Our first night in San Sebastian was dinner at Mugaritz and oh what a treat it was! We both went in with no real expectations, but given it’s listed at No.4 on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, we were hoping to be treated to a great meal. It’s located a little bit out of San Sebastian so you’ll need to take a taxi to get there. Unfortunately it was dark by the time we arrived (the booking was for 8 pm) and teeming down with rain, so we couldn’t really explore the surroundings, but from what we saw in the restaurant, the gardens looked lovely.
As we sat down we were told there were about 22 courses on the menu that night and were asked if we wanted to know what they were up front or be surprised. We, of course, chose the surprise option. I pity the waiter who has to recite 22 courses at once at the start of the meal!
It was pointed out that there was no cutlery on the table because the first five courses were to be eaten with our fingers. We were also told that due to the number of courses, they wouldn’t bring out bread at the start, but we could have some later during the course of the meal if we still wanted it by then. A tip for anyone eating at Mugaritz – DO NOT GET THE BREAD. We got the bread but REALLY didn’t need to take up precious space in our stomachs with it. So, repeat after me. Don’t get the bread. Ok? Go it?
So then, as for the food. Wow. What a treat it was to eat here.
Stick with me folks, this is gonna be a long one. I’ll keep it to mainly photos and short descriptions.
1. Mushroom stem and Kombu paper (me)
1. Black pudding macaron (D)
2. “Fishbones” with nuances of lemon, garlic and cayenne pepper
3. Mesh of herbs and juniper
4. Stew of weeds and crisp potatoes
5. Sheep’s milk cheese sandwich and herbs from the surroundings. At its simplest, it was fresh herbs encased in melted cheese. The photo is really crappy but I absolutely loved this course.
It was around this time that we were invited into the kitchen for a quick tour and to have one of our courses! I stupidly left my
phone camera on the table so I didn’t get any photos, but we were introduced to a few of the chefs, several of whom were Australian. We mentioned that we were from Melbourne and they said they get more visitors from Melbourne each year than anywhere else in the world!
They told us that what they like to do at Mugaritz is give you food where you brain and taste buds are completely at odds with each other. They then gave us a bowl with what looked like two rocks inside. To the brain, what sat in our hands was a rock, but to our tastebuds it was a potato encased in an edible clay shell made to look like a rock. Amazing.
6. Bite of sweet peas with wild garlic
7. Roasted artichokes (me)
7. Creamy emulsions of squid and cod with hake shavings (D)
8. Shark fin soup without the shark fin – roasted cauliflower broth
9. Consommé of sweet Jamón – this may not look like much, but it was served warm, and at the table they placed a ridiculously thin sugar disc into the consommé which melted, resulting in a beautify salty sweet taste. Not to mention the smell was heavenly.
10. Broiled artichoke with a mushroom and black olive Hollandaise
11. For this course, they said we had to have a little fun. We were given the jacks you can see on the table and had to play a the ‘game of Astragals Royale’ with each other. The winner was to receive something extra with the next course which was Poultry Royale. The only way to describe it is to imagine the skin on the best BBQ chicken you’ve ever had, then turn that flavour into a custard. I won the game and with it came a very generous serving of caviar that I promptly passed across the table and watched as the eyes rolled back into D’s head at how good it was.
12. Duck juice with tofu – the tofu was a bit meh (isn’t it always), but the flavour in the duck juice was incredible. So far, 12 courses in, we’d had several courses with flavours of meat, but no actual meat.
13. Loin of Hake, tiger nut starch and concentrated clam juice (D)
13. The cow and the grass – a beautiful slow cooked piece of beef covered in a sauce of herbs from their garden (me)
14. Turbot “Pil-pil” and roe (D)
15. Roast beef. Not much else to say here! D had the cow and the grass that I had previously, and I had what’s shown below.
16. Rack of Iberian pork smeared with Sobrasada and fresh herbs
17. With that, we found ourselves moving into the dessert part of the evening. The first dessert was called ‘the chocolate ceremony’ where we were presented with whisks and bowls. The bowls had a small bit of chocolate powder in them, into which a cream was poured. We then whisked it up and dipped in the chocolate-y sponge cake that it came with.
18. Frozen almond turrón (a specialty frozen dessert from Spain)
19. Glass, sugar and cocoa as a cookie. This was incredible and nearly sent me over the edge, in the best possible way of course!
20. Edible paper of leaves and flowers
21. Vanilla fern. What you see below on the right look like vanilla beans and have the texture of vanilla beans, but are actually baby ferns made to look like vanilla beans. Again, incredible.
22. The final course was then brought out, and it was seven (well technically six) courses of chocolate – the Mugaritz interpretation of the Seven Deadly Sins. The wooden boxes that they were brought out in were STUNNING and had they been for sale, I think we would have found a way to pack a set into our backpacks. The chocolates were done in collaboration with Oriol Balaguer whose shop we later visited in Barcelona.
From the top down – pride – these were balls of chocolate that were empty.
Envy – two different pieces of chocolate.
Wrath – seemingly innocent marshmallows that were covered in chilli.
Gluttony – Chocolate covered corn kernels.
Lust – Strawberry-esque white chocolate.
An amazing all-round dining experience. The service was impeccable and friendly. D had the wine match to go with his degustation, and they were more than happy to swap out wines he didn’t like, and actually took the time to listen to why he did/didn’t like something and then presented him with something more suitable.
I had a few cocktails that were made on the fly, and finished with a glass of the best Pedro Ximinez I’ve ever had. Actually two glasses. Eh, dessert was six courses. Sue me 🙂