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Arzak Reviews

This was my third visit to Arzak, a well-known restaurant in the city. You will find it in a quiet neighborhood on one of the hills overlooking San Sebastian, and it is just a short drive from the town center. The current head chef, Juan Mari Arzak, grew up in the building, which his grandfather created. Given Mr Arzak’s advanced age (he was seventy years old at the time of writing), his daughter Elena now manages the majority of the culinary operations, but he was still in the kitchen this evening. Arzak was granted its third Michelin star in 1989, and it has maintained that status ever since. There are two dining rooms, one on the ground level and one on the second floor, which can accommodate a total of 55 diners at a time.
The wine list was 46 pages long and had a wonderful range of Spanish wines, including various vintages of the legendary Vega Sicilia Unico. The food was excellent, and the service was excellent. With the rare and wonderful 1995 Rioja Alta 890, we were able to drink it at a price that was just over its £86 retail price in the United Kingdom, provided you could get it at all. The bread, which came with a choice of white or brown, was tasty and had a nice crust (17/20). A tasting menu was available for €179, in addition to the à la carte menu (which included appetizers ranging from €45 to €49, main dishes ranging from €55 to €70, and desserts ranging from €29 to €49). Its wine list was extensive and very reasonably priced: Alion 2007 was €65 for a wine that would normally cost €58 in a shop, Chateau La Fleur Petrus 1999 was €199 for a wine that would normally cost about £151 in a shop, and there was an extensive offering from Sicily’s venerable Unico region, some at prices below the retail price, such as Vega Sicilia Unico 1981 at €309, which would normally cost about €350.
The dinner started off with a sequence of little bites. Despite the fact that a fish ball in angel hair pasta was delicious, a corn soup with leaves was much too salty for my liking. A marinated sardine with strawberry was a combination that, although I see the reasoning for combining a fruit with an oily fish, I found the strawberry to be much too sweet to work well with the sardine, resulting in a bitter flavor clash on the tongue. Another unusual combination was marinated gooseberry with potato chips, with the crisps being laced with mint. The potato with amaranth was superior, whilst the chorizo with melon had predominantly melon in flavor. In terms of quality, this was a fairly varied bag of nibbles (with an average rating of of 15/20).
My appetizer, a savoury cone of crunchy yucca plant stuffed with foie gras mousse, was a more certain bet; it was a hit. The mousse had a satisfying amount of richness, and the crunchy vegetables provided a good textural contrast (18/20). Lobster with hemp seeds contained soft shellfish, with a few leaves concealing a mustard sauce, and on the side, a strange combination of tapioca and salad leaves (16/20). Lobster with hemp seeds The squid with onion and lemon sauce was excellent, with no trace of chewiness in the squid and the lemon portion of the sauce giving excellent acidity to balance the dish (17/20). A plate of seasonal vegetables consisted of a variety of vegetables that had been cooked but were given cold: broccoli, courgette, mushrooms, asparagus, tomato, with radish, red onion, cocoa beans, and pear; and courgette, mushrooms, asparagus, tomato, with radish, red onion, cocoa beans, and pear. However, the problem with such a simple dish is that the quality of the vegetables determines whether it is successful or unsuccessful: this kind of dish works at places like the Louis XV in Monaco, where the local vegetables are of unparalleled quality, but here the dish was simply a series of pleasant but uninspiring cold vegetables (14/20).
Monkfish with figs and gooseberry was a delicately prepared dish, with the fig flavor being so mild that it was almost indistinguishable from the fish (17/20). Despite the fact that the pigeon with red onion featured excellent and well-seasoned pigeon breast, the smears of sauce had practically bonded to the very hot plate, leaving only dry blotches. This was just owing to the fact that the plates were overheated, yet it resulted in the meal consisting entirely of protein. However, this kind of fundamental technological blunder was not what you would expect from a three-star restaurant, especially given the high quality of the pigeon (18/20).Although the chocolate with lemon and basil ice cream was delicious, I am still not persuaded that merging shrubbery-based ingredients into dessert courses is a smart idea, and more specifically, the citrus flavor was so mild as to be almost nonexistent (15/20). Although a chocolate sponge with sesame-flavored ice cream and green gooseberry ice cream was tasty, it was far from spectacular (16/20). To put it mildly, the service was off-key, to put it another way. We had to wait an uncomfortably long time before our meal order was taken, and this was after the wine had already come. The service was irregular, and the servers seemed to be overworked as a result of the large number of people in the dining area. At one point, a tray with the savoury cones of foie gras came for another table and was placed at a waiter station before being placed on the table. The upright cones on one platter had toppled over, and after a quick nervous look from one waiter to another, there was a shrug and the cones were still served. This was obviously not going to harm the flavor, but this kind of sloppiness, while acceptable at a bar, was not something a restaurant of this caliber should be engaging in.

My most recent visit to Arzak was far less effective than my prior visits. The servers were definitely overworked, maybe because it was a particularly tough service in which all of the customers arrived at the same time and/or because they were short-staffed. On the culinary front, there were a few small mistakes that should not have happened, but there were also no really outstanding meals, which was probably even more concerning. When Elena Arzak came out at the conclusion of the ceremony, she inquired about our experiences and was really understanding of the difficulties we had had. She was genuinely concerned, and she acknowledged that it had been an unusually busy session. Despite the fact that this was an objectively fine lunch, I considered it to be less pleasurable than my prior trips here, and I have thus reduced the web site score by one point in order to reflect this.

Cuisine Type: Creative, Traditional Cuisine

Specialties:
Bogavante con espárragos fermentados y batak

Relieve de pescado del día marinado con canela y escorzonera

Ruinas de chocolate, pectina de algarroba y crujiente de miel

Address: Avenida Alcalde José Elosegi 273, Donostia / San Sebastián, 20015, Spain

Phone: +34 943 27 84 65

Website: Arzak Official Site

Hours: Closed: 7 November-1 December, Monday, Sunday

Michelin Stars: 3