Many, many months before we actually bought our tickets to San Seb, CuzJen informed me that Fremma had managed to score us a reservation at Arzak. When I told Patri, former resident of San Seb, she nearly fell off her chair. Because for those who don't know, San Sebastian has the most Michelin-starred restaurants per capita - Arzak being one of those places as well as being voted the 8th Best Restaurant in the World in 2013. So was it worth the hype? Let's go!
We got a lunch booking for 13:30 but rocked up un-Spanishly early. So early in fact that we were not only the first to arrive in the restaurant but that the staff were surprised we were there - they were outside enjoying the sun! They quickly clicked to form though.
Embroidered tablecloths, just in case you were looking down and forgot where you were.
Interestingly long cutlery.
Gotta say, the bread was pretty good!
Even though it was only lunch time, we all agreed - !&$* the expense, we were all going to have the 8 course degustation! When the waiter took our orders, we were allowed to have a selection of what we'd like for each course. Unfortunately I have only recorded my own meal here which sometimes varied from CuzJen and Fremma's. Anyway. Onto to meal!
Course 1 - an amuse-bouche collection
Our first - Gilda with carrot and ssamjang. This reminded me a bit of the baby-corn and truffle I had at Vue de Monde
Scorpion fish mousse with kataifi. Crispy outside, squishy inside, this kinda reminded me of things I miss from yum cha.
Bitter raspberry juice with jamon and melon. I really enjoyed this despite not being sure how I was supposed to eat/drink it. The flavour contrast of the salty ham with the sweet melon and creamy berry juice...tasty.
Chorizo and tonic water. Research tells me that the chorizo was wrapped in thinly sliced mango and marinated in citrus juice. I had no idea that was mango - I totally thought it was something like wonton wrapper until I ate it and realised that it wasn't pastry.
Tuna with strawberry. Another flavour combination I wouldn't have thought would go together and yet, totally did! This sense of wonderment at contrasting flavours set the tone for our meal!
The first 'proper' course - apple injected with beetroot with creamy foie gras and potato 'mother of peal'. This was so pretty I just wanted to admire it. The prettiness was also a bit of a problem as I wasn't sure if I was supposed to every everything on the plate, if you get what I mean.
Lobster 'Sea and Garden' - grilled lobster with crispy star-shaped crepe and greens. I nearly cried eating this - the lobster was so sweet and succulent and perfectly paired with the clear tomato. And the crepe looked like an octopus with curly tentacles!
Ovo-lacto - soft egg with semi-crunchy shell and baobab with leaves and curds. I was a little bit disappointed with this. Normally I love egg dishes - and the egg was wonderful - but I found the crispy shell, which was made from milk, I think, to be a bit cloying and sticky in my mouth.
Squid on leaves - grilled squid flavoured with kaffir lime leaves served with potato confit in black oil and onion sauce. Now THIS was my favourite dish of my entire meal. Other than looking beautiful - the way the fig leaf uncurled - it tasted amazing. I don't know why the official description doesn't say so, but it also paired the squid with figs.
A combination I would have never considered, it has revolutionised my life! I wanted to go out and buy some figs and squid and try to see how to put it together!
Also, fig and matcha - gotta remember to put them together as well!
Beef with vegetable screens - grilled rib eye with caramelised vegetable glasses and couscous. Again, so pretty! And when they say 'caramelised', they really mean it because those screens were sweet. Not pictured was a side of...yoghurt? I wasn't sure how I was supposed to eat it with the meal and ended up spooning it out.
And now! The multi-course dessert!
The Big Truffle - large cocoa and sugar truffle with creamy chocolate and carob filling.
And then chocolate sauce was poured all over it, leading he truffle to collapse on itself.
Thank god for the cocoa coating because it's bitterness stopped the dessert from being too sweet.
MY OTHER FAVOURITE DISH - BLACK LEMON!!!
The lemons were made with a chocolate shell to look like the dried preserved lemons they were presented on, and then cracked open at the table to reveal the lemon curd inside. For those in constant search of tang - your hunt is at an end.
And finally, some petit fours of chocolate nuts and bolts. I could have done without this.
We were presented with menus outlining our meal after we finished eating.
And we also got a photo and chat with Elena Arzak. She was pleasantly surprised when we told her we were from Melbourne and said that was one of her favourite places in the world with so many great places to eat.
Now, I have read reviews/boards where people have said they found the service at Arzak brusque. Speaking from my own experience, I did not find this was the case. Maybe it was because we had a lunch service, maybe it was because they could see we were a bunch of highly enthusiastic and excitable Asians, maybe it's because we were too happy to notice if anyone was rude. It's true, some of the waitstaff were better than others, especially at describing the food and giving advice on how we were to eat it, but I would say that overall they were quite obliging.