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Reservations at Arzak and Mugaritz

nmprisons Jun 1, 2012 10:27 AM

We are considering a trip to Spain in September. The big draw for us is the food in San Sebastian. Is is already too late to secure reservations as places like Mugaritz and Arzak for the middle of September? If not, any tips on getting them (i.e., will the email address on the webpage be enough) would be much, much, much appreciated.


  1. PBSF Jun 1, 2012 01:37 PM

    The only way to truly find out is to contact them yourself. Email should work but it is always best to telephone. Actually talking to someone will allow you choose alternate dates/lunch or dinner, etc. There will be someone at both places that will speak some English.

    5 Replies
    1. re: PBSF
      nmprisons Jun 1, 2012 01:45 PM

      Thank you for the reply. I appreciate it. The seven hour time difference and my very limited spanish might make things a bit tough, but I will give calling a shot.

      1. re: nmprisons
        foodeditormargaux Aug 26, 2012 10:38 AM

        Juan Mari has a proficiency from Cambridge in English. Does anyone in this group speak the official language of Spain, which is Spanish, not English ?

        Andoni Luis of Mugaritz is a total genius. Elena Arzak the daughter of Juan has been voted the best female Chef of Europe for 2012.

        1. re: foodeditormargaux
          zin1953 Aug 26, 2012 10:49 AM

          Except, of course, if you're Basque . . .

          1. re: zin1953
            foodeditormargaux Aug 26, 2012 11:13 AM

            Basque is the 2nd language taught in the Basque Public School System, Spanish 1st and English 3rd.

            We live in Spain ( renting a loft ) for professional commitments and have a family condo in Italy.

            1. re: foodeditormargaux
              zin1953 Aug 26, 2012 11:21 AM

              Hizkuntza irakasten diren ordena garrantzitsua, hain zuzen, hizkuntza erabiltzen dira ordena baino txikiagoa da.Jende askorentzat, beren lehen hizkuntza da, hain zuzen ere, Euskal.


    2. l
      Luna2308 Jun 1, 2012 05:52 PM

      Hello nmprisons,
      We went to the Basque Country last year at the beginning of October. We ate at Martin Beratasegui, Arzak, Etxebarri and Mugaritz and made reservations per email about 4 months before - no problem at all. At all restaurants they confirmed our first choice of day and time.
      Just email them in English, all of them got back to us quite fast and give them a few options.

      Just one thing, the San Sebastian film festival is this year September 21st through 29th, so I'm sure the "big" restaurants will be quite busy then, although I did manage to get a reservation for lunch at Akelare during the festival about 2 weeks ago.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Luna2308
        nmprisons Jun 1, 2012 07:21 PM

        Thank you very much, especially for the heads up about the film festival. While I am sure it is a great event, it is something we would prefer not to overlap with. As such, we will probably go the week before. As of now, I am thinking about Arzak, Mugaritz, Etxebarri, and Zuberoa. Once we get plane tickets (hopefully sunday), I will send emails and, if I don't hear back, I'll buy a phone card and give it a shot.

        1. re: nmprisons
          estufarian Jun 2, 2012 11:40 AM

          Yes, avoid the film festival - the main problem then is lack of accommodations. I managed to get into all the 'big restaurants' during film week - but one night I had to stay in France - nothing available in San Sebastian - the other nights I stayed on a farm outside San Sebastian - the owners barely spoke Spanish - only Basque!

          1. re: estufarian
            Luna2308 Jun 2, 2012 12:05 PM

            Wow, estufarian, sounds like a real adventure!
            We managed to book rooms at the Londres y Inglaterra, but at twice the price than they normally are...
            I checked and there is still enough rooms available in other hotels for now and I got several positive replies from restaurants in the past few days.
            We would have preferred to go at another time and avoid the festival, but our window was only between end of September and mid-October and since Akelare closes for vacation the first 2 weeks of October we had no other choice.
            We missed Akelare last time and really don't want to miss it this time as well....

            1. re: Luna2308
              estufarian Jun 2, 2012 02:25 PM

              The place in France was almost on the border and around the corner from the 'Museum of Gateau Basque' - that's how we would find our way back - follow the signs to the museum - except after Arzak it was foggy - quite an adventure (but still only a half hour drive away.
              Never did make it to the Musée - but any place that has a museum dedicated to a single food item just has to be a worthwhile Chowhound destination!

      2. n
        nmprisons Jun 3, 2012 07:35 PM

        Just an FYI for posterity. We haven't decided between Arzak, Mugaritz, etc., but we did settle on Etxebarri and were able to make reservations on our date of choice in mid-September.

        1 Reply
        1. re: nmprisons
          Luna2308 Jun 3, 2012 08:56 PM

          Great to hear you got your reservation at Etxebarri! I'm sure you'll love it. Of all the meals we had last year in the Basque Country and as much as our party of three had different opinions on the other restaurants, we all loved Etxebarri.
          I've been meaning to post a trip report and it's a work in progress, but I finally managed to get my pictures online, so in case you want to have a look, here's the link: http://www.flickr.com/photos/64572467...
          One restaurant that hasn't been discussed very much on Chowhound that we went to is Azurmendi. It has 2 stars after all and is conveniently located right next to the highway and about 10 minutes from Bilbao airport. We had lunch there before we had to catch our 6 pm flight and really liked it.
          It's quite whimsical with a lot of modern touches but also great and strong flavors. And the tasting menu was if I remember correctly about 90 Euros, quite a steal compared to the "big" ones...I just saw they raised their prices a bit, but are still very reasonable.

        2. n
          nmprisons Jun 6, 2012 06:03 AM

          Another FYI for posterity, we were able to get a reservation at Mugaritz for our first-choice time in mid-September. Email worked just fine.

          11 Replies
          1. re: nmprisons
            Luna2308 Jun 6, 2012 07:57 PM

            Congrats! I hope you'll enjoy your experience!
            I did enjoy our meal at Mugaritz although I have to say that there was a few dishes that just didn't do it for me - as has been mentioned so many times before here on the boards.
            I thought the service was great and we enjoyed the tour of the kitchen, although it was a pity that Andoni Luis Aduriz wasn't there, he was in the US at the time of our visit.
            So, looks like your plans are shaping up, how's your "schedule" for now?
            We will only spend 2 days in San Sebastian this time as we had a week in the Basque Country last year. This time it'll be from Barcelona, Girona, driving through the Pyrenees, then San Se and 2 days in France, very excited about the trip!
            We will go to Akelare this time as we missed out on it last year, then defintely some pintxos and are deciding between a dinner at Zuberoa or Mirador de Ulia, maybe someone's got an opinion on those two?!

            1. re: Luna2308
              nmprisons Jun 7, 2012 05:05 AM


              The current plan is:

              Day 1: Fly into Bilbao and drive to SS ... no food plans ... might do some stuff in Bilbao

              Day 2: Dinner at Arzak

              Day 3: Taking a day trip somewhere, perhaps Saint Jean De Luz, perhaps Getaria, perhaps somewhere else. No meals yet. Thoughts?

              Day 4: Lunch at Zuberoa. We chose it over a group, including, Mirador, because of the setting. Dinner of pintxos.

              Day 5: Lunch at Mugaritz.. Dinner of pintxos.

              Day 6: Day trip someone, location undecided. Thoughts?

              Day 7: Lunch at Etxebarri, no dinner figured out, but spending night in Bilbao and so might try and eat there.

              Day 8: Fly out early

              1. re: nmprisons
                johannabanana Jun 27, 2012 02:57 PM

                To me, Elkano is the glaring omission from your list. Order the turbot if it's in season, the bigger the better. One of the highlights of our honeymoon last year (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/796844). Of course they're completely different, but if I had to choose between Mugaritz and Elkano, I would go to Elkano every time. The Balenciaga museum in Getaria is impressive if you want to make a day of it.

                You might also want to look at gastromondiale's usefully opinionated write-ups for San Sebastian including this recent one:

                1. re: johannabanana
                  nmprisons Jun 27, 2012 03:22 PM

                  Much thanks! I appreciated reading your reviews and will definitely consider Elkano. Any idea on whether reservations are needed, or could we just call the day before?

                  1. re: nmprisons
                    estufarian Jun 27, 2012 04:16 PM

                    I've heard excellent things about Elkano - but haven't been.
                    However, before choosing anything based on gastromondiale, please ensure that their opinions generally match your own. You might want to check out their Alinea review specifically!

                    1. re: estufarian
                      nmprisons Jun 27, 2012 06:38 PM

                      Yeah, I saw that one. Indeed, the reviewer's palate and taste in restaurants rarely coincides with my own (based on those places we have both eaten).

                      It is a tricky balancing act to travel half-way across the world to eat at restaurants you have never been to and for which you have no trusted resource. I anticipate loving some, hating others, and forgetting more than I remember. My approach is basically to look for overlapping data points. I know have two hits on Elkano plus a third in that I love rustic seafood restaurants. We'll see.

                      1. re: nmprisons
                        johannabanana Jun 27, 2012 07:06 PM

                        Rustic seafood restaurants are perhaps my husband and my favourite places to eat at. (Have very fond memories of Sicilian and Aeolian island examples.) I would certainly reserve for Elkano as it gets very full -- booking several months before didn't seem to surprise them when I did so and they weren't able to switch our reservation from dinner to lunch at the last minute.

                        I mostly agree with the reviews on gastromondiale for the places I've eaten at -- the frame of reference is particularly well-travelled and demanding -- but Elkano probably defies "taste" anyhow. It's really a classic institution, and the fish cooking is still very precise, not completely rustic but I know what you mean. The turbot is expensive and brilliant and you should be sure to suck the gelatinous bones!

                  2. re: johannabanana
                    nmprisons Jun 29, 2012 07:27 PM

                    ugh. they don't seem to take reservations online or via fax. i guess its time to find someone who speaks spanish and buy a phone card, unless there is another option someone knows about?

                    1. re: nmprisons
                      johannabanana Jun 30, 2012 09:11 AM

                      I reserved over the phone speaking English. If I remember correctly, I asked the person who answered the phone whether they spoke English, and they found someone who did.

                      1. re: johannabanana
                        nmprisons Jun 30, 2012 02:51 PM

                        ah, great. thank you.

                2. re: Luna2308
                  zin1953 Jun 15, 2012 12:45 PM

                  >>> I did enjoy our meal at Mugaritz although I have to say that there was a few dishes that just didn't do it for me - as has been mentioned so many times before here on the boards. <<<

                  Agreed. Just ate there on June 8th, and . . . some dishes certainly missed.

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