From the exterior Arzak is a simple red brick building with nothing given away as we pull to the curb a doorman steps out open the door and welcoming us in.
We step into a small bar and are offered an aperitif here or we could be seated. We chose the seated option. A wall slides open to reveal the modern dining room, a complete contrast to the simply decorated bar. The concrete walls set with imprints of cutlery, sleek white table clothes, funky cutlery and pencil drawn menus. Sweet
As far as we're concerned there's no other option as far as ordering goes, it's degustation all the way. We take a look over the menu eyeing whats on offer and hoping the ones that catch our eye are on the course menu today.
So when the waiter took our order and then offered 3-4 options on nearly every course there was much awe and amazement. We were both going to get all the things we wanted. With the food out of the way the sommelier stopped by to see what we would like to drink .. we asked if we could get a matching wine course and were told while they did not have a wine course they would be more than happy to match wines to our meal. Would we like international, or Spanish. We went for the Spanish and were again delighted to see we each received different wine for each course.
As we sipped our cava several amuse bouche were delivered to the table. Strawberries with fresh cheese curd and pickled white anchovies. Fried rockfish pudding wrapped in crispy noodles. Tempura of blood pudding. Red bean soup with apple and warm jellied mushroom with corn powder. All inventive little bites of deliciousness giving us a hint of the joys to follow.
Manazanas asadas con aceite de fois.
Caramelized apple with foie and citrus confetti; Four discs of caramelized apple sat in a row, domes of seared foie atop each, individual sacs of orange and grapefruit brought gasps of how pretty and man that would take a lot of time to prep.
Patata, bogavante y copaiba
Lobster and potato; Poached lobster and and spherical ball of red pepper inside a puffed potato wafer sitting in a pool of sauce made from the Brazilian copaiba tree. The lobster was tender and sweet and the wafer started off with a crunch then dissolved away to nothing - clever.
Menhir de ostras
Oysters menhir; When I see the word menhir I think of Obelix the menhir delivery man in the Asterix books. The oysters arrived with a small menhir of puffed beet and confit potato stacked beside the oysters which had been sauteed to give then a nice crust. Perhaps the oysters were from Brittany giving them the Gaulic reference??
Huevo con temblor de tierra
Tremors of the earth; This was a dish we had heard much about and wanted to try - a slow cooked egg with sun dried tomato and black olive crumbs. The warm egg yolk mixed with the savoury flavours, a fancy comfort food.
Rape marea baja
Monkfish at lowtide; When this dish came out we were both stunned it was so visually perfect. The description in the menu was spot on, a piece of beautifully cooked monkfish sat in the wave wash of low tide right there on my plate and it was all edible, from the nori flavored seashells to the red pepper balls, tempura seaweed and liqueur jelly star fish. As well as looking like life it sacrificed no flavor at all. Beautiful and delicious!
Seabass with spinach, walnuts and garlic; Playfulness jumped off the plate with a nothing is as it seems presentation. The garlic cloves were made of spinach, the walnuts of paprika and the sauce a velvety smooth garlic, the walnuts coming on the side as a glassy wafer.
Pichon con Chia
Pigeon with chia seed; The pigeon breast was cooked a perfect med rare and served with one of the birds favourite snack the chia seed. The seed came in the form of a cracker as well as chia spheres filled with broth. Along side a small bowl of the confit leg and micro greens.
Cordero con bizcocho de algas
Lamb; While the lamb was expertly cooked the dish itself was just as you saw it, perhaps it paled only when presented alongside the other dishes of kitchen wizardry we had already been given.
With the last of our savoury plates cleared it was time for a little something sweet. When making our menu choices we were asked if we like chocolate, sure why not. Based on that vague answer our desert menu was planned.
Sopa y chocolate entre vinedos
Soup and chocolate between the vineyards; Warm liquid chocolate spheres swimming in a strawberry soup with a scoop of basil ice cream.
Chocolate y cristales de colores
Chocolate with coloured glass; Small dabs of chocolate mousse paired with puffed wafers of different flavours, cinnamon, rosemary and red cabbage. Alongside a chocolate herb ice cream.
Sweet Moon??; It sure looked like the moons surface. A grey salty sweet powder made up the surface with thickened red wine filled craters, and moon rocks of liquid orange juice encased in caramel.
Hidromiel y fractal fluido
Mead with fractured fluid; This was a desert in several parts. First lemon curd encased in chocolate shell, alongside a yogurt ice cream and finally bowl of clear liquid is presented before a small jug of red liquid is poured into the center of it. The red raced through the clear spreading out like a coral through the bowl. Tre cool.
With coffee came petite fors. A plate of chocolates, jellies, wafers and more. Just a little something to ease the coffee along.
Throughout the meal Juan Mari had come out several times to personally see if all was well. As we were leaving his daughter Elana was waiting to say goodbye, a fantastic personal touch to the meal, it really made you feel welcome.
As we said goodbye I glanced at my watch for the first time that afternoon and was surprised to find that 5 hours had passed effortlessly and un-noticed.
We had heard so many good and many so so stories about Arzak before we arrived, but we experienced nothing but excellence. The service was warm ,welcoming and professional, the food perfectly prepared, imaginative and exciting.
273 Avenida Alcalde Elosegui
20015 Donostia/San Sebastian
Phone: +34 943 278 465