Ibai (San Sebastián, Spain)

Ibai
Calle de Getaria kalea, 15
20005 Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain
Dining date: 9/27/17

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Ibai wasn’t initially on my radar while researching potential restaurants in San Sebastián. It’s not in the Michelin guide and isn’t highly ranked on either Yelp or TripAdvisor. However, I stumbled across it on a few food blogs that gave rave reviews of the restaurants’ simple, homey cooking with warnings of how difficult a reservation is to attain.

The restaurant is small, fitting only 5-6 tables, and is only open weekdays for one lunch seating. That is it; the restaurant is not open for dinner, nor on weekends. To complicate matters, the restaurant would not accept reservations from abroad so we had to make the reservation once we were in town. On our first day in San Sebastián, we walked in that afternoon to seek out a reservation. To our surprise, there was a table available the next day, so we were all set.

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Arzak (San Sebastián, Spain)

Arzak
Alcalde José Elosegui Hiribidea, 273
20015 Donostia/San Sebastián, Spain
Dining date: 9/27/17

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Arzak was the first reservation I made in Spain on this trip. This restaurant has reached a legendary status in San Sebastián and has been on the forefront of modern Basque cooking for decades. The restaurant has garnered three Michelin stars since 1989 and has made the top 50 best restaurants in the world list every year it’s been published (since 2003). It currently sits at #30. Chef Juan Mari Arzak has been the driving force behind the restaurant’s success, and he now shares the kitchen management with daughter Elena Arzak.

I had a very hard time deciding between this restaurant and fellow three-star establishments Akelarre and Martin Berasategui. While the restaurant has plenty of accolades, I read a number of reviews with mixed feelings about the place. I ended up sticking with Arzak and am glad I did.

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An a la carte menu is available, as well as a 210€ tasting menu. We went with the latter for this dinner.

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Quintonil (Mexico City, MX)

Quintonil
Newton 55
11550 Mexico, D.F.
Dining date: 8/12/17

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Quintonil opened in 2012 and quickly established itself on the world stage. The restaurant is currently ranked 22nd in the world, two spots behind fellow Mexico City restaurant Pujol. Chef Jorge Vallejo worked for three years at Pujol under chef Enrique Olvera before opening this restaurant. He also spent a short period of time working at Noma in what has been a relatively brief, but spectacular, career for the 35-year-old chef.

Our party of two was able to squeeze in for a weekend lunch reservation. An 11-course tasting menu is available for both lunch and dinner ($1950 MXN). Given it was lunchtime and we had a large dinner at Pujol the previous night, we opted for building our own a la carte meal.

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Cosa Buona (Los Angeles, CA)

Cosa Buona
2100 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90026
Dining date: 9/1/17

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Cosa Buona is one of the most talked about restaurants openings in LA this summer. The restaurant is from Zach Pollack, who first opened Sotto with co-chef Steve Samson then opened Alimento. Cosa Buona is the most casual and simple of his restaurants so far, meant to be a neighborhood pizza joint. In fact, the restaurant replaces a similarly-named pizza joint (Pizza Buona) which had been at this location for over 50 years.

The restaurant takes reservations for parties of four or more; otherwise, it’s walk-in only. Our party of two came early on a Friday to avoid waiting for a table.

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Pujol (Mexico City, MX)

Pujol
Tennyson 133
Col. Polanco
11570 México, D.F.
Dining date: 8/11/17

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On my first trip to Mexico City, Pujol was high atop my desired restaurants to try. Reservations fill up well in advance, but I was able to get an early dinner reservation on a Friday that I would be there (OpenTable can be your friend with some persistence).

Pujol chef Enrique Olvera is the most internationally acclaimed chef from Mexico City. The chef opened Cosme in New York at the end of 2014, which was a hit from the beginning, earning the 40th spot on the top 50 restaurants in the world. Pujol, generally regarded as one of the top fine dining establishments in Mexico, is ranked #20 in the world.

The restaurant recently moved from its original location into a modern, new property in March – it ‘s really a beautiful space. I don’t know what the original location looked like, but I felt like I could’ve been in LA or NYC here – virtually all of the diners were speaking English and the music was loud American hits.

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Melisse (Santa Monica, CA) [4]

Melisse
1104 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Dining date: 8/5/17

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It’s been a couple of years since I last dined at Melisse. One of the few real fine dining establishments left in the city, the restaurant is still going strong 18 years in. To celebrate their anniversary, the restaurant was running a promotional 4-course anniversary menu for $99 (it felt more like 7 courses). There were a couple of options for each course, giving us the ability to try a number of different menu offerings.

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