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.

moringa and prawn gyoza

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banana and squid

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“cecina” and kalamata

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eel rod

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marinated sardine and strawberry

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mackerel with “patxaran” and purple corn

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scarlet prawn with krill lemongrass, mint, beetroot

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egg with corn tomato candy, pozole corn, cordyceps

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climbing nectarine and squid black mole, bitter nectarine drops

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white tuna with millenary mushroom miso, instant ginger mochi, reishi

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orange-colored pigeon ground cherries, mandarins, orange, crispy onion

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sailor’s lamb anchovies, teff, broccoli stalks, image of flickering flames

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summer frost acai, fruits

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square moon lunar chocolate cube with fluid core of mint, neroli, kiwi

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skate and vietnamese chocolate presented on a skateboard, wheel of vietnamese chocolate filled with acai and yellow sauce

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sweets

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I regret doubting my decision to come here – the meal was excellent. The food was both very creative and delicious, while service was strong. Some of the small bites didn’t sound like they would work, but everything did. Squid with banana was one of those odd-sounding combinations, but the sweetness of the banana complemented the squid without overpowering. Scarlet prawn was accented by lemongrass and mint, topped with a crunchy shell made of a small crustacean (krill). The egg with corn was another highlight, perfectly poached and with a crispy tomato “candy” and corn for texture. Both of the meat courses were excellent from the slow cooked lamb with anchovy sauce (plated on top of a flickering image of flames) to the squab with cherries and citrus and topped with crispy onion. I don’t know when I’ll get the chance to come back to San Sebastián (and I’d still like to try Akelarre and Martin Berasategui), but I’d definitely return to Arzak.

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