ferran compared his food to Cubism following figurative painting, and that is a very good description of his cooking style.

lxt, I won't repeat here my earlier posts on El Bulli ad nauseum, since the topic is Mugaritz vs. Arzak and Ferran always seems to suck the oxygen out of every discussion. I don't think Ferran is ONLY about technique, and I believe the idea of "objective" criteria is largely a red herring. However, as much as I have always enjoyed El Bulli, the dishes seem more like sketches than evolved compositions. It's telling that unlike other chefs who are known and imitated for signature dishes, Ferran is imitated mainly in his techniques. There is almost no El Bulli equivalent of the Arpege egg or the Bras gargoulliou. I think it is quite fair to say that he is concept and technique-driven, and that isn't a criticism since that is clearly his intention. He is brilliant and there is no one even close to him.

I think the influence of Bras, and possibly even Veyrat, is at least as strong if not stronger than El Bulli at Mugaritz.

Yes, Culinista, your observations agree with our dining experience and culinary assessments of both Veyrat and Bras. Both chefs are ouststanding and continue to command international attention for their culinary efforts that reflect their affinity to their respective produits of their terroir. Each chef has a rigorous interest in foraging their environs and using every found item to enhance their recipes.

Both are very much like Chef Aduriz of Mugaritz. THe Bras gargoullou recipe has been without equal in the world, until Chef Aduriz of Mugaritz dared to top the excellence of Chef Bras' rendition. And he has exceeded Bras' superb version of a vegetable/salade innovation using his unqiue combinations of fresh vegetables, root vegetables, nuts, foraged greens, locally grown greens and the variousi tems that make this exceptional, dish unique in the world. We think that the Mugaritz product today has no equal!! THe Spanish culinary world both of yesterday and today has underrated his genius in combining foraged and grown greens with his masterful understanding of handling protein items, like fois gras, fowl, game, beef, lamb and deer; he also has an equal genius in preparing fish and seafood,

His talent is extraordinary for such a young chef. Judith Gebhart

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  • 2 weeks later...

My parents believed all music outside the hymnbook was satanic, so I'm losing the thread of this thread. I understand painting better--Ferran compared his food to Cubism following figurative painting, and that is a very good description of his cooking style.

lxt, I won't repeat here my earlier posts on El Bulli ad nauseum, since the topic is Mugaritz vs. Arzak and Ferran always seems to suck the oxygen out of every discussion. I don't think Ferran is ONLY about technique, and I believe the idea of "objective" criteria is largely a red herring. However, as much as I have always enjoyed El Bulli, the dishes seem more like sketches than evolved compositions. It's telling that unlike other chefs who are known and imitated for signature dishes, Ferran is imitated mainly in his techniques. There is almost no El Bulli equivalent of the Arpege egg or the Bras gargoulliou. I think it is quite fair to say that he is concept and technique-driven, and that isn't a criticism since that is clearly his intention. He is brilliant and there is no one even close to him.

I think the influence of Bras, and possibly even Veyrat, is at least as strong if not stronger than El Bulli at Mugaritz.

Yes, Culinista, your observations agree with our dining experience and culinary assessments of both Veyrat and Bras. Both chefs are ouststanding and continue to command international attention for their culinary efforts that reflect their affinity to their respective produits of their terroir. Each chef has a rigorous interest in foraging their environs and using every found item to enhance their recipes.

Both are very much like Chef Aduriz of Mugaritz. THe Bras gargoullou recipe has been without equal in the world, until Chef Aduriz of Mugaritz dared to top the excellence of Chef Bras' rendition. And he has exceeded Bras' superb version of a vegetable/salade innovation using his unqiue combinations of fresh vegetables, root vegetables, nuts, foraged greens, locally grown greens and the variousi tems that make this exceptional, dish unique in the world. We think that the Mugaritz product today has no equal!! THe Spanish culinary world both of yesterday and today has underrated his genius in combining foraged and grown greens with his masterful understanding of handling protein items, like fois gras, fowl, game, beef, lamb and deer; he also has an equal genius in preparing fish and seafood,

His talent is extraordinary for such a young chef. Judith Gebhart

This is another response to those hesitant eGulleteers who might doubt the excellence of Mugaritz as a dining destination. We found the latest findings of the UK's Restaurant Magazine: The World's Best 50 Restaurant Academy. For this year, 2006, the first ten best restaurants in the world are: eLBulli (1), The Fat Duck, (2), Pierre Gagnaire,(3), French Laundry, (4), Tetsuya, (5), Michel Bras, (6), Alain Ducasse-Le Louis XV,(7) Per se, (8), Arzak, (9) and MUGARITZ, (10)!!!! Cannot say I agree with the line up but eLBulli and The Fat Duck are at the top. Per Se, we think is not a top ten experience. My point is that Mugaritz is a new entry and that is a deserved recognition. Our local neighborhood chef, Charlie Trotter came in at number 26. Many of you already know this! I just couldn't hold back my enthusiasm for Mugaritz. Judith Gebhart

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  • 4 months later...

Meal number 1 on our trip to San Sebastian was at Mugaritz, and I spent all day looking forward to it. A friend of mine had a reservation last week, couldn't find the restaurant and lost his booking. Idiot. So I wasn't leaving anything to chance. We therefore arrived uncharacteristically early after a speedy cab journey. But this was no bad thing; we had the chance to wander round the property and have a glass of Cava in the garden patio. The design of the place is very impressive. Country retreat with an oriental twist, and very warm and welcoming. Only one thing went tits up - camera batteries completely dead. So I'm sorry about the lack of photos, though I imagine a lot of our meal has been seen already.

We opted for the mega tasting menu (‘Naturan’), as we were always going to do. We took a trip to the kitchen before the meal began and met a chef called Izu who had been mentioned to us by Brett Graham, as an ex-colleague from the Square. He showed us the various stations in the huge kitchen, and the separate refrigerated prep room. Immaculate and huge, like nothing you could ever find in London. I told Izu we were having the 11 course menu, and he said he'd stick in his favourite dish from the restaurant, as it hadn't made it on to the tasting menu. I will be eternally grateful for this intervention.

So, to the food. By now, you will know that we started with the clay potatoes and garlic mayonnaise. I really enjoyed this. The flavours weren't spectacular, but very pleasant, and with a sense of humour. The mayonnaise was superb.

Second amuse: baby squid in a red pepper consomme. Two baby squid on a small square plate, with the consomme poured over. Sweet consomme, but not sickly, complemented the squid perfectly. A great start.

Third amuse: A Chicken Wing. That's right, a chicken wing. Oh dear oh dear. Herein lies the mystery of Mugaritz. After two excellent amuses, we were served a plain old chicken wing, with a spoonful of chicken broth. Not dissimilar to what I've seen through the windows in Chicken Cottage.

Course 1: CHILLED VEGETABLE SOUP, shrimp, herbs and fern shoots.

This was a cold vegetable shrimp broth, to which was added frozen peas, which came out in a dish steaming from liquid nitrogen. The properties of this dish would be echoed in many others; beautifully presented, using edible flowers and leaves, and crystal clear consommes. I doubt even a tablespoon of cream found itself anywhere near any of our savoury courses. This made for an enjoyable light beginning.

Course 2, Izu's add in: VEGETABLES, OVEN ROASTED AND RAW, SPROUTS AND GREENS, wild and cultivated, seasoned with browned butter and dusted with seeds and petals. 'Emmenthal' cheese generously seasoned.

Absolutely out of this world. Nearly 50 different baby vegetables, edible flowers, herbs and leaves, gently bathed in emmenthal sauce poured at the table. Every bite was different, provoking groans and grins from my side of the table. Picked from the garden, the preparation demonstrated a superb purity of flavours. I have never before been struck by a dish composed purely of vegetables and this was somewhat of an epiphany. Last of all, a strange looking flower, which looked a little like the green head of a dandelion plant, was left on the rim of the plate. We were instructed to eat this last of all, without any sauce. I will hold back on the descriptions and explanations, so you can try for yourselves, but needless to say, it denonated a crazy reaction in the mouth. Awesome dish.

Course 3: Representing baby mozzarelas: BUTTERY IDIAZABEL CHEESE GNOCCI IN SALTED IBERIAN PORK BOUILLON. Contrasting vegetables.

Melting texture of the 'gnocchi', excellent bouillon. Again, this was clear and full flavoured, reminding me of plates of jabugo ham back in the old town. Each piece was adorned with a different flower or herb, though their subtlety was lost beneath the other components.

Course 4: A Pasta of amaranth, sardine broth and BABY LANGOUSTINE TAILS. Tender garden leaves.

I enjoyed this course. The delicately fishy amaranth was wheaty and full flavoured, and excellently paired with a glass of Hoegaarden. The langoustine flavour was a little muted by its accompaniments though, and I preferred to guzzle them on their own. Still, a very good dish.

Course 5: CRUSHED POTATOES, BROKEN EGGS AND VEGETABLE COAL. Garlic 'Caesin' Dressing.

Superb flavour and texture of the potatoes, enriched by the egg, which had been cooked at 65 degrees for 45 minutes. Why? Who knows. But it tasted good to me. Even after all the reports, I expected the coal to taste burnt. But it didn't, and provided an interesting textural contrast. Zoe LOVED this dish. I really really liked it. A must try.

Course 6: KING CRAB MARINATED IN OLIVE OIL, bathed in gelatinous chicken broth and spiced with toasted buckwheat.

This chunk of leg must have come from one enormous crab. Unctuous melting texture yielded to the fork, bolstered but not overpowered by the chicken broth (clear consomme again).

Course 7: HAKE FILLET WITH BABY GARLIC, hazlenut praline, soured cream and bitter flowers.

Here begins the disappointment - the fish courses were utterly forgettable. The small hunk of hake fillet tasted bland and underseasoned. The streak of garlic cream was a dubious accompaniment, but failed even more so when coupled with an ever so slightly sweet praline sauce underneath.

Course 8: TUNA LOIN ROASTED and bathed in a concentrated consomme of pilchards. Clay roasted onions and sweet spices.

I'm sure this was a decent piece of tuna, but when bathing in an intense fishy consomme, all its flavour was lost and its odour unpleasant. The small pieces of oven baked onion had assumed the strong taste of the aromatics with which it had been roasted, and further undermined the main event. Disappointing.

Course 9: Braised IBERIAN PORK TAILS with pan fried LANGOUSTINES. Reduced braising juices infused with iberian acorn jamon.

Back on form. I swapped this dish in for the pork with curry paste, which Zoe had. Mine was better, I'm happy to say. I'd never had pig tails before, and I'm a convert. Remarkably piggy, melting and tender. The sweetness of the langoustines provided a subtle addition on the palate. Of course, I couldn't resist bathing one of the tails in the juices and popping it into my mouth whole. Mmm.

Course 10: Cheeses, with accompanying relishes.

The little plate of relishes was well thought out and, overall, a great success. The shot glass of pear juice to cleanse the palate between each specimen was also good. However, I'm still not sure I like Spanish cheese that much.

Course 11: Seeking a contrast of temperatures, textures and cultures. VIOLET ICE CREAM, hot almond marzipan, shavings of spiced bread and green tea.

Without a doubt the best dessert I have ever tasted. The ice cream was fragrant and clean. However, when combined with a little of the brittle chocolate, perfumed with green tea, and the spiced gingerbread, something incredible happened. As the wanky description predicts, the contrast is a knockout, Different components hit the tastebuds at different times, before almost evaporating on your tongue, leaving you with a gentle lingering aftertaste of violet. Absolutely awesome, and everyone in the kitchen knew it, too.

Course 12: CARAMELIZED FRENCH TOAST ENRICHED WITH CREAM AND EGG YOLK. With handmade raw milk and fig ice cream.

I swapped this in for the milk and tapioca ice cream, which Zoe duly devoured. I wasn't going to come all this way and not have the french toast, was I? It deserves its reputation. Crisp shell giving way to a moist, eggy interior. Perfect ice cream to boot. Fantastic dessert.

Course 13: FROZEN CHOCOLATE CYLINDER with almond cream, chocolate and lime.

Not hitting the heights of the previous two, this was nevertheless a surprisingly light and fresh end to a wonderful meal. Apparently they separate out the albumen from egg whites, which are apparently 90% water, mix it with chocolate, whip it like mad and freeze it. To create a superfine aero which evaporates on the heat of your tongue.

All in all, I thought this was an excellent meal. The high points were as high as I have experienced anywhere. Even the dishes on the next level down expressed superb clarity of flavour and quite unique combinations at the cutting edge of cuisine. The restaurant has a sense of humour, and will always amaze and dumbfound. I just find it frustrating that experimental places like Mugaritz can serve fish courses with so little going for them, not to mention the bloody chicken wing. Especially given that so much effort and meticulous preparation goes into each dish. But like golf, you forget about the forays in the rough; it is your shot of the day that you remember most vividly, and keeps you coming back for more. The vegetable dish and the violet ice cream will live long in the memory.

Service was excellent, and the wine pairings were good too, and cheap. It's a shame the restaurant was so empty - only 4 tables full. Perhaps they all got lost.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Recently I had lunch at Mugaritz.

It was an excellent meal, and the best I had in San Sebastian area (Arzak included).

I chose the Naturan Menu, that was quite similar the one described by Andy Fenn.

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We started with the clay potatoes with garlic mayonnaise, and vegetable tempura.

The potatoes came over round hot stones.

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Chicken wing in a mushroom consomé.

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CHILLED VEGETABLE SOUP, shrimp, herbs and fern shoots.

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Representing baby mozzarelas: BUTTERY IDIAZABEL CHEESE GNOCCI IN SALTED IBERIAN PORK BOUILLON. Contrasting vegetables.

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CRUSHED POTATOES, BROKEN EGGS AND VEGETABLE COAL. Garlic 'Caesin' Dressing.

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A Pasta of amaranth, sardine broth and BABY LANGOUSTINE TAILS. Tender garden leaves.

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KING CRAB MARINATED IN OLIVE OIL, bathed in gelatinous chicken broth and spiced with toasted buckwheat.

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HAKE FILLET WITH BABY GARLIC, hazlenut praline, soured cream and bitter flowers.

(Out of Focus :angry: )

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TUNA LOIN ROASTED and bathed in a concentrated consomme of pilchards. Clay roasted onions and sweet spices.

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ROAST IBERIAN PORK, red curry paste and plump salad leaves.

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BABY SQUID CHARGRILLED OVER GRAPE VINES, vegetable "bacon" and "begihandi" cream.

My wife asked this instead the pork.

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Seeking a contrast of temperatures, textures and cultures. VIOLET ICE CREAM, hot almond marzipan, shavings of spiced bread and green tea.

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MILK AND TAPIOCA ICE CREAM with organic cane sugar.. Hazelnuts wings and chocolate sand.

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FROZEN CHOCOLATE CYLINDER with almond cream, chocolate and lime.

I agree with Andy, that the tuna was the less interesting dish. I found the sardine consomé, too strong and all the flavours were lost.

Wine service was good, and inexpensive. The wines were served at the right temperatures in apropriate glasses.

All the service was very good and friendly.

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Nice pics. Just two notes, Paulo: What you describe as 'king crab' looks to me like a leg of spider crab (centollo in Spanish, santola in Portuguese, scientific name Maja squinado). Also, 'begi handi' is the Basque name for the European squid (Loligo vulgaris; calamar in Spanish).

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

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Nice pics. Just two notes, Paulo: What you describe as 'king crab' looks to me like a leg of spider crab (centollo in Spanish, santola in Portuguese, scientific name Maja squinado). Also, 'begi handi' is the Basque name for the European squid (Loligo vulgaris; calamar in Spanish).

King crab was the name they had in english menu, but it was, like you said, spider crab ( txangurro in basque )

I did'n know that 'begi handi' was squid in basque. ( very dificult to translate anything in "basque" ) :wacko:

It was a squid's ink gravy.

Edited by PauloR (log)
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  • 5 months later...

I have never really had anything to post on egullet but after lunch at Mugaritz and Arzak I feel like the info could be useful. This was my first experience with a three star restaurant and I was excited to compare it to past experiences in the states. Not only am I a foodie but I have also been in the industry my whole life. So even though I critique I had a great meal at both places. I took notes so I can try to learn from places that are so reputable and famous so here they are.

I arrived at Arzak almost a half an hour early to make sure I wasn´t late for my reso. The place wasn´t open yet so I was asked if I would like to sit in the lounge and have something to drink. Since I am an alcoholic I gladly took some white wine. The first things I noticed were that the lamp shades and pictures on the wall were all crooked. A small detail that doesn´t really matter to me but something I thought would never happen with 3 stars. Also the servers were having espresso and leaning on the counters in front of me and another couple. I know I was early but I would get in trouble for this action in the places I have worked. My glass was empty fairly quickly for obvious reasons and I was not asked if I wanted another nor was it cleared (15-20 min). The whole time there was at least 2 and at times 4 servers in the room. The last thing I noticed was that the matre d was staring me down. It was like he was angry with me for some reason maybe because I was early. If that was the case I would have waited at the bar next door and had an Estrella damm.

After they sat me down in the dining room a menu was handed to me and I quickly chose the biggest tasting menu they had. The servers were very professional but not the most graceful service I have ever seen. Making unnecessary reaches to serve and clear and not very coordinated at times as well.

1st course

five bite size items came out all at the same time and on many plates

Mellon relleno with cheese and poprocks was just ok

puffed rice disks sandwiching mushroom mousse

radish on a stick with pickled fish was outstanding

fried lotus roots sandwiching a fish mousse was also fantastic

2ond course

Three towers of sauteed apples on top of foie gras and caramelized sugar on top

One of the best dishes that I had in Spain.

3rd course

Langostine with whole and pureed corn, micro bitter greens and lemon water served on the side. The langostines were cooked very well because they were super tender. It was a good dish but I didn´t really get the lemon water.

4th course

Poached egg with black truffles, chorizo vin., and migas of bread. Minus the blk truffles I cook this dish for myself more than any other dish (especially at three in the morning after a night out). It should have blown me away and I had the biggest smile on my face as soon as it was put in front of me. The migas destroyed the dish however. I hate to say it because I know first hand how much work goes into working in a kitchen like this one but how could this be served. It was like somebody spilled the container of salt into the migas. I understand that because the yolk is very rich and fatty to need to balance it out but this was too much. It was too late as well I had already mixed everything together on the plate.

5th course

Sole with braised and charred lemons was a good dish all of the components worked together but alone were very strong.

6th course

Duck breast with purple potato mashed and glass. also on the side the leg with sliced purple potatoes. Everything about this dish was great except for the leg which was very tough. The duck tasted a little stronger and I enjoyed that. It also came with a duck and rosemary sauce that was my favorite part of the dish. It was nice to have mashed potatoes that weren´t half butter not that I am against butter it´s just that it has been a long time since I have had them with olive oil as the fat. By the way I really love butter.

7th course desserts

Two items came out here the first was choc. disks brushed with silver and sandwiching candied pumpkin puree. Also the mint foam that I think was dropped in to liquid nitro came out in a deflated form. I noticed that on other tables it was fine and held its shape.

The second was oranges in broth and banana ice cream with spinach. A very unlikely combination that was fantastic.

I always check out the bathrooms at places like these and Arzak did not disappoint here. They were very cool with all kinds of automatic devices. It wasn´t the meal of my life but I am still glad to have eaten here. It is a very important restaurant in Spain. If Arzak had not spent time with Bocuse spanish food would be very different right now I think. I am glad that he and others had a movement to energize spainish food because afterwards they influenced so many other chefs.

I will post another reply for mugartiz but want to post now because last time the computer died and I lost everything.

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  • 1 year later...

I can only repeat what I said in the Mugaritz vs Martin Beresategui thread:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=113008&st=60

The food was creative, well thought-out for the most part and deserving of the status that Andoni Luis Aduriz has gained at Mugaritz. But you must bear in mind that these guys are executive chefs and sometimes things slip from the standards that they set as hands-on head chefs. When I went three weeks ago, both the food and the service suffered from some serious errors of execution. Hopefully all has recovered now, but as a chef de partie in a Catalan restaurant I know pretty much what was going wrong in the kitchens at the time I went there. I have yet to experience Arzak, because although I'm sure it's very good at what it does, I don't think it's in the same league when it comes to creativity, which is what interests me personally.

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  • 2 years later...

Like a lot of people Arzak and Mugaritz are on my list while I'm here for 6 days. Arzak tonight was off the charts.

Corn soup-black bean soup

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Fried shellfish sausage wrapped in Phyllo

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Venison tartar, apple center, sugar crisp

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Caramalized onion, curry and squid ink puff

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Lobster, potato puff, lobster oil

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Beet root crisp, warm oysters, potato, herbs and bacon

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Poached then fried egg, coco crunchies, white truffle

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Roasted monkfish, "choral", fish broth and onion shells, pepper beads

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Cardoon-iberico sausage tempura

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Venison 2 ways, braised breast, seared loin, paprika paper, venison-olive oil emulsion

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"Spencer, are you still hungry para los platos umm savory?" 'YES!'. "OK aqui es foie gras especial" 'Gracias!'

Foie Gras, chestnut cream, corn sauce, raspberry jellies, coco puffs

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"We will give you tres postres OK?"

"Si!"

Chocolate balls (pop then melt on your tongue), strawberry soup, basil ice cream

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Tangerine cream filled white chocolate. Raspberry sauce.

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Butterscotch covered blood orange cream, black sesame gel, anise sugar

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"Aqui es eh...extra? Ice cream"

"SI! Gracias!"

Ice cream - Banana and black lemon

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OK....that is one sick chocolate mold, nuts and bolts?!

Mango jelly, coco-cola (bottle cap jelly and pop rocks for the fizz.)

white bean truffle, cacao crisps with strawberry jelly filling.

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Clean and quite kitchen, perfect. I had no idea that there was just one sitting a night.

So at 9 o'clock they seat everyone and that's all they do for the day.

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Hung out for a good long while after in the lounge shooting the shit with this awesome family.

Both of them are hands-on every night and in another life I would love to be a member of this

food-centric duo.

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Edited by ScottyBoy (log)

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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Dinner at Mugaritz, like others mentioned, no too excited about my experience there. The only things that impressed me and were exciting were the foie gras and deserts.

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This board shows the product they had gotten that day.

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Potato covered in edible clay to resemble a rock

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Turnip braised in octopus broth

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Red cardoons in garlic water and milk sheet

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Snow crab in bread soup and pink geranium

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Calamari, leeks, braising juice

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Razor clams, bean soup, sweet beans and cinnamon oil

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Arraitxiki fillet, mushroom threads

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BBQ smoked foie gras, squash and warm spices

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Rolled skate, toasted butter

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Stew of lamb neck, caramelized onion in potato consome

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Roasted wood cock, seeds and grains, chickpea puree

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Land and ocean: Iberico pork tails, langostine braising liquid infused with Jamon Iberico

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Cheese

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Braised Iberico pork cheeks, and a kind of local ice lettuce

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Warm bar or soap, whipped honey, oats

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"Broken egg" White sugar shell, egg white cream, frozen tolk custard

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Broken walnuts toasted and salted, sheep's milk ice cream, armegnac jelly

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Chocolate hazelnuts to take home

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Dream kitchen

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After spending 273 euros I wish I had chosen another place to be my second of only two nice restaurants to visit on this trip :hmmm:

Edited by ScottyBoy (log)

Sleep, bike, cook, feed, repeat...

Chef Facebook HQ Menlo Park, CA

My eGullet Foodblog

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  • 6 months later...

Thought i'd finally get around to sharing my thoughts on my trip to San Sebastian over Easter.

In short - I had a very similar experience to ScottyBoy - most of the Arzak dishes were the same (albeit with a few exceptions) and I had a far better experience than I did at Mugaritz.

Arzak was one of those meals where everything hit the spot and I loved the atmosphere there. Elena came over to chat during the meal and was telling us about her recent trip to London for the top 100 restaurants do - not only is she an incredibly gifted chef, she's an amazing host too!

Onto the food, I'll post a few pics of some dishes that ScottyBoy didn't mention.

Lobster Coralline

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Dusted Egg & Mussel

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Sole with Head Cheese

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Chocolate, Spinach and Parsley (a combination i've not had before, but it was really rather good!)

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Pistachio & Beetroot stone

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Another good thing about our trip, they let us each have a different option from the tasting menu so we got to try a lot of different dishes!

We spoke to a couple in a pintxos bar later on in the trip who also loved their meal there. They also mentioned a couple of amusing things - one being someone on another table taking pictures with their SLR complete with an enormous flash gun. After the first shot and some stares, thankfully they stopped - can you imagine that whilst you're eating? The other thing was that they saw a couple come in for a lunch who ordered a bottle of Chateau Petrus, had it decanted, drank half a glass each, finish their food and then leave - without hardly touching the wine! I would have at least had a sniff of one of the glasses.. :laugh:

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I realised Mugaritz was going to be quite different to Arzak - but I was looking forward to something different. I knew that opinions were a bit mixed but I figured it can't be considered one of the top restaurants in the world for nothing!

First of all, we had to find the place. Thankfully my somewhat inconsistent Audi sat-nav was well behaved - despite it being confused by various new roads which have been built around San Sebastian - and we arrived well in time giving us the opportunity to admire some of the scenery.

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The new kitchen:

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The man himself:

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One problem I did have before the meal was that I was unable to have any wine due to having to drive back to the middle of france after the meal. Not the end of the world, but I do like my wine!

First up we were presented with some snacks - the familiar edible stones which I enjoyed (pictures don't do them justice, they even feel like stones!) along with some crisp focaccia and a legume beer with olives, tapa beans and thyme:

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Beans or olives?:

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Not all is as it seems at Mugaritz that's for sure

After the snacks, the dishes arrived. First up some white asparagus with chrysanthemum petals - very nice but it didn't top the white asparagus I had at Etxebarri. Next was one of the highlights for me, crunchy morsel of salted roe and tear peas - a wonderfully simple yet brilliant dish that reminded me of Noma:

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Homemade mozzarella with whey emulsion infused with rock tea was nicely balanced, but the hazelnut and bean stew left me a bit underwhelmed:

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Next up was a DIY dish - fresh herb soup with spices, seeds and fish broth. Tasty and fun:

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Pork noodles with "arraitxiki" extract was odd - I think it was basically strips of subcutaenous fat and skin that had been cooked at a low temperature. It was quite gelatinous but tasty, although i'm glad there wasn't too much of it!

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Next up was a dish called "Shhhh... cat got your tongue!". They mentioned that there were 3 ingredients - one being onion, and we had to guess the other two. One was obvious - garlic, but the other was apparently beef tongue. The dish itself was OK but for me it didn't seem like ther was a great deal going on:

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Fillet of hake with milky reduction of cabbage sprouts and luscious citrus spread was nice, although I think they could have been more generous with the citrus spread:

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Now the next dish really did baffle me somewhat. "Rich ossobuco with toasted lobster emulsion" - but not all is quite as it seems, as you will probably realise from the picture! It was certainly rich and gelatinous, especially with the lobster emulsion. The problem was, there was nothing acidic to cut through the richness at all - which left me thinking the dish was somewhat ill-conceived:

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To follow up, another rich dish - this time Iberian pork tails with crispy leaves and toasted sweet millet oil. This might well have been a bit much for some, but I felt it was a far better dish than the last:

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The first dessert was a cup of chamomile dressed with cocoa nectar and candied fruits - very nice:

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We finished with the broken walnut dessert pictured above and then some small ice cream cones, called "nails and flowers":

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Overall it felt very hit and miss. Some v nice dishes, but a few fell short of the mark for me and certainly were not up there with the standard of dishes at Arzak.

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We dined at Mugaritz and Arzak in 2009 and felt similarly. Mugaritz had amazing service and atmosphere, but the food was better at Arzak. The service was worse at Arzak due to a large party (with kids) that the servers spent most of their time on.

Is Arzak following the indoor smoking ban?

"I'll put anything in my mouth twice." -- Ulterior Epicure
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We dined at Mugaritz and Arzak in 2009 and felt similarly. Mugaritz had amazing service and atmosphere, but the food was better at Arzak. The service was worse at Arzak due to a large party (with kids) that the servers spent most of their time on.

I've seen a few people comment on service - it's interesting to note actually that I read a blog from someone who went to both a few weeks after I did and had 60-70% of the same dishes and came to a completely different conclusion, and they were not very impressed by the service at Arzak. I did notice it seemed like one of those restaurants with a lot of regulars, but we certainly felt well looked after - The service certainly felt more "3 star" at Mugaritz though, which I guess is slightly odd.

Is Arzak following the indoor smoking ban?

They certainly seemed to be in the restaurant

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