Arzak’s reputation precedes itself. Anthony Bourdain could not stop gushing about Chef Juan Mari Arzak and his daughter Elena Arzak, who now helms the kitchen. He made it sound like he’s basically the Godfather of San Sebastian and a torchbearer for modern Basque cuisine. He pegged them as “two of the greatest chefs in the world.” How could I pass up the opportunity to dine at their world renowned, 3 Michelin star, #30 on the World’s Best 50 Restaurant, establishment? The food has been described as very modern and forward thinking. There’s an emphasis on local raw materials and Basque flavors, with the use of ingredients from all over the world to help foster and express the Arzak’s deep creativity and innovation.
Unfortunately, I’m going to keep the descriptions short or not comment on every item because I don’t have great things to say about most of them.
Moringa and Prawn Gyoza
A good first bite, bringing the Asian flavors I was starting to miss during our trip.
Banana and Squid
Very odd pairing.
Urban Seafood “Talo”
Black Pudding Rod
“Cecina” and Kalamata
Ham and melon was a traditional bite, but the olive added something a little different.
Fish of the day with “Patxaran” and Purple Corn
I was not terribly impressed with the fish, which was marinated in a Basque liquor “patxaran” made from blackthorn berries. The purple corn added some interesting texture, but I found it more odd than ground breaking.
Scarlet Prawn with Krill lemon grass, mint, beetroot, crunchy krill
I love all prawns, and this was well done. The beetroot and mint was something different. I thought that crunchy krill chip was a tad stale.
Egg with Corn egg with tomato candy, “pozole” corn and cordyceps
Hake with Chickpea Paints spinach, turmeric, colorful pickled vegetable paints
Hake is a very special local fish around these parts. The filet here was well cooked and paired with varying smears and sauces, containing such ingredients as marinated capers, pickled cauliflower, turmeric spiced chickpeas. It was beautiful to behold but the sauces were just OK.
White Tuna with Millenary Mushroom miso, instant ginger mochi, fruity sauce, reishi
Local, seasonal, line caught albacore belly was highlighted here. Frankly, I found the fish to be a tad fish. All the accouterments were a bit too out there for me with mochi marinated in ginger and passionfruit filled with dried tomato and green pepper. Shaved celery on top of the fish was meat to keep things fresh and light. The sauce was made of miso, paprika, and braised mushrooms. There was a small side salad of finely brunoised watermelon. Does this combination of ingredients sound appetizing to you? It seriously was such a mish mosh of flavors. FAIL!
Orange Colored Pigeon roasted with sake, ground cherries, mandarines, oranges, crispy onion
The pigeon was well roasted, but all the fruity flavors was just so not good.
Beef with Green Tea slightly spiced, toasted leeks sponge cake, hop sauce, “green tea smoke”
More of the same odd combination of disharmonious ingredients.
Chestnut Frost chestnut ice cream “sauced” with açai granita and fruits
The desserts were no more successful.
The Big Truffle largue cocoa, sugar truffle, creamy chocolate and carob filling
Churros with Rhodiola Cream
Probably the worst churros I’ve ever had.
Ice Cream tomato with strawberry, basil with pistachios
Definitely better than any of those composed desserts.
Chef Elena Arzak was in the house and came to every table to greet her guests. It was great to meet her and get a few pictures together. Sadly, I straight up lied to her face and told her how much we enjoyed her food. I felt bad, but the truth was better left unsaid.
Arzak has to be one of the VERY WORST Michelin rated meals I’ve ever have. It’s possible that maybe I just don’t get the vision of Arzak. Perhaps my palate is just not sophisticated enough to appreciate the greatness here. However, The Annoyer was totally on the same page with me. We were both EXTREMELY disappointed with our meal. We felt the combination of flavors were all over the place. The food was beyond innovative/creative and more in the territory of weird and not delicious. Michelin aside, it was frankly our least favorite meal of our entire trip. In the span of 2 days, we had both our BEST and WORST meals. I guess that’s saying something!
10 – You NEED to eat here
9 – Awesome
8 – Very good
7 – Good
6 – OK
5 – Average
4 – Not bad
3 – Not good
2 – Terrible
1 – Do NOT eat here