Dinner on our last night in San Sebastian was at Arzak. Much has been written in the culinary world about the father and daughter duo at the helm, Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak Espina. Unlike our feast at Mugaritz, this was *only* seven courses, and I can tell you, given how much we had eaten in the three days leading up to dinner, we were somewhat relieved! As usual, I asked for the degustation without seafood or offal, which they were more than happy to oblige.
To start, we were brought an array of tasting dishes, including chorizo with tonic (at the front of the photo below) …
… bitter raspberry juice topped with melon and jamon …
… kabrarroka (a kind of fish) pudding wrapped in kataifi pastry and …
… anchovy and strawberry.
For the first course, I had the different interpretations of corn with crumbed balls of black pudding. The corn was delicious and I have to say, had I known at the time it was black pudding, I probably wouldn’t have eaten it, but it was actually delicious. When it was served they were described as crumbed sausage, which technically they were!
D had the cromlech, manioc and huitlacoche. Cromlech is the word used to describe the shape of the food (which was made out of crispy manioc, otherwise known as cassava) and filled with onion, green tea and foie gras. The idea was to pick it up with the filling inside, and eat it with your hands.
Next I had seasonal vegetables, including asparagus, peas and radish. For me, the theme of the no seafood/offal courses for the whole trip was pretty much asparagus and peas – good thing I like them!
D had a plate of lobster, presented in an unusual way, including clothes pegs! The lobster was served with crispy hemp bread and mustard vinaigrette. D said this course was some of the best lobster he’s eaten, and the only time he’s ever seen clothes pegs on a plate at a restaurant! I’d say it’s likely to be the last, too.
The third course for me was quite amazing. Called ‘ovo-lacto’, it was an egg with a semi crunchy shell, accompanied by gorgonzola, lactic leaves and curds.
My course paled in significance to D’s! We had seen this green dome being delivered to other tables and hoped we’d get a chance to see what lay beneath – monkfish. The dome itself was edible; puffed rice, if memory serves.
We both then moved on to beef – grilled rib eye with cous cous. The beef was tender and cooked to perfection.
Our final savoury course was lamb accompanied by fried grapes and longans. Just like the beef, the lamb was tender and cooked to perfection, and the longans added a really nice flavour and texture to the dish.
There were four desserts on the menu and they split them between us so that we could try all four. The first dessert was marbles of chocolate served with amaranth and oregano sauce. This course didn’t do much for either of us.
Next was white chocolate flavoured with parsley, filled with dark chocolate and served with Frangelico and Aperol balls – the balls were liquid in the centre, so when you bit into one, you had a rather large flavour explosion happen in your mouth!
Caramelized fruit served with black sesame bread, and pepper and licorice ‘ladybirds’ filled with yoghurt and olive oil. How stunning is that plate.
Enriched melon with wrinkled tomatoes, sumac, lime and chia seeds. Tomato in a dessert? Not for me, thanks.
To finish, we were brought an array of chocolates representing a hardware store. Cute and delicious.
Towards the end of the evening Juan Mari came out and said hello to us at our table which was a nice touch. He was hanging around downstairs when we left, so I managed to snag a photo with him 🙂
Overall, we enjoyed our dinner here but weren’t blown away. The service was great and the meat and the fish were all perfectly cooked, and while we can appreciate how much work went into creating each course, some of the flavour combinations didn’t do too much for our tastebuds. We left wanting more than we got, but I guess you can’t win them all.