I’m not one to live and die by the Michelin guide. Take Chicago for example… the gem of all gems, Avec, doesn’t even have one star because it was under construction from a kitchen fire when the judges were in town, yet L2O has three stars despite its chef leaving before the guide even printed.
But when you’re in the town with the highest density of multi-starred restaurants per kilometer in the world, you have to check it out.
Welcome to San Sebastian. I was prepared to pay up for one uber special meal. I read a dozen reviews of the options, which were all hyper critical and unhelpful. Perhaps because food critics are just that: critics. Well I’m no professional critic. I’m just a regular girl who happens to think that food is the highlight of one’s existence. So I ditched the reviews and settled on trying Arzak, run by Chef Juan-Mari and his daughter Elena. Mostly because I liked that the daughter is such a bad-ass chef. And I liked the contrast of a 125-year-old family-owned restaurant using crazy modern science to surprise and delight its patrons.
And surprise and delight it did.
Starting with the corn chowder amusebouche – made with corn, caramelized figs, and black pudding. Continuing with the Cromlech – crisp shells made of yucca, standing like prehistoric stone structures, and filled with foie gras, onion, green tea and coffee. Which sounds so insanely disgusting but was so insanely delicious. And ending with these scientifically rendered chocolate balls (move over Joe Schweaty) that were reminiscent of mochi but way more delicate.
The icing on the cake was getting some time with both Juan-Mari and Elena. Elena gave us a tour of the kitchen and made us feel like we were the most fascinating people she’d ever met, even though surely she does this every night and hears the same thing over and over and over again. And the jovial Juan-Mari swapped stories of Alinea with me after hearing that I was from Chicago, and jumped up to pose for a picture with us.
As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. And Arzak was well worth the pricetag.
Alto de Miracruz, 21
20015 Donostia . San Sebastian
+34 943 278 465