Specific Question regarding Arzak vs Akelare in San Sebastien
My wife and I will be there for about a week in September and I have booked back to back lunches at those two. However, reality has kicked in and we've realized that we simply can't afford both. Frankly, this has much to do with the fact that we both appreciate simple fare as much as crazy hight end and feel there's no need to spend over $200 on back to back lunches that may both be the most impressive we've ever eaten. Now, if money was no object, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
So, I've read plenty of boards and have gotten universally split opinions on both.
"Arzak is tired, Akelare is really where it's at..."
"Arzak is still the place to go if you have only one great meal..."
And so on and so forth.
So, I've had a few less than thrilling experiences in the US with people making food inspired by the innovations of Spain. They have always been more interesting than delicious. I get off the bus where it becomes apparent that it is about the chef and not the food. My wife gets off even before then.
So, of these two, which is the most grounded? Which uses the lighter touch and stays furthest on the side of purity and tradition rather than chemistry?
I'm asking this because I know there are plenty who get off more than I on truly revolutionary food. You know Cantu's stuff. I want the one that is least like that...
I agree with PBSF but with one proviso: "Food inspired by Spain" isn't the same a true Spanish cooking. I have eaten a lot of food that I can tell is based on the leading edge Spanish chefs and few dishes have really made the grade. If money is tight play safe and go traditional in a smaller local restaurant. But if you can afford to take the risk I would, it may repay the gamble and on top of the airfare and hotels is only a marginal cost.
You should also tour a few tapas bars and graze for lunch and dinner, don't simply stay in one and expect dinner. Far better to cruise. The "new town" actually has some of the best ones, less tourists but better food.
Don't bother just go to the old town and find restaurants which are busy. One of them does stuff pigs trotter with wild mushroom, I still dream about the taste every now and again. I thought Akelare was too fussy and didn't taste great. If you really care about presentations then go to either one and you should be happy. However old town is the one for me.