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May 29, 2013 02:28 PM

Current opinions: One event...Mugaritz or Akelarre?

Hi all -
Firstly, I don't want to tread old territory - i hate when people come onto a forum, post a silly question without doing any searching... But I have searched, and most of the threads I found on these were a bit dated or too brief in opinions to be useful.
The wife and I will be in San Sebastian for a few days next month. We have a lunch res at Extabarri - we'll head out for the day, wander around before and after, then head back to town to wander around until we're hungry.
The question for me is between these two for an event meal. I have reservations at both (Arzak is closed during our trip, so not on the radar).
Though I hate the term, I guess the wife and I could be considered foodies...we live in NYC, so have access to good stuff and we put time into getting reservations selecting restaurants, etc.
So: the historical opinions I've seen on this forum tend towards Akelarre - Mugaritz can be "challenging". However, these are historic. What are some current opinions?
Thanks in advance - v

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  1. we went to akelarre in january and had a wonderful meal - there are pictures and a review on my blog -

    i particularly enjoyed us being able to have the two menus between us, and therefore try more stuff. not everything was perfect but it was a great experience. we had good wine advice too - an excellent cava (incomparable to the stuff you can buy in the uk) and a really good local white , again notches above what we can buy at home.

    1. Having been to both restaurants several times, I can honestly say that you cannot go wrong with either one. If you go to Alekarre, I would suggest you do lunch because the view is amazing and you can take some photos outside. In terms of food, they are very creative and you will not be disappointed. The wine is list is very reasonable. Pedro himself likes to come out and say hello and see how you are enjoying your food.

      Mugaritz, in my opinion, has the far better wine list which includes some of the best burgundies around. Since you are from NYC (I am as well), you will really appreciate the good prices of the grand crus, etc. The sommelier is awesome and super friendly. Last time my husband and I were there, he gave us a list of restaurants near San Sebastian we should try. As far as the food goes, it was out of this world. You really get a lot for your money here, tons of appetizers are brought out before you even start the "official" meal. You will also be given the opportunity to tour the kitchen and meat the chef. He is very nice and everyone in his kitchen speaks English. If I remember correctly, last time there were 2 kinds of tasting menus, one where you "rebel" and one where you "succumb" :-) It was almost 20 courses (if you count the little bites) and worth every penny.


      1. Went to Akelarre two nights ago and Mugaritz tonight for dinner. Between the two, would definitely go with Akelarre for the better food, service, and ambiance.

        At Akelarre, we were given 3 choices of menus - a land-focused, sea-focused, and "classics" option. You're allowed to pick up to two different kinds of menu for the table, so you and your wife could each pick a different menu and try each other's dishes -- double the variety/fun. Two of us got the land-focused, while one of us got the sea-focused tastings. The food was consistently excellent and creative, standouts include the foie gras with "salt" and "pepper", vegetarian carpaccio, the coconut ice cream cubes, and the suckling pig. Service was on point, what you'd expect at a 3-star Michelin restaurant, although I had a little bit of trouble understanding our waiter's accent - he was patient though, and we had the same waiter the entire time through, so it was good to build a rapport. And finally, the view from our table was amazing.

        Mugaritz was much more mixed experience. While some dishes were amazing, particularly all of the desserts, others were just not that good -- either under- or over-seasoned, or just strange taste profiles. In particular I'm thinking of the beef and grass dish, along with the shark fin ones. The kitchen tour, which we got at the very beginning of our meal, was pretty special. However, the service was sort of lacking. To point out two rookie mistakes that happened during our meal -- first, a waiter accidentally poured wine into my sister's water glass. The sommelier quickly came over to replace the glass but didn't bother to apologize, although they did comp us for 2 bottles of still water at the end (not the wine though). Second, during the meal, my sister went to the bathroom and while she was away, the servers brought out our next course. Typically, my experience has been that they'll wait for everyone to be seated before presenting the next dish. Anyway, minor details, but for the 4th best restaurant in the world, these types of things should not be happening. Also for our 20 courses, we had 5-7 different waiters bringing out each dish, so there wasn't really a good opportunity to develop a rapport with any particular one. Ambiance was nice -- particularly liked the generous spacing between tables which allowed for more privacy, and there was a pretty patio area outside -- but having been to Akelarre the night before, it just paled in comparison.

        Overall the Akelarre experience felt more polished and consistent than Mugaritz, and I can see why they got that extra Michelin star. Could be confirmation bias at work here, but just sharing my personal experience. :)