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San Sebastian - Question about tasting menus at Akelarre, Arzak, Mugaritz, Martin Berasategui, etc...

Three of us will be in San Sebastian for a week and are all big lovers of food, especially Basque food. We will dining mostly at pintxos bars but want to try some of the more expensive places too.

I see that most of the expensive restaurants have tasting menus in the EUR 135-200 range.

My questions:
1) Will they allow three people to share a single order of the tasting menu or does each person have to get something individually?
2) If we go for lunch will we be missing out on the true dining experience or is lunch a good alternative when on a tight budget?

Thanks
Houston

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  1. We stayed in San Sebastian in october 2010, and had lunch at Akelarre and dinner at Mugaritz. I don`t think its a good idea to share, but you can always ask them. If you take the famous potatoes at Mugaritz; it would feel strange sharing one I`ll think. We were very pleased with both restaurants, Akelarre should be visited at lunch just for the view alone. We had the tasting menu, and I didn`t feel like I was missing out on something. Joern

    Do some research and you will find fantastic food at the different pintxos bars.

    1 Reply
    1. re: jorn77

      Thank you for the advice. Yes, I have a huge list of great pintxos bars (including some I visited last time) but as a huge fan of food I want to hit as many of the fancy places as we can...but don't want to break the bank. I see only one taster menu listed on their website and it is $200 per person. Do you know if it is any more affordable during lunch or is it the same price? We likely won't spend $600 between the three of us eating the whole week so that is a bit outside what we were looking to spend.

    2. You can ask but I highly doubt they would even allow 2 people to share a single order of the tasting menu.

      I could be wrong but from what I've experienced in Spain, lunch, not dinner, is traditionally the biggest meal of the day. So I would say you are not missing out on the "true dining experience."

      Also, many restaurants don't even open for dinner until 8 or 8:30 and won't get busy until 10 pm.

      9 Replies
      1. re: erha

        Thanks. I figured it was a long shot but simply can't justify spending that much on this trip.

        I don't see prices on the menus for items other than the taster menu. Do you know what single entree items are priced at? Also, do you know if it is possible to stop in just for dessert?

        1. re: erha

          We had our best meal at Asador Etxebarri in Axpe. One hour drive from San Sebastian. It was half the price from Akelarre. Beatiful place in the mountains, fantastic food. Well worth the drive

          1. re: jorn77

            Those kind of restaurants has such a personal and unique approach that you should choose tasting menu to get a picture of what they`re doing. Choose one instead of trying to stop by several. Or mail them and hear if you can eat a la carte.

            1. re: jorn77

              You and I are on the same page for sure. Asador Etxebarri is already on our list of must-visit restaurants. We even have the car rented already. Being big grilling fans we knew we couldn't miss this place.

              1. re: hgray14

                You will not be disappointed. You also should put Astelena on your list., if its not there already.I think it was the best pintxos bar. And a very cool place too. Try the hot dishes!

                1. re: jorn77

                  I have them on my list but didn't know anything about them so I am glad you mention them. I learned from a local the last time I was there that ordering up a hot dish or two can majorly elevate the experience. Any hot dishes in particular that you would recomment?

                  1. re: hgray14

                    Everthing was very good. All the seafood. Foie ravioli, in fact all the foie gras dishes. We also had a very fat piece of pig, served with fruitsalad. The frogs legs. Great. I belive it was fairly cheap as I remember, we just ate there for hours, dish after dish.

                    1. re: jorn77

                      That is what makes it so hard to stomach the super expensive meals at places like Arzak. I know that those places are the cream of the crop and someday when I am better off I will likely go back and try them all but for the money the pintxos bars cannot be beat. That $600 for one meal at Arzak would pay for all three of us to sit around the pintxos bars all week and eat some of the best food on earth.

                      1. re: hgray14

                        hgray14,

                        I was in San Sebastian with my wife for our honeymoon in 2008. To be sure, we had a fantastic time and ate amazing food at all of the pintxos bars in the old town. We also had a 17-course lunch tasting menu at Arzak, which was almost as expensive as a 9 course tasting menu we had for dinner at Zuberoa. Arzak's food was fantastic, but the atmosphere was stale and stuffy, service minimal/shaky, people smoking next to us, and overall "smoothness" was not NEARLY as impressive as Zuberoa. Absolutely everything at Zuberoa blew us away, from approaching the front door and them opening from the inside "Good evening Mr and Mrs Weiss", to speaking with Chef Hilario (via our waitress as translator) per his request, and getting his recommendations for where to eat in Madrid, on the way out. Unbelievable. Go there. They have their own hawks, etc, to catch game. Also had a bottle of 1976 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 for 65Euro. Incredible, seriously. Dinner was worth every penny, unforgettable. Do these things when you have the chance.

          2. 1) I would be shocked if Mugaritz or Akelare allowed you to share a tasting menu, I just don't think that's the way these places operate. Mugaritz has courses that are basically a single bite and passing a single plate around the table at Akelare would be very odd.

            2) Lunch in Spain is a big meal so don't expect to see UK/France type discounts for eating then.

            Mugaritz is tasting menu only, Akelare has an ALC but the prices are such (Eur80+) for a main that you wouldn't save a significant amount of money.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ManInTransit

              Thank you very much for the info. It looks like we may only go to Zuberoa and Etxebarri. We are big BBQ/grill fans so Etxebarri sounds like a must. We are looking at Zuberoa because their tasting menu is much less than the others (EUR 125) as are their al'a carte. I have heard they are more about traditional food (from this forum and others) and not so great with innovative food but that is fine beause we love traditional basque food.

              Have any of you eaten at Ni Neu? They appear to have some great food, are in a great location, and are price much better for people on a budget.

              Thanks again everyone! I am sure that no matter where we eat we will be happy with our food - that is the great thing about San Sebastian.

              1. re: hgray14

                the pintxo joints in San Sebastian would put other Michelin restaurants around the world to shame. if you don't have the cash for the fancier places you'll still have an incredible dining experience.

                that said, Arzak is definitely worth the price though....you can always save up some money and come back to San Sebastian again!

                ...i would also agree that the places with a tasting menu wouldn't tolerate people sharing in it - especially since they'll only serve a tasting menu if all diners at the table do it.

                have a good trip

                1. re: hgray14

                  "we love traditional basque food."

                  For that we loved Bodegon Alejandro, in the old town. Martin Berasategui apprenticed there as a teenager working for the resto owned by his parents. Today MB is the consultant for the resto.

              2. Houston,

                The Pintxos are brilliant in San Sebastian but the 3 star dinning is a different kettle of fish. I'm assuming you are not from Spain and you have some sort of financial means of getting yourself and your mates from another country to San Sebastian. My advice to you is finding another 200 euros each in your budget and hit Akelaŕe. Forget sharing the tasting menu, each of you have it, throw in a couple of bottles of aged Rioja, a bottle of water, 3 coffees and a taxi ride. It's worth every euro!

                Best Regards

                Jeremy

                5 Replies
                1. re: jeremyholmes

                  Hi Houston, we'll be in SS early July. Are you willing to share your pintxos list? Thx in advacne

                  1. re: roofus

                    I go to San Sé every year. last time my faves in the old town were: Astelena (always our fave year in year out), Zeruko, A Fuego Negro.
                    In the past I have also liked La Cuchara de San Telmo?

                    1. re: Parigi

                      I echo Parigi's pintxos list and would add that if you know SS already, you might want to consider driving 15 minutes further to Hondaribbia and dine comparably for half the price of SS.

                      1. re: Parigi

                        Oops, that last question mark was a typo, not a moronic interrogative.

                        1. re: Parigi

                          ...so you would like us to believe.

                  2. Just ate at Asadore Etxebarri and we were both disappointed, especially after eating at so many great pinxtos bars as well as having the taster menu (with wine pairing, which I HIGHLY recommend) at Bodegaon Alejandro. Some of the dishes on Asadore Etxebarri's taster menu were incredible but not incredible enough, or consistant enough to warrant the hefty price. With wine, coffee, and water, the bill for two of us came to roughly $400 plus the $100 for the rental car to get there. (Seriously, when you charge $150+ for a meal it is rather insulting to also charge for water and coffee - but the wine was reasonably priced by the glass.) By contrast, every dish and wine pairing at B.A. was perfect and the service was great (our servers were both professional and playful) and the total bill for three of us came to roughly $200. (Pay the extra 12.50 Euro for the wine pairings - they go perfectly, they serve you five glasses - one for each course, and the house made orange muscat was the best we have ever had.) B.A. is now on our "must visit" list for all our future trips to DSS.

                    1. It has been a couple of years since I have been to San Sebastian, however, Lunch in Spain in general is cheaper than dinner.

                      There are usually 2 or 3 tasting menus.

                      However, if you wish to have a taste of a friend´s dish, this is fine; however, the cultural in Spain, is not the same as the USA. Thus, each person must order something, and it can be a la carte, and does not have to be on a tasting degustación menu.