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Apr 9, 2012 03:25 PM

Trip Report - San Sebastian

On our recent trip to Spain, we sandwiched in a 2 day trip to San Sebastian in between 4 days in both Madrid and Barcelona. While the weather did not cooperate, I can see how San Sebastian is a destination for both beach and food lovers. It is truly a beautiful spot.

Day 1 - The San Sebastian leg of our trip started with an early morning flight from Madrid to Bilbao. From Bilbao we rented a car and drove to San Sebastian with a detour to Axpe for a memorable lunch at Asador Etxebarri. We opted against the tasting menu due to dietary restrictions and ordered off the a la carte menu starting with the smoked goat butter and a plate of jamon and chorizo. The smoked goat butter was very unique and highly enjoyable. From there we shared the lagostines, which were huge and delicious with the slightest hint of charcoal to add to their flavor, and the clams which again were cooked to perfection. Next we split the chuleton which is a large steak sliced thinly. We asked them to cook it on the medium side of medium rare, but it came out pretty rare. Regardless, it was delicious. Very tender, but with a perfect crust on the outside. Definitely a winner. For desert we shared the biscuit soaked with orange syrup and goats milk ice cream as well as an apple tarte which was delicious. All in all it was an exquisite meal. After such a large lunch, neither of us were hungry for dinner, so we decided to take a stroll around San Sebastian instead.

Day 2 - On day 2 we continued our glutinous ways with a delicious lunch at Bodegon Alejandro. This is an unassuming restaurant in the basement of an old town building that offers great basque fare at astonishingly reasonable prices. The menu del dia was 16 Euro and included three courses wine and bread, all of which were excellent. We started with a pumpkin soup with ravioli stuffed with mussels. For main courses we had braised veal cheeks in broth and a velvety fish stew with tuna, shrimp and potatoes, that was the highlight of the meal until desert came. For desert we had the apple crumble and the pain perdu, which I think may have been the best thing that I ate the entire trip. It was so custardy and delicious, that I may be forever ruined for regular french toast. I can't say enough about the value of this place. We left there with a bill less than our bill for 4 tapas and 3 drinks at Arzabal in Madrid. Despite still being full from lunch, we persevered through a tapas crawl in old town for dinner. It was a monday night and many of the places were closed, but that did not stop us from being wildly successful on our quest of glutony. We stopped at La Cucharra de San Telmo for a delicious risotto, with goat cheese and mushrooms and grilled rabbit. Next we stumbled over to Goiz Agurri for more pinxtos incuding the best shrimp we had on the entire trip.

San Sebastian is truly a remarkable place. There is food of outstanding quality every where you turn. I feel like we merely scratched the surface while we were there. I guess that just means we'll have to go back for another fact finding mission!

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  1. Thank you for this great report.
    We were in San Sebastian last week, just a day trip as we were staying just on the other side of the border in St Jean de Luz.
    I love Bodegon Alejandro. The first time I wen tthere, which was 2 years ago, it turned out the rental I had chosen was in the same building ! I love the old town, love the port. San Sebastian is enchantment itself.

    1. I also went to San Sebastian last weekend from the April 5-8. Weather was pretty bad for the most part there too but at least it didn't rain non-stop.

      Had the tasting menu at Etxebarri which was pretty spectacular for such simply prepared food. The prawns were the best I've ever had and the steak was very flavorful and cooked a perfect rare. I thought the smoked ice cream with berry sauce was great too.

      In San Sebastian, I experienced a bunch of the pinxtos bars. Some were great, some good, some not so good. By far my biggest disappointment was at Zeruko which was supposed to be one of the better modern pinxtos bars.

      The bars I enjoyed were:
      La Cuchara de San Telmo - didn't think the risotto was anything special but the foie was outstanding and dirt cheap at under 4 euros,
      a Fuego Negro - another modern pinxtos bar where the ceviche was nice as was a mini kobe burger,
      La Cepa - more traditional with a bunch of hams lining the ceiling of the bar...their fried goods were tasty as was their jamon.

      As much as I loved the quality and the price of the food in SS, the pinxtos bars are just too much for me to deal with which made the experience a bit less enjoyable for me.