San Sebastian Review
Today is the last of my 5 days in San Sebastian, so I wanted to write my review before I forget stuff.
I arrived at 10.00pm and by the time I finished with hostel formalities, it was almost 11.00pm. Still, most of the bars were open (monday night) and luckily my hostel is on 31 de augusto, and I am a stone throw away from La Cepa, Gandaria, Bergara, La Cuchara de San Telmo, and many others.
First night: I went into the bar opposite La Cepa (with an O) and had my first taste of the olive, pepper, anchovy combo with a glass of Txakoli. From there I was pointed to (by the bartender) Casa Alberto further down the street. Another pintxo and another glass of wine later, I headed out, just hoping to be able to find some more places.
This sort of pintxo hunting was the hallmark of my tri, and though I tried pretty much every place, the ones that really stood out were:
- Bar vegara...for the habanito *black pudding stuffed into a rice wrapper and a balsamic glaze, very creative presentation
- A Fuego Negro...The sopa de Gambas was a funny dish. It came in a small glass with the veggies at the bottom, a sheet of potato starch on top and teeny shrimp on the potato starch sheet. Then the server poured the hot broth on to the potato starch, which promptly melted, the shrimp fell in and the dish was ready to eat.
- La Cepa... I went specifically for the Melon Con Jamon and it was goood.
- Beti-Jai...the brochette of beef on baguette
- Gandarias...Went in and saw an odd looking tapa on display. I didn't want to know what it was, so I just grabbed one and ate it. It had a gritty texture and blandish taste. it was raw as far as I could tell. I asked the people staring at me, what I just ate and after a few minutes of staggered translation I realized I had just eaten a sack of eggs from a Cod. not my finer moments
- Casa De Alava...the name of the bar is confusing and I was a little tipsy. This is the place I liked most of all, I had a pintxo of Tuna loin in peppers and tomato sauce that I loved. They also had excellent shrimp and octopi pintxos
- Zeruko...the most inventive place i found. The first pintxo i tried was a cube of cheese with chopped almonds encased in a tomato jelly (aspic I think). Amazing, it was served cold and was a journey of textures; first soft(tomato gel), then chewy (cheese) and finally crunchy (almonds). The second dish I had was similar, an egg encased in a ham flavored gel, shaped like an egg. This was a hot dish and overall the flavour of the egg yolk was all i could taste.
-Astelana...jammed with people and a frenzied almost crazy atmosphere. The dishes were nice but I found them all to be a little too heavy for my taste. the open kitchen is a nice touch that provides entertainment for solo diners like myself.
- Politena...up a flight of stairs in the same lane as the theatre. I had the menu del dia of Pistou con Huevo (zuchhini and tomato with a scrampbled egg); Merluza a la plancha (grilled hake) and dessert of Flan. All very good, not novel...just good. This was suggestion from the guy at Zaporejai up the street.
- Pata Negra from Zaporejai (for lunch). They also vaccum pack custom quantities on the spot. So I picked up some for my train journey to France. I think their prices are a little more than others, but this being one of those once in a lifetime things, I couldn' t be bothered to look for a discount as long as I got a good product. Bonus points for letting me taste three varieties to show me the difference in quality.
- Gelato...very blah. run of the mill stuff compared to what I have had elsewhere.
- Coffee...Yet to have a bad cup. Vending machine at the library was better than the swill I find at Second Cup. It's probably just the whole milk though.
- Some bars take credit cards, a lot of them don't or have 10/20euro minimums. So carry cash with you for pintxo crawls. Even if they do take cards, the bars can get pretty jammed and cash is faster
- the Super Amara plaza has a fruit, veg and charcutier market on the main floor and a fish market below. Their is also a gourmet ready foods place. A good place to go if you plan on cooking opn vacation
Look for a copy of the Donostiaisia Guide. It lists all the latest on cultural and gastronomical highlights in the city.
I was given a copy by the guy at Zaporejai.
Also, I found a little book that translates all the fruits, vegetable, meats' names from english to 6 other other languages. Very helpful to have around.
Thanks for sharing your adventures in San Se. I hope to go there one day soon. I happened to read your comments about Pintxo on the Montreal forum ( you said that so far, you thought the food at this restaurant was better than anything in San Se). Have you changed your mind about that?
Yes and No.
After I wrote that on the Pintxo thread I landed in Fuego Negro, here the dish I describe above certainly passes Pintxo in Montreal in terms of creativity. Also, the other places such as Zeruko were also better.
Also, I should add that on my last 2 days I went to only sit-down places. I was just tired of Pintxo hopping and frankly I wanted to conserve some cash. The first place I went was the one above, called Pollitena. The second was Barbarin. It is right at the end of the passage that leqd on to the seafront. Same line as Le Mejilliones [horrendous plqce...stay away], It wazs relatively empty but I had an excellent meal. Melon Con Jamon, then Salmon steaks with side salad. I declined dessert as they did not have anything interesting and I had my heart set on the Hazelnut souffle I had seen listed on the menu at Atari [overpriced I think, but the only souffle i found]. The souffle was a flop literally.
Lok on the France boards for the reviews from the next portion of my journey [Nantes and Paris]