Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain

photo 1This was a special meal. A really special meal. The location and interior of the restaurant was perfect. I kept being amazed at how many different plates existed to serve each different course. The food was amazing as well (more on that later, obviously). There were a few, tiny issues with the service (not cleaning up spots of liquid that they had accidentally dropped on the table, taking a dish away when one of us was still eating, and finally, having waiters that didn’t speak any English present the dishes (while there were English-speaking waiters that presented some of our other dishes)). But that was really a small piece of our whole experience.

We started off by walking into the restaurant and sitting down – we were offered an apperitif. Hanna started with some cava, and I had some txakoli, the local white (mildly sparkling) wine.

Then, pretty quickly, we were asked to come take a walk through the kitchen… very cool. We were served a small marshmellow of pigs blood, pine nuts, onion, and black pepper. Apparently they mix the pigs blood into a meringue, which gives it its marshmellow texture – interesting! It was light, fluffy and had a good onion/ pine nut taste, with the black pepper kicking in a bit later.

photoAfter this, we came back to our table for a few amuse bouche… the first being a mussel smoked with a Parmesan filling (wow, such great flavours) and a piece of local blue cheese

photo 2which, turning it over, we saw was stuffed with anchovies… what a great combination…

photo 3After this came the “tender fry,” a piece of gelatinous tendon made to look like a piece of potato, in a jus… looks nicely browned like a potato, doesn’t it? But this was probably one of my least favourite dishes, as tendons (and tripe) aren’t my favourite body parts…

photo 4After this came one of the most inventive courses of the meal. We received small bowls and handles (essentially a mortar and pestle) filled with sweet corn, garlic and pork (belly and other bits) with some thyme.

photo 5We were asked to mash these all together… at first, it was difficult and didn’t do very much, but bit by bit, they started to liquify somewhat – at which point, the waiters added some jelly with lovely wildflowers in it. And we were told to keep stirring.

photo 2(1)After a while, we had each made a nice paste…

photo 4(1)And were quite proud of ourselves…

photo 3(1)We were given a spoon and some bread, and told to eat mixture as we liked, either as a soup with the spoon, or sopped up with the bread. I actually preferred the soup version first, then sopped up the sides of the dish with the bread. Mmm.

photo 2 (2)After this came duck neck… filled with leaves and delicate herbs, including shisho leaves, which I think are one of the best herbs ever…

photo 1 (2)Isn’t that pretty? And how do you like the dish, the neck is actually placed on the neck of the duck… Nice.

photo 3 (2)After this came the Chinese chive flower tempura – a chive flower (stalk of chive) tempura’ed, with light Chinese spices. The inside of the flower still had a bit of less well-done tempura (amazing) and the spices were done perfectly. Wow.

photo 4 (2)Pork skin with a dumpling undernearth, topped with a pork confit. And that herb? No idea what it is. We searched far and wide for its names. I even emailed the restaurant after our meal to ask, but they never got back to me.. It had a lemony taste to it. Anyone know what it is?

photo 5 (2)After this, we were given a small dish of very simple green chickpeas (ever seen those before?) with a little salt as a palate cleanser. They tasted like many other sprouts.

The next dish was fun. Towards the beginning of the meal, they had put a plate with what looked like moss on the opposite side of the table. And it just sat there, as we looked at it and wondered whether it was just decoration. It wasn’t.

photo 1We were given a small bowl with a tahini-like sauce (apparently cream of pine) and told to take the moss and dip! This was a pine and mud concoction.

photo 2The moss was slightly great tasting, and light… and a good accompaniment to the cream. We each polished ours off!

photo 3Then, the corazon de luz (heart of light), a delicious tomato “heart” that had been peeled and poached in a gelatinous broth… very simple and savoury… With that same lemony herb.

Then, beef cheeks with sauerkraut powder. I don’t usually like the tangy taste of sauerkraut, but this was very nice!

photo 4

After this came a fun game…. along with instructions

photo 3 (2)We were given three small “knuckles,” white lacquered pieces, and asked to place some in our right hand and some in our left, then put on (closed) left hand out and each guess how many knuckles we had between the two of us in our closed hands. The person that was closer to the number won. Guess who won?

photo 1 (2)On the side, we were given a piece of baguette bread with a porous cream/creme fraiche. Once I WON the game, they came and gave me a jar of caviar… all for me 🙂

photo 5I (very) briefly considered not sharing my winnings, but didn’t think that the bread and creme would be very good without! So, doing the Christan thing…

photo 2 (2)We shared the caviar. And this was one of the best dishes on the whole menu!!

 After this intermediate course, we (finally) passed to the main courses.

We started with a poached white aubergine with white miso.

photo 4 (2)This was just ok. The aubergine was very tender and looked like a piece of fish (maybe this was a knock-off miso cod?). I found that there wasn’t enough of a miso smear on the aubergine… it didn’t taste like very much, and the small herbs you see above really overpowered everything else – these were another herb I hadn’t had before… it was much stronger and tasted of anise. Meh.

photo 5 (2)Then, the hake with milk pods and white asparagus. These were little globs full of milk (interesting, not really good or bad, just not tons of taste) on the flaky and delicious hake… But where are the asparagus? We couldn’t see them either. Or taste them… how odd! I wonder if there were subtly incorporated, or if they had run out that day?

photo 1Then, another of my favourites, called the chicken and the egg… a homage to the Spanish creme Catalan. This was made with crisped chicken skin top, a chicken broth egg flan, and pieces of lobster. The dish was super rich, but inventive and really good.

photo 2

Then, a very simple (rib) steak tartare, with sweet meat that practically melted in our mouths… served with spring onions and caviar on top. Wow. Another show-stopper!

photo 3For the last bit of the main course, a very unique dish… lamb served with a piece of (edible) wool. The idea being that the whole dish came from the animal. Cool.  The lamb and the wool (along with the syrup) had been smoked, and the syrup tasted of eucalyptus. I wouldn’t say that I loved this dish, but I enjoyed its uniqueness.

Then, on to dessert. All five of them!

photo 5 (3)The first one was ok… it was a deconstructed strachiatella. I’m not a huge strachiatella person as it is… and the white cream tasted… like not very much. It was really just ok… even Hanna didn’t eat the whole thing!

photo 1 (3)Next came a much better dessert… a sweet and tart lemon sorbet in an edible lemon skin. It was delicious. In the middle, there was a sort of cristalized sugar zest and an oily rind that had a spice to it… And that mystery herb on top, to boot! Just. Perfection.

photo 2 (3) After this, their version of a chocolate and caramel cronut. Honestly? Eh. Not really my thing. But Hanna really enjoyed it.

Then, another winner, and another really unique dish… we were given these stalks with balls on the end to hold… and told to slowly unwrap the leaf.

photo 3 (3)And inside we found a fig. With some red smears on it.

photo 4 (3)Then I realized… oh my God… sea urchin. They had put sea urchin inside. Brilliant. Amazing. The combination (I could use juxtaposition here but I would just come off sounding douchey) of the sweet and the briny tastes was amazing. I’m not a huge fan of figs, and really wanted another one. Bravo.

And finally, the last dessert, churros with rock sugar.

photo 5 (4)We were given several rocks (bottom left) earlier on during dessert and wondered what they were for. Upon receiving the churros, we were told to use the silver grater to grate sugar onto the churros. Very fun and a great ending to the meal.

Oh… but we weren’t done there. They took us outside for our coffees. It was a gorgeous day, so they seated us at a table in the sun (mind you, it was about 5:30pm as we walked out of lunch) and brought some little things to snack on while we had our coffees.

Oh my.

photo 1These represent the seven deadly sins. Really, after all that eating???

I’ve since forgotten all the different chocolates that matched up with the different sins, but there was a white chocolate with a rose cream, small chocolate “pebbles”, a ginger chocolate candy, a caramel chocolate, and several others… A gluttunous but delicious way to finish the meal.

photo 2(1) photo 2 photo 3(1) photo 3 photo 4 photo 5 photo 5(1)

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