Monday, 29 May 2017

Pintxos Bars in San Sebastián

We had one afternoon to check out the pintxos bars in the city, and he did the research to make sure we hit the best bars. It was tough to narrow down to 3 places and only order a couple of dishes from each.

We were quite disciplined to only order 2 or 3 pintxos from each joint. Though it was so tempting to order more.

La Cuchara de San Telmo
Oreja de Cerdo Prensada Crujiente Melosa. Hummus de Garbanso - Honeyed pressed Pigs Ears 
This was one of my favourite dishes of the trip. The sheets of cartilage were slow-cooked to a melty gelatinous texture that dissolved in mouth that leaves a trail of fragrant nutty essence. The ears were sweet and savoury from the light drizzle of honey, soft with a bit of chew and a bit of bite, playfully delicious.

Cochina de Salamanca Asado con Keeler y Deshuesada - Roasted Boneless Suckling Pig with Local Beer
The sucking pig was soft and juicy, sprinkled with an array of aromatics including citrus peels to keep a refreshing note.

Foie-gras salteado con Compota de Manzara, sal gris y caramelo de sidra - sautéed foie gras with apple compote, grey salt and cider caramel
The generous slab of foie gras was beautifully seared to a crispy top, simply seasoned with flecks of sea salt, sat atop of a bed of apple purée, sweet and tangy to life the grease from indulgent foie gras. 

Borda Biretti
This pintxos bar was just as casual, with a good mix of locals and tourists. Like La Cuchara, we placed our orders at the counter. Instead of yelling out names when the food is ready, we were just signalled by the lady behind the counter.

Arroz "Bomba"
This was quite good. The rice was cooked with bits of squid and a shellfish stock, oozing seafood goodness. 

Risotto de "Puntalete"
The risotto was very cheesy, al-dente and all. Just not very exciting.

"Kebab" de Costilla de Cerdo
This was arguably the least enjoyable pintxos. The thinner part of the rib was dry and sinewy, there was only one bite mingled with softened grease that was good. A bit annoyed we wasted space in our stomachs.

Bar Zeruka
La Honguera de Bacalao - Smoked Cod Bonfire
This was incredibly delicious. The slithery smoked cod was served with a cube of smoking charcoal, and a small tube of herb dressing. The fillet had a texture similar to sashimi, glistening with a layer of fragrant fish oils, paired with the crunchy caramelised onions on a slice of baguette that had soaked up the sweetness. Crazily good.

Vieira a la plancha - Grilled Scallop
There were two jumbo scallops with their roe intact, simply grilled to perfection to retain its creaminess. 

La Viña - Cheesecake
We were recommended to have only cheesecake here. One portion came with two slices - dense, rich and velvety with a slightly burnt top - gorgeous.

The food was amazing, and we were spoilt for choices. I was still thinking how we could cram another pigs ears dish into our schedule when we were walking to Mirador de Ulia for lunch our flight...

Monday, 22 May 2017

Mirador de Ulia, San Sebastian

To make the most of our weekend trip in San Sebastián, we booked lunch at the 1-star Mirador de Ulia. It would be way too indulgent to have two 3-star meals back-to-back, and Mugaritz was booked out.

We decided to work up an appetite by walking up to the hillside restaurant; including the wandering around town, it was a good 1.5hr walk. We felt slightly underdressed when we were shown to the table by the window in the conservatory. Thankfully other diners were more casual than smart too, except for a group of Asian ladies that wore bridesmaid-style dresses.

We were offered a lemon and brandy welcome drink, which was so refreshing after walking in the heat. We took a long time deciding between the tasting menu and a la carte. The oyster with champagne was only available on the tasting, and it had the lobster and tuna belly that I wanted, but I couldn't care for the asparagus and duck; I really wanted to try the cod cheeks too. Ended up a la carte with a bottle of vintage cava.


The amuse bouche selection was very intriguing; we started with the soft mini bun stuffed with chopped chorizo served with the mushroom velouté, then the pressed chicken wing and crispy ball with explosive runny purée. The puffed chicken feet cracker lined with a layer of pâté was one of my favourites, as was the slightly sweet olive with a smear of anchovy.

Norway lobster laced in fresh herbs emulsion, Iberian nuances and yuzu pearls
The lobster pile was muscular and succulent with its sweet oceanic juice, perfectly cooked to retain a marginally creamy centre enveloped by bouncy lobster meat. The delicate fragrance from yuzu pearls highlighted the natural essence in the lobster, simply seasoned with gentle herb foam. It was immensely satisfying.

Kokotxas - hake kokotxas, black garlic, bread soufflé, txakolí pearls
I love cod cheeks, it's the softest part of the fish, contrasted with some toasted fish skin brittles. The txakolí (local fizzy wine) jelly was served at the table and I can't tell you what it tasted like. Making it into a jelly took out all the gas and so it was just cubes of jelly with a mild alcoholic aftertaste. The fish morsels were lightly torched to leave the skin crispy with slight charring, topped with a puffed cracker filled with creamed-garlic. Although the cheeks were very enjoyable, I felt this dish was lacking some sauce.

Merluza - hake with kokotxas
Its hard to be impressed by a hake fillet after the one we had in Akelare the night before. Though perfectly cooked and deliciously silky, it just didn't have that je-sais-quoi. Very good, not extraordinary.

Ventresca de Atún - Tuna Belly with mojo of their own skin
I was so excited to see this on the menu, and it certainly didn't disappoint. The slithers of tuna belly were flash-seared on the outside so that the centre was still raw but the glorious fish oils were melting. The tuna belly was at its optimal state. Unlike the clean-tasting o-toro sashimi, the searing brings out the fishy flavours, which was quickly washed away as the slice of fish melted in mouth, releasing its mind-blowing fish oils. The dried cherry tomatoes scattered on the plate are worth mentioning; the sugars concentrated in a tiny pocket with a chewy texture. No doubt one of the best dishes on this trip.

Pichón guidado y a la brasa - pigeon stewed with their own interior and pumpkin
The pigeon has been spread over the plate, in an artistic way. The meat carried powerful flavours, as well as the mild metallic tone from the game meat, it had an earthy tinge from the gizzard jus, nicely balanced by the sweet pumpkin wedges. My favourite was the whipped liver parfait on the light airy crisp; there were all kinds of textures on the plate. Delicious.

Basil sorbet with snow

Chocolates en Texturas - textures of chocolate and raspberry ice cream
Popping candy is the best!

Esferas - crispy spheres, cream acidulated with raspberry and vanilla ice cream
We preferred this one, the crispy shells were buttery, bursted with delicious cream in mouth.



We thought we would probably be unfair to Mirador de Ulia having had our 3-star dinner at Akelare the night before; inevitably the bar was set a tad higher than usual. That said we thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at Mirador de Ulia. The food was meticulously prepared and showcased a vast range of techniques. Each dish was designed to bring out the flavours of the ingredients, showing off the quality of the produce. Undoubted one star quality. And of course, the panoramic view over the beach and the city was quite extraordinary. 

Mirador de Ulia
Ulia Pasealekua 193 
20013 Donostia 
Gipuzkoa
Spain
Tel: +34 943 27 27 07

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