before you ask, juan mari and elena really are very involved in the restaurant. we saw them on numerous occasions milling about the restaurant to chat with guests. juan mari even stopped by our table towards the end of the meal, but i was so stupified by his presence at that point that well i just about forgot how to speak spanish . . .
before we headed into france, hubs and i spent a few days eating our way through san sebastian. we ate a mugaritz and akelarre (more on those restaurants separately), and on the 3rd day, headed over to arzak for lunch. i had heard so many wonderful things about arzak (it ranks among the top ten restaurants in the world) that i felt a bit anxious when finally got to the restaurant — would it really live up to expectations?
while it’s possible to order a la carte, most tables select the prix fixe menu. the prix fixe menu that they present you with is kind of a funny thing:
i’m not sure if you can make the words out, but it basically says a few amuse-bouches, egg of the day, fish of the day, meat or poultry, desserts, chocolate — not particularly descriptive. rest-assured, the staff does come around and explain the selections, and at the very end of the meal, we received another copy of the menu with our selections more precisely spelled out.
the service at arzak is fast-moving, precise and orchestrated towards showmanship. i caught myself ooo-ing and ahhing on numerous occasions. i’m going to go thru the dishes we consumed on a similar pace (sorry, i’m unable to replicate any sort of precision or showmanship).
there are five components to arzak’s amusements (amuse-bouches). they’re served all at once, making for a very bountiful and stimulating table!
after the amusements, these funny little things showed up on our table:
the plate is called cromlech (which i learned after looking it up, is a megalithic structure) with onion, coffee and tea. the cromlech in this case is a crispy potato-chip like shell. an incredibly rich, ooey gooey, and warm piece of foie hids underneath the cromlech shell:
followed by the lobster coralline, which resembled an oil painter’s palette imho:
and an equally visually exciting dusted egg and mussel:
for the fish of the day, hubs opted for the squid with rum oil and tentacles brochette with corn:
and i got the smoked cinnamon and tuna with a side of peach curd with seaweed. mine is brought to the table under a vacuum sealed glass dome. once the dome is lifted, the aromas are smoked cinnamon waft immediately into the nasal cavity:
for the meat / poultry, hubs got the pigeon with orange and corn cuisse confit:
and i selected the aromatic verbena, chard and lamb with crispy milk & vegetables (the crispy milk seems to be quite the favorite ingredient in san sebastian — kept seeing it at mugaritz and akelarre):
and finally desserts!!
soup and chocolate “between vineyards”: by far the most interesting dessert — bits of hot chocolate wrapped inside a tapioca shell of sorts…when you bit into it, the hot chocolate explodes in your mouth.
we were also served several extremely tasty and exotic ice cream flavours and topped off with an interesting plate of chocolate hardware:
i’d say that compared to akelarre or mugaritz, arzak’s flavours are the most familiar, the most colorful, the most intense, and the most well-balanced. the service is also the best choreographed amongst the three restaurants we visited. (the others have other pluses that i’ll chat about later). i can definitely see why it’s considered one of the top ten restaurants in the world . . .
Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui, 273
20015 Donostia San Sebastian
tel: 943 278 465 / 943 285 593