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San Sebastian Recap (Arzak, Akelare, Mugaritz, and Pintxos)

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Hey guys, been using Chowhound for awhile, and thought I should give back a little.

My girlfriend and I went to San Sebastian last weekend and ate and ate and ate. What follows is a short recap (sorry if it seems a little scattered, just trying to write what I remember):

Nice Meals (we did tasting menu at all three):

Arzak - Lunch on friday - Some very very tasty dishes, especially the figs and foie gras, langoustines, pigeon. Desserts were very disappointing (we had 4 in total, liked none of them). Service was very good, especially the sommelier, who recommended perfect wines. Dining room was very well decorated. Overall, a very good start, but we were definitely expecting more. We toured the kitchen afterwards. There is a large chef's table that looks like it could be very fun for a group.

Akelare - lunch on saturday. It turned out to be one of the single best meal of our lives thus far. The food wasn't entirely perfect, but combined with the service, the views, etc., it was definitely our favorite experience. You must eat here during the day - the views are breathtaking. From the bread to the desserts, everything was great. Highlights: false risotto, wild mushrooms with egg noodles, Iberian suckling pig (perfect). Our waiters were perfect; the chef came by multiple times to talk to us; our tour of the kitchen was great. Worth every single penny. Surprisingly, it was our easiest reservation to make.

Mugaritz - dinner on saturday. We couldn't get a rezzie and then called and they had a cancellation that night. Given our substantial lunch, we ordered the smaller tasting menu. The food here was also very very good. I would say that on any given night, it could be just as good as Akelare. The dishes were simple but inspired. There was an insane attention to detail. Hands down the best desserts we have had in Spain (been here 2 months now). The service was not as friendly or as attentive as I had wished. However, they have a dedicated sous chef that gives you the most amazing tour of the kitchen (some tables were in their for 30-45 minutes). That was very special.

While we preferred the flavors and atmosphere of Akelare, I must say if we were ever to return, I wouldn't feel right without visiting Mugaritz again. Also, we made all three of these reservations less than a week before, but we were also very flexible with dates and time. I don't feel as though Arzak was worth it when compared to Akelare and Mugaritz.

Must Eat Pintxos (all in and around the old town):

La Cepa - amazing ham - get a platter of jamon jabugo and lomo (10 euros for medium platter) and a glass of red wine. Maybe wait until they have fresh bread out of the oven.

Bar Ganbara - the most delicious mushrooms I have ever had. Unfortunately, the mixed mushroom plate was expensive (17 euros for a small plate).

Aloña Berri - very modern, award winning pintxos - definitely worth a try.

Bar Sera (on C/ San Francisco near Aloña) - another great pintxos place, we had the grilled calamari - awesome.

There are two other places we went that were good as well but I am blanking on the names - will research and post. The best part of all of these places is that they are minutes away from each other. We did all of these in one night.

Additional notes:
We stayed at an apartment rented by friendlyrentals.com. It was a very very nice space literally on top of all this pintxos bars. Could not have asked for a better location. Only 85 euros per night.

Don't go to the hyped cocktail bar Dickens. 14 euros for a vodka tonic because the founder has created award winning cocktails.

If you guys have any questions, feel free to ask.

I am living in Barcelona until December and will post soon on my adventures there.

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  1. Was just in San Sebastian for the first time about three weeks ago and had a blast. I was only able to go to Mugaritz since I only had the budget for one really nice meal. I'm curious what you thought of the Pork? I don't think I've had better. And I'm not usually a dessert person, but whole heartedly agree on the French Toast and Sphere desserts.

    I was disappointed that Bar Sera was closed when I was there. They had a couple pintxos that I was anxious to try. I was able to try the mushrooms at Ganbarra and they didn't disappoint although they were expensive.

    1 Reply
    1. re: daimyo

      daimyo - the suckling pig at Mugaritz was excellent, definitely one of the best we have had in Spain. However, the suckling pig at Akelare was on another level. I believe it was called Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato “Bolao” and Iberian Emulsion. While the Mugaritz piggy was salty and perfectly tender, Akelare added a sweet sauce on the side that blew my mind. It instantly became one of the best dishes I have ever eaten.

    2. you missed the prettiest and my favorite, Zubaroa.... Really out in the sticks and as hard to get to as Mugaritz but worth the trip.

      2 Replies
      1. re: barb1

        simply was not impossible - my stomach would have exploded, heart would have stopped, credit card would have melted.

        1. re: apfk88

          we were in Vic and went to restaurant Can Jubany it isn't to far from Barcelona and should not be missed. There is also a very very local restaurant off the same road as the Parador in Fugiyama that does fabulous grilling, homemade sausage, and very traditional cooking. WE had a ball with the food and atmosphere. The park is beautiful.