Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

3rd star for Akelarre


vserna
 Share

Recommended Posts

I am surprised, it has been over a month since I was there and I can still remember every single thing.  I did not do a top ten meals but I think Sant Pau would be on the top of my list.  I was wowed big time

You are luckier than we were. Mind you this was about a year ago, but the person having dinner with me shared my reaction.

I think that enjoying restaurants (we are talking top restaurants) depends very much on too many factors both from the restaurant's and the diner's side. I had a glorious time at Sant Pau and so did my companions. However, I think that luck has a lot to do with it. How else could you explain the wide range of opinions on this board? It is also a highly subjective game. I found, on my last visit to Barcelona, Sant Pau and C24 the only restaurants worth mentioning, and I went to 10. I only talked about those two and "Akelarre" (that was such a bad experience for us, one of the worst of the year, I think,given the expectations).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that enjoying restaurants (we are talking top restaurants) depends very much on too many factors both from the restaurant's and the diner's side. I had a glorious time at Sant Pau and so did my companions.  However, I think that luck has a lot to do with it.  How else could you explain the wide range of opinions on this board?  It is also a highly subjective game.  I found, on my last visit to Barcelona, Sant Pau and C24 the only restaurants worth mentioning, and I went to 10. I only talked about those two and "Akelarre" (that was such a bad experience for us, one of the worst of the year, I think,given the expectations).

Indeed, restaurants and patrons operate on a time continuum with many fluctuations on both sides of the equation. I operate under the assumption that a great restaurant is one which will maintain the "worth mentioning" status over several meals and over a relatively long period of time.

However, given scarcity of time and funding, I am not inclined to give a second chance to a restaurant which doesn't wow me the first time, be this the case because of the kitchen or the staff or the purveyors or what-have-you having a bad day. Too many restaurants, not enough time. :biggrin:

What other places did you visit in Barcelona this last trip?

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.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that enjoying restaurants (we are talking top restaurants) depends very much on too many factors both from the restaurant's and the diner's side. I had a glorious time at Sant Pau and so did my companions.  However, I think that luck has a lot to do with it.  How else could you explain the wide range of opinions on this board?  It is also a highly subjective game.  I found, on my last visit to Barcelona, Sant Pau and C24 the only restaurants worth mentioning, and I went to 10. I only talked about those two and "Akelarre" (that was such a bad experience for us, one of the worst of the year, I think,given the expectations).

Indeed, restaurants and patrons operate on a time continuum with many fluctuations on both sides of the equation. I operate under the assumption that a great restaurant is one which will maintain the "worth mentioning" status over several meals and over a relatively long period of time.

However, given scarcity of time and funding, I am not inclined to give a second chance to a restaurant which doesn't wow me the first time, be this the case because of the kitchen or the staff or the purveyors or what-have-you having a bad day. Too many restaurants, not enough time. :biggrin:

What other places did you visit in Barcelona this last trip?

Since my experiences were not very good, email me, and I will tell you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

:biggrin:

There is a very funny interview with Subijana in today's El Pais (link below).  The title is "I sin as much as I can."  Among his new dishes "truffle with kuzu and yolk" and "Distilled lobster."

Also he mentions that Harrison Ford's son was a stagier there.

http://www.elpais.com/articulo/ultima/Peco...elpepiult_1/Tes

I actually had the "distilled lobster" dish.

it is interesting to note that if you pour very hot water on raw lobster you will get the same result.

This somehow is the epitome of Subiyana'a cooking: many of his inventions are pointless. Some are even value detracting in the sense that the sum is less than the quality of ingredients used.

I would actually have expected him to lose a star actually....

But he is a very nice fellow, a true humanist with a big heart and smile. Besides if the idea is to reckon with the culinary heritage of the Basque region, why not ??? They deserve it. Late recognition. But let's call a spade a spade. Akelare should not be a 3 star restaurant.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Couldn´t possibly disagree more. We actually like it better than Arzak, though they both made us cry.

I thought the food was beautifully presented.....sometimes super technical, sometimes playful, sometimes just simple and perfect.

The end result showed me a lot of invention, a lot of care, and an insane amount of work and supervision.

The staff was great as well......like a family, unafraid to actually communicate with the guests. We talked politics with the gorgeous Chilean mesera, and got a sweet tutorial on modern Spanish white wines from the wine steward.

Like Arzak, they google their guest list......so the chef greeted us BEFORE the meal.

We actually cried at one point.....EVERYTHING was perfect.

"La diferencia entre ´llorando´ et ´orando´ es muy pequeña!"

Eight abrazos on the way out from the manager....it felt like we were family after only three hours.

We hated to leave and are trying not to go right back....

And, bye the bye.......Arzak was the bomb as well. I read disses in this forum before we came....."too old school....over the hill.....not worth three stars....." and was worried.

We arrived an hour late and soaked in sweat for our lunch on St. Sebastian day.....couldn´t drive out of the city, and no taxis, so we had to run! No problem...they saved us a great table upstairs by the window. We all had a good laugh at our experience.......and a comped glass of cava to calm us down.

The food was great....pop rocks, some explosions and fuming....the perfect egg.

The staff was beyond perfect. The much maligned winesteward read my mind at one point. I stared at my foie, wishing I had a glass of sauternes (Amanda doesn´t drink white wine much). He appeared at my elbow with a Spanish muscat while the thoughts were forming in my head.....and a sweet red that were perfect. No charge. The trainee wine steward broke the cork of the ´81 red we ordered. No worries, no problems.....nicely decanted. And we all had a small laugh at his expense. Like family.

In the middle of lunch, one of the bands that prowl the town on the feast day stopped traffic on the amazingly busy street out front and played a few songs in their chef uniforms. Everyone gathered around the windows and cheered and clapped. Arzak sent out beers and food for all the kids......who kept the traffic stopped while they ate and drank! Big smiles all around on every face, inside and out.

I give Arzak all three stars and two tears as well.

We took the bus back.....the 13 goes right to Guzpikoa Plaza. The 16 goes right out to Akelare as well......if you can get your head around riding the bus to a $400 lunch!

Edited by Txacoli (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can´t fake a warm, talented, caring staff just for one guy for a few minutes. Three hours and multiple courses will always tell out no matter how over the top you try to be for one guest. I watched all the other tables and saw the same food and the same interactions. The only tell tale that we got any special treatment was the twenty something Spanish chick with the older guy seated on the upper tier away from the windows who kept glaring at us at our premium window table.

We went to Mugaritz a few nights later......I have worked with Andoni, my son did a stage there, we just hired an ex-Mugaritz guy, and we know half the kitchen. The service was just as stilted and scared acting for us as it was for the other Americans scattered around the dining room. The food was beautiful, but no soul. And sure enough, Andoni was not there. The difference between two stars there and three at Akelare and Arzak was vast. Different universe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Could perhaps the googling results explain the difference?

I don't think so either. Because I post on all food related boards under a pseudonym and my reservations were in my real name, I was classified as a 'typical American' at both Akelare and Arzak.

At Akelare I recived gracious treatment, utmost respect and enjoyed the best meal of my life.

At Arzak I was 'banished' to the non-Spanish section upstairs, and received very good food and below-par service. I still believe that the substitution of a 'poor' vintage wine for a 'great' vintage as ordered was deliberate (I hesitate to go as far as suggesting we were regarded as "ignorant Americans") and any 3* should have got that IMPORTANT detail right.

Of course, I noticed and sent the wine back - Apologies seemed insincere!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I guess that Pedro Espinosa is classified as non-Spanish since I've been 'banished' to the theoretically non-Spanish section upstairs far more times than I've dined downstairs, even when the reservation was made by a close friend of Juan Mari. A different explanation would be that such distinction doesn't actually exist.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I actually thought that it might be because they have a limited number of servers who know enough English so it made sense to put them in a 'non-Spanish' section. Presumably Spanish speakers could be adequately served anywhere in the restaurant.

I retract the use of the word 'banish'.

I do not retract any comments about being served an inferior vintage - a far more significant issue!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

.....

I do not retract any comments about being served an inferior vintage - a far more significant issue!

Agreed. Did they have the vintage you asked for? Unfortunately, not having an updated wine list regarding vintages --or stock-- is a common issue in Spanish restaurants even at the highest levels.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First of all, friendships are forged over many years, and more so in the tightly knit 'cuadrillas' of the Basque country. If someone feels that they are 'part of the family', 'friends' or whatever after a meal, then that person is projecting something entirely different onto what is essentially just very good service. It's also, and I'm sorry to say this, a bit patronizing and even a bit weird.

My own thoughts on googling and whatever else is that many diners focus on what they might be missing, rather than what's in front of them. Sure, some people do get special treatment; how different this is is anybody's guess since you can't be in both places at once, but it's not many and it's not worth getting exercised about if you're not one of them. In the end everybody pays despite what they get comped, and getting upset because you haven't been recognized for the international diner that you think you are just misses the point of what is pleasurable about eating in these places.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

.

We went to Mugaritz a few nights later......I have worked with Andoni, my son did a stage there, we just hired an ex-Mugaritz guy, and we know half the kitchen.  The service was just as stilted and scared acting for us as it was for the other Americans scattered around the dining room.  The food was beautiful, but no soul.  And sure enough, Andoni was not there.  The difference between two stars there and three at Akelare and Arzak was vast.  Different universe.

Maybe they are quite selective there about the clients. They go beyond "googling". They read the clients' "soul"

Yes the food has no soul. It is prosaic stuff. Bring your bible next time.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

First of all, friendships are forged over many years, and more so in the tightly knit 'cuadrillas' of the Basque country. If someone feels that they are 'part of the family', 'friends' or whatever after a meal, then that person is projecting something entirely different onto what is essentially just very good service. It's also, and I'm sorry to say this, a bit patronizing and even a bit weird.

My own thoughts on googling and whatever else is that many diners focus on what they might be missing, rather than what's in front of them. Sure, some people do get special treatment; how different this is is anybody's guess since you can't be in both places at once, but it's not many and it's not worth getting exercised about if you're not one of them. In the end everybody pays despite what they get comped, and getting upset because you haven't been recognized for the international diner that you think you are just misses the point of what is pleasurable about eating in these places.

Let me add something to this excellent post. In general and ceteris paribus, I found that restaurants, esp. in Italy and Spain, and less in France, know very well how to deal with the so called international diner's ego. They create the illusion that "you are one of us...you are one of the select circle". They do it subtly, without being histrionic or looking fake. Repeat clients are relegated to lesser tables usually and those who are more Catholic than the Pope are reassured that they are really "special". Everybody is happy.

(Pedro you are lucky that they did not feed you at the pantry in Arzak!)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe they are quite selective there about the clients.  They go beyond "googling".  They read the clients' "soul"

Yes the food has no soul. It is prosaic stuff.  Bring your bible next time.

Read my post. The food was great. You could tell the influence of Layda in the garden. In mid winter we got a magic warm vegetable salad that one of the Akelare forum posters would probably characterize as "hot water dumped on raw vegetables." The overall place was "soul-less". The maitre d´ clearly inflicts a kind of terror on his minions that even the wonderful knowlege and skill of the wine stewardess and kitchen cannot overcome. And the fact that Andoni is almost never there cannot be overlooked.

There are other families than local Basque quadrilles......kitchens and dining rooms for instance. Yes, it takes years to be accepted.....and you get a free pass almost anywhere in the world. It is not condescending in the least to recognize a happy, creative highly skilled environment in front and in back of the house. There is mutual pleasure for both diner and staff in the recognition.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed. Did they have the vintage you asked for? Unfortunately, not having an updated wine list regarding vintages --or stock-- is a common issue in Spanish restaurants even at the highest levels.

Yes, they did have the correct one. Just brought the wrong one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like Pedro I usually eat upstairs too. Juan Mari, whom I've known for a mere 31 years, must have me categorized as a foreigner. And of course he takes a malignant pleasure in sending bottles of wine from the wrong vintage to tables, just to spite the customers.

:wacko:

Victor de la Serna

elmundovino

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Like Pedro I usually eat upstairs too. Juan Mari, whom I've known for a mere 31 years, must have me categorized as a foreigner. And of course he takes a malignant pleasure in sending bottles of wine from the wrong vintage to tables, just to spite the customers.

:wacko:

Last Saturday, EVERYONE was upstairs for lunch. Beautiful light, nice view of the kids in the band when they came.....no foreigners but us. I didn´t know enough to feel slighted, I guess.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 years later...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...