Friday, October 20, 2006

So this is what number 9 tastes like?

Two days in to San Sebastian and we are both very impressed with the town and our first taste of Spain. The people of San Sebastian are very friendly and while being a coastal town that has a heavy period of tourism during summer, by October, it is a normal town that is kept well and truly busy by the locals. Tonight the landmarks of the town were lit up making the already impressive night views even more spectacular.

Along with being a great beach town, it is also a bit of a foodie mecca with some stating that San Sebastian has more Michelin Stars per head than any other place in the world. Heading this charge is a restaurant by the name of Arzak which has held 3 Michelin stars since 1989 which is a huge achievment. The restuarant is also ranked as number 9 in the top 50 restuarants of the world 2006. After chickening out of the high prices of number 3 ranked Pierre Gagnierre in Paris, I couldn't let Arzak slip by.

The thing that interested me most though is, after going to some great restuarants such as Vue De Monde, Sakai's in Japan and Les Crayeres only a few days before, how much room for improvement is there? As much as I would love to say tons, I would say the improvements would only be incremental at best. That said, the differential between two and three stars can be quantified.

Arzak delivered dish after dish of well presented food that ranged from very simple letting the core ingredient sing out (the best calamari I have ever had and some damn good beef and lamb) to some molecular gastronomy. For example, cheese coated in melon toffee that had pop rocks embedded is an example of how flavours and textures that may not mesh on first thoughts can do so and surprise.

In the end, Arzak was a very good dining experience and the food really could not be faulted, unlike Vue and Les Crayeres which had some brilliant dishes but also had a few slips. The biggest compliment I can give is that they delivered umpteen courses yet we left not feeling as if we were about to explode, that and the place also had a very strong self confidence of a restaurant that had nothing to prove. A very good dining experience indeed.