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May 21, 2010 10:50 AM


Ok yes I am a bit of a foodie and we only have 5 days in san sebastian, but I cant possibly go to all of these! I didnt know which would be available so i basically emailed all of them and was able to get a res at all of them. The ones I definitely want to do are etxebarri, akelarre, and probably mugaritz. I am not quite sure about berasategui, zuberoa, and arzak. Please help shed some light on what you guys think. I have read all the other posts, but just need fresh opinions. We are going at the end of June, and I have lunch booked for most of these.

also does anyone know prices of the tasting menus for these and can you possibly eat dinner after a tasting menu at these places???

Thank you!!!!

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    1. The ones's I've been.

      Arzak - Excellent.

      Akelarre - Even more excellent than Arzak, IMO.

      Martin Berasategui - Spectacular, Ethereal, especially if he's still serving his 'greatest hits' which he was when we were there this past March.


      1. We visited Arzak, Mugaritz, and Extebarri last summer. Had the tasting menu for lunch at all of them. For dinner, strolled around and had pintxos. Eventually we were hungry for dinner, so it wasn't like we were full the entire day afterwards.

        I found Extebarri to be the most special of the three, especially just taking in the scenery after our long lunch. The mountains surrounding Axpe are breathtaking. The smoked butter, smoked caviar, goose barnacles, and smoked oysters were out of this world. My husband said, "it smells like going camping" and was reminded of his boyhood vacations. We put ourselves in the hands of the kitchen, who, tried to kill us with kindness (who served us a large steak as the last course). I thought I might faint from happiness during the smoked caviar course. What they are doing is so unique, can you even find a similar restaurant elsewhere?

        Arzak was also very good but not as daring as Mugaritz. Service was pleasant but a little harried due to a very large party that included rowdy children. Long pauses between the two dessert courses and also the petit fours. Getting to meet the father/daughter duo is nice, however. I was a little turned off by all the smoking towards the end, as the 4-top next to us chain-smoked cigars after their meals were done (we are not used to dining in smoky environments after living in CA and NYC). I should add we were in the smoking section of Arzak as they told us the non-smoking section was fully booked (a common response it appears), though I'd requested a reservation 2 months ahead. (I wonder if their non-smoking section must be a single table.)

        But overall the food spoke to me a little bit more (foie on figs, poached egg on tomato soil, expertly cooked pigeon, perfect amuse, and the chocolate in strawberry broth dessert). The kitchen at Arzak seemed a bit more consistent while the concepts weren't as overtly clever as Mugaritz'. Slightly more satisfying but less memorable.

        Mugaritz was also good but quite different. The food is good, and playful, but there were some courses that did nothing for me (marigold soup was too bitter, kind of meh on the salsify, crab dish wasn't exciting). However, the overall experience put it over the top (atmosphere, service, facilities). A tour of the kitchen (I think they do this for every diner). Relaxing with coffee in the sunny terrace after lunch. Short walk through their herb/fruit/flower gardens. An extra dessert they sent out as a mystery, as they wanted us to guess what the ingredients were. I wondered out loud how long they would let us linger, as we were there for nearly 5 hours. Incredible service, as a whole.

        We had the Naturan menu and the carpaccio and sole were spectacular (the sole reminded me of our last meal at Le Bernardin in NYC, the dish wouldn't have been out of place there). I also was pleased all four desserts we had - the "red fruits" salad, clashing contrasts, hazelnuts/vanilla/fern, and the mystery dessert ("raisin of the earth"). Surprisingly, didn't think the veal was notable aside from the preparation. I found it a little on the bland side. But everything else made up for it.

        But if I had to choose, I would DEFINITELY return to Extebarri, I might return to Arzak if I can get a non-smoking table, and I'm not sure I'd return to Mugaritz.

        Here's my San Sebastian pintxos report:

        1 Reply
        1. re: kathryn

          thanks K you rock! very helpful!

        2. Like most great restaurants, you will get diverse opinions and already have on this board. Other than their Michelin stars or in the case of Etxebarri, the fame of the grill, what are the reasons that you chose these restaurants in the first place. All these restaurants have been discussed in depth on this site as well as numerous blogs. Search this board for earlier posts as most are recent enough. You will find that they are different one one sense or the other: may it be the style of cooking, the ambience, the service, the decor, the view . Pick the one that match the closest to your taste in food and what you looking for. For all these restaurants, it is not a matter of is it "good" but is it what you are looking for and will it deliver. Cost of tasting menus: about 120 to 160E. Two meals on a single day would be too much for just about anybody. Even successive days can bring on appetite fatigue. Of course, you might have a metabolism of a marathon runner and can take in 5000 calorie meals twice a day. And star restaurants are not the only great thing about eating in the Spanish Basque. It is a mistake to let these places be your total experience.

          5 Replies
          1. re: PBSF

            I agree with PBSF, your list is a good one, but it may be a matter of pacing them. Between two restaurants, you may want to just do a pintxos crawl in the old town. In that case your list is amply enough for 5 days.
            Here is a recent thread on pintox in San Sé:
            Btw, your all caps title is like non-stop yelling.

            1. re: Parigi

              If you guys could pick just 3 of those restaurants, which would they be?

              1. re: sdiddy

                1. I meant pintxos not pintox, sorriest
                2. If you mean "pick just 3 of those restaurants" restaurants, I would as usual follow PBSF's advice.
                3. But since you were replying to my reply, if you mean "pick just 3" of the pintxos bars that I had mentioned in the thread whose link I gave, I'd pick Astelena, San Telmo, Ganbara, Tamboril, all in the old town. Oops that's 4. But in pintxos bars, 4 count as 3.

                1. re: sdiddy

                  IMHO, the traditional cuisine of Chef José Juan Castillo in Casa Nicolasa worth to pay attention as well. Unforgettable alubias, kokotxas, txangurro…

              2. re: PBSF

                OK, I'll bite and put in my two cents worth.
                I would pick Arzak: legendary old house; a great combination of rustic and modern. There is a certain homey feel, especially regarding to the service but the cooking is modern as can be. And I can still order Juan Mari signature dishes such as Merluzza con Salsa Verde. I have a prejudice because I have eaten many meals here and have developed a certain rapport with the staff. Most of the food is subperb but there will be dishes not up to par. On occasion, one will run into service that is a bit profunctory.
                Etxebarri, there is not much to say about this place as I am sure you read so much about it. What set it apart besides the grilling is the ingredients are the best. That to me is the basis all great cooking. All the other restaurants in your list cannot compare to this place in this regard.
                I had one of the best meals at Akelarre couple years ago. The previous lunch was not so lucky but I think the cooking right now is excellent. Except for the view, it has a very 'international' feel to the ambience and service.
                I am not a fan of either MB or Mugaritz. For MB, I don't think he is using the very best ingredients and the cooking has a generic feel to it. As for Mugaritz, there is no better service or ambience, but I can't warm up to the food. I think it is just too austere for my taste. This is base on one dinner at MB and two at Mugaritz.
                Zuberoa is in a beautiful rustic farmhouse. For me, it is a great restaurant if one is into tradtional cooking method and beautifully made sauces. The foie gras, roast pigeons, lamb are the some of the best anywhere. Too bad that most of the modern dishes on the menu are not as good. I love this restaurant because so few top chefs in Spains are still doing rustic beautifully prepared food.

              3. Akelarre and Zuberoa, absolutely! Skip the rest.

                2 Replies
                1. re: showpony

                  super helpful thank you guys....We are a definite on akelarre, etxebarri, and mugaritz i think....all for sounds like that mix might get to show us some different types of these gourmet spanish experiences...the question now is do we throw in mb or arzak or just play it by ear....either way thank you i am sure we will love the food!

                  1. re: sdiddy

                    That would be my choice also - because they are all different.

                    Etxeberri is 'one-of-a-kind' - grilling to the ultimate (although personally I'd avoid the grilled/smoked caviar - except probably the only place in the world you'll get it!).

                    Mugaritz probably has the most diversity in comments - the most 'intellectual' - you may hate it, but you can't ignore it.

                    Akelare - certainly has its up and downs - but the ups are worth it. I've also had great wine there, but not sure if the current list is as good as it once was. And that view......!