I’m typically fairly slow to post about meals. Currently, it seems my slow speed has become a halt. In an attempt to get out of this slump, I’m writing about my two-a-day at Mugaritz last September. Since I met Rocky, I’ve told her tales of the greatness of San Sebastian and its legendary Basque food culture. So we made it the longest stop on our Euro-dining-trip last fall, and made sure to maximize our indulgence in local fare, from street food to three-starred.
One particularly notable day, Rocky and I had breakfast at the hotel, then walked a few meters to the beach for a nice morning swim in the ocean(as we started each day there). Come lunch time, we cleaned up and hit the road to Errenteria for round one at Chef Andoni Aduriz’s Mugaritz. (click here for round two)
We rolled up to the grounds, parked the Smart Car next to a brand new Aston Martin, and announced our arrival. A picture perfect day, we opted start our meal on their serenely arranged patio.
We sat down around a low table on somewhat dirty and damp cushions and got started with snacks and a couple glasses of Txakoli(which I was introduced to on that same patio about three and a half years prior).
Flax and wheat “Kraft” paper with marine accents. Introduced to us as linen paper with spider crab. The cracker was extra light and delicately crisp.
“Fishbones” with nuances of lemon, garlic and cayenne pepper. This had a fun texture and a nice variety of flavor to wake up the tongue.
Scarlett shrimp over sake lees. It would have been nice if the shrimp had a little more density, but the spinach leaf it was served on was great.
Grilled toast of bone marrow with herbs and horseradish ash. I really liked the toast and the leaves, though the snack as a whole was kind of cumbersome for finger food and really rich for an opener.
Marine chords of a crispy woodwind. I think they presented this to us as ‘crunchy cloud with sea animal’. These were fantastic, with a good maritime flavor.
We lingered outside a few moments longer, then were escorted to a fantastic table in the dining room.
Tomato and sweet garlic… creamed legumes. This plate was quite amazing. A lovely, meaty tomato. Pleasant black garlic that was more restrained than most I’ve had. White bean sauce below that gave a very low-key umami. A real delight to eat.
Tagliatelle of concentrated milk lightly soaked in a silky juice of roasted squash and tomato. The dried milk skin noodles were a lot of fun, especially with the sauce and the pork lardo wrap.
Ravioli of aromatic vegetables. The ravioli had a grassy, herbaceous taste. The sauce, based with chicken I think, had a strong savoriness. Both had a pleasant amount of bitterness.
Hazelnut and beans stew. With ‘mother of pearl’. The hazelnuts cooked to a fantastic texture. The broth again was strong and savory.
Portion of home-made cheese, cured in its own rind, mushrooms and fleshy leaves. This was presented to us as a guessing game of ‘What kind of cheese is this?’ It turns out it’s raw milk and linen seed brushed with some chemical(the name of which I forgot) to create its own rind. It wasn’t very good. The mushrooms were alright though.
“Bonding… ” Toasted seeds and spices served in a Mortar and vegetable broth. With cod and sunflower petal. This DIY dish was a lot of fun. At a certain point in the service, each table in the dining room received the mise en place for the course, regardless of where they were in their meal, and were given instructions to grind the seeds and peppercorns. It was nice watching(and hearing) the whole room do this together. Then an army of servers stormed the room finishing the dishes with the fish and broth.
Macaron. Meringue made from almond flour, sugar, and pig’s blood(apparently a great substitute for egg white) with blue cheese filling. I think most of the diners received these in the kitchen before or near the start of their meals. They way ours showed up seemed like someone just noticed they hadn’t been checked off of our expo sheet yet.
Roasted loin of hake with clashing grains of aged mascarpone, cauliflower and fresh almonds. Clean flavors. The cauliflower and almond were nice to balance out the fish and cheese, which both shared similar richness with inherent sweetness.
Slices of monkfish cooked with the steam of its bones. Crispy stew of roasted rinds and lilies. I think I’d have liked this quite a lot more if it weren’t the third white fish course in a row(I still liked it though). The crispy rinds on top were outstanding.
Breast of guineafowl with lobster emulsion and its roasted skin. Beautifully crispy skin. An expert layering of rich elements without hitting too hard.
Crunchy terrine of Iberian pig tails with a bunch of bitter leaves and Txakoli sediments. Well executed crunch on the terrine. The sauce was good, with nice acid to cut the richness. I loved the thickness of the leaves.
A taste of subtlety. Folded linen with toasted créme fraiche and créme caramel. The napkin was light and brittle with a citrus-like taste.
“Forgotten memory from childhood.” Small bite of milky wafer with lemon ice cream. Like an unrolled waffle ice cream cone.
“Traditional” almond Fairy cake. Ice cream cake with almond and flax seed.
Candies of frankincense. The perfume of eucalyptus barks. A little sweet. A little sour. A little smoky.
Some wines(and a beer) we were served:
And an impressive tea box:
And Rocky closing down the dining room(as usual):
Overall a fantastic meal. Though far from the magic I remembered from my first visit, and a letdown to Rocky from the build-up I gave the restaurant. But we maintained our optimism and were just as excited to return for dinner in a few hours(which can be seen here).
Date of visit: September 21st 2012
Mugaritz. Otzazulueta Baserria, Aldura Aldea 20. 20100, Errenteria. Gipuzkoa, Spain. +34 943 52 24 55 http://www.mugaritz.com/