Martin Berasategui - opinions wanted!
I had recently the tasting menu at Lasarte, being part of a larger party, and can give you a detailed report:
The menu had twelve course, three tapitas to start with, then four starters, three "main courses" and two desserts, followed by chocolates and sweets during coffee.
Overall service was excellent and speedy, but the food was NOT of an even quality, rather - forced. I would say today: just a retro, 80s style, nouvelle cuisine menu for people who do not really care about food...
Lets start with the tapitas: the first was a pumpkin mousse on cheese crumbs, it was sticky and more or less tasteless, no fruity consistency of the pumpkin, the cheese crumbs only salty. But the next two tapitas were extraordinary: first a grilled baby calamari and then a piece of chicken (breast ?), both served with just the right amount of tasty sauces, very nice.
The menu started with a "vegetable heart salad with mackerel, lettuce cream, sea sauce": I could not find the lettuce cream and the sea sauce, there were a few leaves, a mackerel and a few shrimps, all fixed in some gelatine. Disappointing and rather tasteless.
The next starter was a caramelized "mille-feuilles" of green apple, foie gras and smoked eel. This was really a good dish, just the right size, the right amount of foie gras and just a small smoked baby eel. Something to remember, although unfortunately the only dish worth remembering...
Well, this was followed by "crunchy oysters", with grapefruits, walnuts and sage cream salad, lemon caviar, mandarine and mussels consommee. The consomme I did see, it was poured onto the single breaded and fried oyster, the rest was somewhere between the crust and the oyster, but not tasteable. Disappointing. Not anything worth putting into your mouth. The rest of the table did not even try to do so ...
Then came something special, a low temperature cooked egg with charcoal style fungus cream, fresh pine and mushroom stock. Yes, get me another one, this one fits !!
The main courses started with the worst disappointment: a "spicy steamed red prawn, fresh Thai stock, tapioca, green cry, hot coconut and fresh basil". Wow. What would you expect ?Something spicy ?? No way... And I am quite sure: After presenting this course the unfortunate cook will go to the deepest Thai hell for "lese majeste of Thai cuisine". How can you even say "spicy" and "Thai" and serve something so devoid of ANY spice ??? It was the most disgusting prawn I had in my life. And I love to eat "scampi crudi" when I go to Trattoria Nalin in Mira, Veneto. And I really was looking foward to this dish, having just returned from a wonderful trip to Thailand, still full of memories of Thai food !!
The rest was not that bad. The monkfish with artichoke, raw and creamy celery salad was just this, and ok. The veal filet with stuffed pasta also tasted - fortunately - like veal. Everybody was happy to get finally something which tasted like real food...
First "date water with tonka bean ice cream, sponge cake and orange scented truffle". The proof that the cook had NOT lost his sense of taste and smell completely, a nice and balanced dessert.
We should have stopped then and avoided the last: "carrot and vanilla caramelized "Torrija", pumpkin seeds sand and "Tou del Til.lers" (sic !) cheese ice cream". This was a small cake with some sauce and a blue cheese ice cream. It really did not taste right. The cake was good, the ice cream as well, but: no chance that these two fit together !! This one was the last and also failed dish, and please count: five of twelve courses simply were more or less disgusting and/or disappointing. Two were excellent, the rest just average.
Honestly: this place is nothing. Forget it, go somewhere else and spend the 105 EUR you would pay for this twelve course menu (excluding drinks) on some real tapas in a nice bar ....
BTW: I am quite sure the severe diarrhea I had 24 hours later was caused by the buffet breakfast in our hotel and NOT by the dinner at Lasarte !!
Thanks for the very elaborate report. It has been most useful.
I have read a few mixed reviews, and when the standards in the region are so high, there's no point in taking risks. As with many big name chefs, they are spread too thinly across many business ventures. That's why I have no interest in going back to Gordon Ramsey, for instance. I like the name above the door in the kitchen as well.
I have Arzak planned, have been to Akalarre a few times before - so where else to go?
Also read mixed reviews of Mugaritz....
Any experience with Zuberoa?
I think the previous poster's meal was at his Lasarte restaurant in Barcelona and not Martin Berasategui's flagship Michelin 3 star restaurant in the town of Lasarte near San Sebastian. I've eaten at Zuberoa twice, first time about 5 years ago and then couple years ago. The chef is using more molecular techniques and in my opinion, not for the better. If one chooses his traditional dishes such his roast lobster, foie gras, pigeon and suckling pig, the food is still terrific.
Since there is really no consensus on any of the top Spanish restaurants, I would not be totally stray by mixed reviews on Mugaritz or others. I have not been impressed with my meals at Mugaritz but couple of my friends thought it is terrific and there are many great detail write ups. If this style of cooking appeals to you, I would give it a try.
You are right, we had dinner at Lasarte in Barcelona !!
Sorry for the confusion, which was not intended by me.
Still, this small place is recommended by Zagat and considered by Zagat to be one of the top places in Barcelona, and got 25 points for its food:
Zagat: "This modern Catalan-Basque “masterpiece” owned by star chef Martín Berasategui and located in the Hotel Condes de Barcelona was one of the city’s most anticipated openings; “outstanding food and attention to detail” and a “beautiful” split-level contemporary space make it a “must-stop” hot spot for foodies and fashionistas alike."
I also posted a short comment on Zagat...
I have not been to his namesake restaurant, but Berasategui also runs the restaurants (one high-end and the other casual) in the Guggenheim in Bilbao. We had lunch in the casual one, and it was perfect, great food and service, simple but flawless, and an incredible bargain. I don't think he will disappoint.