Tag Archives: San Sebastian

San Sebastian, Spain


San Sebastian is located on Spain’s north coast less than 20 miles from the border with France.  The city is also known as Donostia.  There are two names and two languages noted for just about everything as this area is part of the semi-autonomous Basque region.  Basque language uses the letter X frequently.  You’ll notice it for sure.  We stayed at Hotel Leku Eder which had beautiful ocean views and very comfortable rooms.  From here you can catch the bus to just about anywhere in the town.  Overall we spent three days and two nights here.  Probably enough time unless you are planning to hit all of the top restaurants to be found.  Akelare, Martin Berasategui and Mugaritz are also top establishments that we just didn’t have the time or the $ to dine in.

After arriving, we took the bus down to the opposite side of the bay to try Pintxos – small bites. Dinner here if not at a top end restaurant, can easily consist of a few small plates at a bar accompanied by a glass of wine – repeating until full.

After returning from lunch at Asador Etxebarri on day 2 (see previous post), we basically repeated the night of day 1.  There are many pintxo bars to try, each with a different variety of plates and wines.

On our last day, we hiked to the top of Monte Urgull which provides a nice view of the bay from the fortress at the top.  The walk along the coastline at the base of Monte Urgull is also a nice stroll.  After a day on the town we dressed up and made our way to Arzak – another of the top restaurants in the world.

Sunset from Leku Eder

Sunset from Leku Eder

Kontxako Bay from Monte Urgull

Bay of La Concha from Monte Urgull

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Pintxos

Pintxo Bar

Pintxo Bar

Borda Berri - Beef Cheek

Borda Berri – Beef Cheek

San Sebastian Sunset

San Sebastian Sunset

Bar Haizea, Txakoli Pour

Bar Haizea, Txakoli Pour

Next post:  Arzak

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Lunch at Asador Etxebarri


The capper on the trip to Spain was to head to San Sebastian for some fine dining at two of the best restaurants in the world.  Arzak and Asador Etxebarri.

Asador Etxebarri has made the worlds 50 best restaurants list for seven years in a row and currently sits at number 34.  Chef Victor Arguinzoniz is a grill master who fires every course over wood.  Admittedly, we were drawn here by the Anthony Bourdain episode that featured the restaurant.  Just about every review you can find validates this restaurant as one of the best you’ll ever find.

We arrived nice and early.  Many reviewers noted that the restaurant can be hard to find.  We didn’t have any issues, phone GPS took us straight there.  We wandered around for about 45 minutes, not much to see outside the restaurant other than a jai-alai court and a small farm.  Not my best photography, eating is of course far more important.

Asador Etxebarri - Spain - Best Restaurants

Asador Etxebarri

By the time the doors opened at 1:00 PM a few other groups had wandered into the town.  We were seated upstairs on the balcony.  After we settled in, we waited for quite a while before servers showed any interest in us.  We started to get a little frustrated, it really was far too long before someone waited on us.  Once we ordered our tasting menus and the meal started, all was well.

Asador Etxebarri - Tatsting Menu - Lunch

Lunch Tasting Menu

The first four items came out together.  The juice was good but not so memorable.  The chorizo, butter and anchovies on the other hand, were amazing.  While butter may not seem exciting, the combination of the salt and smoke made for an incredible combination.  The chorizo was easily the best I’ve ever eaten.  The anchovies were laid across a grilled pan con tomate.  Perfect.

Anchovies - Goat Butter - Salt - Asador Etxebarri

Salted Anchovies with Bread and Tomato

Chorizo - Lunch - Tasting Menu - Asador Etxebarri

Chorizo from Acorn Fed Pork

Following the initial four small courses we got into the main tasting menu.  First out was tomato with white onion.  Visually I was not expecting much.  Looked a little like a boiled skinned tomato cut in half with some onions on it (see picture).  Flavor and textures were a different story.  The tomato was wonderfully tender and the onion added just a little crunch.  I don’t know what was in the broth, but it would’ve been an excellent dish on its own served in a glass.

Tomato and White Onion - Asador Etxebarri - Food - Review

Tomato and White Onion

Next were mussels in escabeche.  Flavors were good on this one but not too memorable.  Probably one of my least favorites, but a fine dish.

Mussels in Escabeche - Asador Etxebarri - Arguinzoniz

Mussels in Escabeche

Continuing with seafood to start, out came a grilled oyster with seaweed.  Also present was a little foam.  The brininess of the oyster came through but the smoke flavor really made this unique.

Asador Etxebarri - Grilled Oyster with Seaweed - Tasting Menu - Lunch

Oyster with Seaweed

Next came the prawns.  Having read many reviews of Asador Etxebarri online, this was an expected favorite.  Smoky, sweet and salty.  Perfectly cooked.  Expectation met.

Prawns - Salt - Asador Etxebarri - Lunch

Palamos Prawns

The next course was astounding, at least to me.  Apparently I had never eaten a properly cooked squid prior to this one.  The tenderness was impressive.  Once again the flavors were excellent.  I also thought the plating on this one was particularly simple yet eye catching.

Baby Squid - Ink Sauce - Asador Etxebarri - Lunch

Baby Squid with Caramelized Onion and Squid Ink

The eggplant and porcini mushrooms came next to take the meal towards the steak finish line.  Great flavors, but not as memorable as some of the other plates, I’d rank this one closer to the bottom along with the mussels and escabeche.  As previously stated, this is based on a sliding scale where some of the other plates were absolutely amazing.

Porcini with Eggplant - Asador Etxebarri - Tasting Menu

Porcini with Eggplant

Following the porcini’s was a surprisingly rich dish.  The white tuna was more like a foie gras in consistency and richness.  I assume the cut came from a fatty section of the fish as it reminded me some of tuna belly.

White Tuna with Chard and Cherry Tomato - Asador Etxebarri - Lunch

White Tuna with Chard and Cherry Tomato

Next came the beef.  Not much to say, the bone was clean when we were done.  Really really clean.

Asador Etxebarri - Steak - Beef - Main Course - Arguinzoniz

Galician Beef Chop

Dessert courses started with a smoked ice cream with a bery sauce.  Not sure how they smoked ice cream, but this was the best of the two dessert courses.

Smoked Ice Cream - Asador Etxebarri - Dessert

Reduced Milk Ice Cream

The second dessert course wasn’t as memorable.  The Basque Cake with figs was good but similar to the mussels, not as strong as most of the other courses.

Asador Etxebarri - Basque Cake - Figs - Dessert

Basque Cake with Figs

The mignardise – chocolate truffles covered on cacao powder.  A nice rich chocolate capper after the lighter and spongier basque cake.

Mignardise - Asador Etxebarri - Chocolate Truffle

Mignardise

Price was nosebleed, especially with a couple bottles of wine, but opportunities like this one come along rarely.

Next post:  San Sebastian