San Sebastian is located in the north of Spain and it's a gastronomic haven. We spent 3 nights there and ate our way through the city.
We rented an apartment through EnjoyRentals. It was easy to reserve and make a credit card deposit online The rep met us at the apartment, gave us our keys and we paid the remainder in cash. The only hard part was trying to find a phone to let the rep know we were in town and ready to meet her.
The apartment was spacious and had 3 bedrooms. It was a 20-minute walk to the center of town.
San Sebastian sits on the Bay of Biscayne and had a nice beach--Bahia de la Concha.
When we planned our trip to San Sebastian, we wanted to eat at El Bulli. Sadly, the restaurant closed July 2011. That left us with three 3-star restaurants: Arzak, Akelare and Martin Berasategui. It was hard to choose but in the end we chose Arzak because we had heard the most about it. Besides, Elena Arzak had been chosen as Veuve Clicquot's World's Best Female Chef in 2012.
The degustation menu was €179 per person, not including IVA, tip or drinks.
The first five dishes--"Arzak Amusements"--came out together. It was hard to remember what was being served and to appreciate and enjoy each dish. I felt like I had to eat quickly because everything was set out at once. To tell you the truth, I can't remember any of the taste of any of the dishes in the "Amusements."
Scorpion Fish Pudding with Kataifi Noodles
Sardines Marinated with
Gooseberry with Crispy
Chorizo Melon in Tonic with
Figs, Corn and Black
Cromlech and Onion with Tea and Coffee--Crispy Balloon made with
yucca, funghi corn must, foie gras, onion, figs. I guess the powder was tea and coffee.
Lobster with Crispy Ham
Tapioca Salad served with the Lobster
Poached Egg with Prawn
Paste. The prawn paste was super concentrated with flavor.
Squid Ink Paste with Onions
and Olive Oil. I loved this dish and I licked the squid ink paste. The onions were caramelized and made the squid ink paste so sweet.
Salad that accompanied the squid dish
I can't even remember what this was. It was some kind of fish.
This was one of the desserts. The red balls were gelatinous with a burst of liquid inside.
Passion Fruit/Banana Ice Cream
Beetroot with Pistachio
Ferreteria: Coca Cola, White Cream
with Red Tea Ball, Anise, Dark Chocolate Bolt, Dark Chocolate Key, White
It would have been nice to have a complete English menu listing all the dishes. I had to keep calling the sommelier (the only one who spoke English) to explain the dishes.
It was definitely a memorable meal with taste sensations that I had never experienced before. The total meal took just under 3 hours. It was worth the cost but probably not something I would repeat. I still prefer my experience at the French Laundry several years ago. It was a slower pace, with time to savor each dish.
The Basque country is known for cider houses, where hard apple ciders are made. Many of these cider houses serve meals as well, usually steaks. The ciders usually have an alcohol content of 4-6% and are served directly from the barrels.
We had to try one and found Iretza Sagardotegiko, located at Troia Ibilbidea 25, just south of San Sebastian.
We sat in a barrel. The barrels at the end of the restaurant contained different types of cider. The set menu included all-you-can-drink cider. The meal was €35.
The meal started with an amuse bouche. I think it was filled with bacalao--salted cod.
Tortilla de Bacalao--bacalao omelette. This was good but it was a huge portion for 4 people.
The fries were good--nice and crispy.
Chuleton--T-bone steak. This was one of the most flavorful steaks I have had (even better than ones I've had in Argentina) but my friend thought it was too gamey. It definitely had a lot of fat that needed to be trimmed.
Quince & Cheese. I'm not a big fan of Spanish cheese and these hard cheeses were just okay.
It was an experience we had to try but I probably wouldn't go back to another cider house and have the full menu. I did like the steak and may order it on its own.