After three beautiful days in Barcelona, we took a plane to the north and landed in San Sebastian, a city often lauded as a culinary center in Spain. Our destination was Arzak, a famous family-run restaurant owned by Juan-Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena. Arzak has three Michelin stars and has gained worldwide acclaim for its inventive approach to local Basque cuisine.
To top it all off, thanks to a connection that Jesse had with Inma, a friend of the Arzak family, we were given the VIP treatment and greeted at the door by Elena Arzak herself, whisked through the kitchen for a tour, and seated in the dining room diagonally across from where Yoko Ono was enjoying a dinner before the opening of her gallery in Bilbao. If that sentence sounds surreal, then trust me, it definitely felt even more surreal as the night unfolded. And not only was the experience incredible, the food definitely held up its end of the bargain as well.
So, without further ado, a look at our incredible meal at Arzak, the eighth best restaurant in the world.
We start the meal with some cava, a Spanish sparkling wine.
The restaurant’s decor is a mix of casual off-the-cuff elements and the formality of fine dining.
The tasting menu begins with a series of amuse bouches, my favorite of which was the mango with chorizo and tonic water served over a crushed can.
This lobster dish, featuring gelatinous tomato water, was also spectacular.
I am also always a sucker for a good poached egg, and this one, fried and gooey on the inside, was perfectly sumptuous. The little triangle on the right that looks like a pickle or meat is actually a piece of cheese.
Jesse and me! And our giant green crispy tent.
They present this dish with a big green bubble over it and then crack it down onto the monkfish below. The green stuff tastes like a big rice cracker. To the right below, our duck dish.
Meanwhile, Jesse opted for the deer, which was creatively presented over a thick tablet that simply displayed the visuals of a burning fire. It’s difficult to describe, but the effect was actually quite lovely!
And then came the desserts. Arzak does a lot of desserts and does them well. Our table was greeted with more than the usual sampling that comes with the tasting menu. My favorite presentation was the bell jar with an orange and carrot jelly that was diagonally solidified in the lid. And the nuts and bolts at the end of the meal were equally amusing and tasty.
Christine and Jon!
What a way to be welcomed to San Sebastian! This was definitely one of the loveliest dining experiences of my life, only to be followed up later by Noma in Copenhagen… Stay tuned for more!
Anna Wu is a wedding and portrait photographer based in San Francisco but often jetsetting and eating her way around the world. Read more on her blog or follow her on facebook for more photography and travel adventures.
Part 1: Barcelona, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 2: Gaudí’s City| Barcelona, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 3: Arzak | San Sebastian, Spain
Part 4: San Sebastian, Spain | International Travel Photography
Part 5: Noma | Copenhagen, Denmark
Part 6: Copenhagen, Denmark | International Travel Photography