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May 4, 2011 12:30 PM

Etxebarri questions

Hi everyone,

I know there is no shortage of Etxebarri posts on this board, but I tried searching the archives and couldn't quite find the answers I was looking for. Maybe this is just due to my own poor search skills! But granting for the moment that it isn't, I have two questions:

1) I will be traveling in the San Sebastian area with some friends in June. I tend to like meat done rare; my friends (loudly) abhor anything less than well-done. And it's a very similar situation regarding seafood. Will they be able to get anything at Etxebarri? I'd really love to get out there, but I'd rather not cause a scene, or, worse, insult the restaurant/chef.

2) Assuming we can find something for everyone there, what would an a la carte lunch cost? I've been able to track down a basic price range on tasting menus, but not much else. Specifically, I was thinking of three courses, exclusive of wine.

Thanks to everyone in advance!

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  1. i don't know what an a la carte lunch would cost because I did the prix fixe. As for the flexibility of the kitchen, I did not find Etxebarri to be snooty or arrogant, so I strongly suspect that they would honor the requests of your fellow diners. The menu, of course, changes with the seasons, but when I was there a year ago in May, they served great seafood, but also a wonderful steak. I will say that it was the best steak I've ever eaten in my life. I think it would be a shame if someone would ask them to grill it until it's charcoal, but that's any diner's prerogative, right? People are free to make all the bad decisions they want in life.

    4 Replies
    1. re: glutton

      I have not been (yet) but I find the advice quite surprising. It is a restaurant that designs its on equipment to grill/BBQ ingredients to perfection and IMO perfection isn't about wanting everything cremated.

      I understand the view that it is the diners prerogative but that isn't a view that is universally held by chefs (and maybe less held in Europe than the US), and more than a few will refuse to compromise their dishes because a diner requests it.

      You may find Etxebarri very accommodating but equally it could be a big issue given perfect grilling is their USP - I would ring or mail to check and be very very explicit.

      1. re: PhilD

        I agree with PhilD on this. The people at Etxebarri may be nice and all but this is like asking to have your sushi cooked or your Kansas City bbq washed clean and served without sauce.

        As a courtesy and sign of respect to the restaurant -- as well as to ensure that your friends will be satisfied -- I think you should email the restaurant and tell them about your friends' position.

        It's ironic too. My son is only 12yo and before his first visit to Europe, he had never eaten beef served rare or chicken eggs served runny. I wasn't sure if he would eat. Fortunately, he accepted the norms of our host countries and dug in with gusto. There are still some things he passes on but at least, he doesn't worry about the rawness of good-quality beef.

        1. re: Aleta

          They don't ask you how you want you food cooked there. So they'd have to speak up and request it. I couldn't say for sure how they'd react. But they seem very laid back in the dining room. However, the whole point of Extebarri is how to make something simply but perfectly.
          I agree to email and ask. But don't let that put you off enjoying it because you are with picky eaters.
          Have them order a-la-carte and DO NOT get either the grilled egg yolk or the beef on the bone. I bet they would cook it as your friends asked. But it would break their heart to ruin such a gorgeous cut of meat or a nice runny yolk (the whole point of the dish). Have them stick with shellfish, and vegetables. Treat yourself to what you want, done the right way.
          If your friends decide to be adventurous and eat the food done properly, and still don't like it, then nothing will convert them. Extebarri is the place to try and make the jump. :)

          1. re: Heeney

            Thanks everyone for the advice. Heeney, that's more or less the gameplan. I've tried subtly (and unsubtly) suggesting to my friends that they try stuff a little less done, to no avail. So I think I will end up ordering the beef and they seafood of some kind. That way, everyone should get something they like.

    2. Inky - I also don't know about the a la carte. But they were very prompt with email replies to me regarding reservations. They might have a menu they could email to you if you requested such. I agree that everyone there was very, very pleasant.

      1. Thanks for the responses! It's good to know that Etxebarri is reasonably welcoming, and that it seems everyone should be able to find something they like there. There's so much good food in this area, and I'm glad my friends will get to partake.

        3 Replies
        1. re: inkybrain

          Can anybody tell me the cost and length of the prix fixe lunch?

          1. re: evkrieger

            You mean the tasting menu?
            It was 120 euros pp when we ate there 2 weeks ago. We also added some handmade chorizo but they didn't charge us.
            I'd estimate 3 and a half hours for lunch. If you get there right when they open (like we did) you may wait a while for the first course to hit the table.
            Plus, you will (or should) be eating slower there than normal. The subtlety of the flavors tend to promote savoring.

            1. re: Heeney

              Minus the chorizo, this was my experience exactly. We were there closer to four hours, mostly because we had some txakoli for an apertif. Great, great meal.

        2. I just wanted to report back on how our meal at Etxebarri was. Short answer is that it was fantastic. Slightly more detailed version: After a less-painful-than-expected drive (copious maps helped), my friends and I arrived at the restaurant on a very pleasant afternoon. Sitting down to look at the menu, there was indeed something for everyone. We all shared the chorizo, which had a really delightful tang to it, as well as the grilled foie gras, which was unexpectedly excellent (unexpected insofar as I never hear about it in any reviews). Then as appetizers they had the baby octopus and the prawns, while I had the grilled goat butter. Thumbs up all around here, though I do think I came out ahead with the grilled butter. Seriously, that stuff has shown up in my dreams a few times. Anyway, on to the mains! My friends split the red sea bream. Huge, attractively presented, perfectly cooked. Of course, I took the on-the-bone ribeye, which, I swear, was about the size of the Bismarck. Without a doubt the best steak I've ever had. Delicious crust, perfectly cooked to rare inside, deep and complex beefy flavor. What really impressed me was that almost all the juice was retained inside the actual meat, suggesting that it had been rested properly. That's obviously a very basic step, but one I find a surprising amount of places overlook. For dessert, my friends had the apple pastry, whilst I indulged in a nice glass of Patxaran. I love that stuff, and it's hard to find back home. Walking out, we all took a moment to smell the charcoal and savor one of the best meals we've had in a long time.

          Total cost per person was about 87.5E per person, including wine. This could probably be lowered a bit by omitting an appetizer or so, though, on the other hand, those were delicious.

          Thanks again to everyone for all the helpful responses!