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#76 johannabanana


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Posted 08 April 2016 - 02:56 PM

Never been to Elkano -- should I put it on the list?


Elkano is unmissable for the whole grilled turbot and Spring is meant to be the best time of year for eating that fish. Getaria has a good Balenciaga museum if that interests you.

#77 Sneakeater


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Posted 08 April 2016 - 03:01 PM

All the times I've met balex he was wearing Balenciaga.

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#78 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 08 April 2016 - 03:43 PM

Though he was more of a vintage courreges guy

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#79 Chambolle


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Posted 08 April 2016 - 10:48 PM

Just returned to Paris yesterday ... been away for a while ... kind of overloaded at the moment ... 


Whew ! ... finally, I am getting mostly un-buried ... so some feedback now ... and maybe more tomorrow ... if it's not too late ...


Have a reservation for lunch at Azurmendi.


Good job, mitchells !


Did you say you're buds with Chambo ? Did they promise you one of these ?






(@balex - that's the architect :-)





Etxebarri for lunch ...


Perfect, balex !


The divine miss O will love the setting and the room ...












And notwithstanding my Saison Arpege cri de coeur, I actually agree with you.


@ mitchells - listen up ! this applies to you too at Azur !


I would avoid their pairing offerings and choose bottles.


White / bubbles are going to take you all the way through the meal until just about the final course.


And you don't have to change bottles if you are enjoying something ! Order another bottle of it ! and gain a deeper understanding of the wine ... people who drink one glass of a good wine DO NOT have any real idea of what that wine is truly about !  (Okay, sorry, I'm climbing down now ... )


Here is a worthy Spanish option that was consumed at Etxe ... it is the best Ribeiro made ...





I have been to Barcelona a few times in the last few years, and Madrid, Valencia, but not well informed about Spanish food, so a kitchen that is serving a wittily deconstructed version of dish X, when I have never had the real dish X is probably not going to work


It's more like interesting reconstructions* or reinterpretations at Mugaritz ... and furthermore I do believe that the VAST majority of dishes at Mugaritz (and there are plenty of them) stand on their own and are flat-out enjoyable ... the prior comment of mine that you are referring to was aimed at Spanish gastronomic experts and that their additional Spanish / Basque familiarity would yield an "even better" appreciation of the dish ... an even HIGHER LOVE ... something that we all should aim for.





But I am NOT trying to change your leanings whatsoever. Stick to your guns, balex. I approve !


If what I wrote above about Mugaritz does not appeal to you, I truly believe that you should follow your instincts and go to Arzak. 


* I emphasize this because I find most deconstructions fairly useless and a major waste of my, and the chef's, time... there was a reason why dishes were constructed in the first place ... because the ingredients taste good together ! I mean how good is deconstructed key lime pie ... or tiramisu ... or paella, pochas or fabada, for that matter ... answer : not very !   ... it's better to be constructive in life than destructive ... this is part and parcel of the Eternal Truth ... God is the Creator, the constructor of Life ... Now I become Death, the deconstructor and destroyer of Worlds ! 


I don't want more than 2 long meals probably at lunch: currently I think Extebarri and Arzak.  


Fair enough.


I feel like I should go back to Arzak, but I think in my current mood (grumpily complaining about food being messed about too much) I might not enjoy it.


We unanimously vote for you going to Arzak and giving us an up-to-date report.


And, quite frankly, we don't really care if you enjoy it or not ... WE JUST WANT THAT DAMN REPORT, OKAY !



Elkano and Ibai might be too much on the same trip...


Given your limited time and the other sightseeing options available to you, I would actually agree ... unless of course you find the Turbot is too tempting to turn down and you just want to jam it down Bonner's throat !


And a guy like Chambo would fully support you in any such endeavor, of course ... but don't waste your valuable vacation time squashing Bonner like a bug when there is all of le pays Basque d'Espagne et de la France et tout du sud-ouest francais d'explorer !









Not sure about a car, we will have one for the first day or two for sure. Current plan is one night in Bilbao - Etxebarri for lunch then to San Sebastian oops Sebastián for 3 nights.


Plan sounds fine ... except for its short duration, of course. 



Re car, personally I prefer to have a car in San Sebast because there are great places to go for day trips from there and then you return to the Bastard for a major meal or tapas or gin tonics or midnight skinny dipping or all of the above in that order or whatever order or whatever else you're in the mood for. You are going to experience San Sebast in the evenings and I do not think there is all that much that you need to do there during the day for multiple days in comparison with your other options. Then again, it all depends if you prefer to be totally chill and do nothing, see nothing and just hang. Your choice !


Easy and excellent destinations (assuming you have a good game plan) include days like :


1) Getaria to check out the port area (ie below Elkano) / the Balanciego museum / visit a Txakoli domain, then lunch, then Zarautz for a coffee at Karlos A and a boardwalk promenade along the beach (and if you are into surfing, then ride some waves) and if you get an early start then why not check out the cliffs of Zumaia if you haven't had a peek. Deba is too far afield, methinks.


2) Hondarribia is an absolutely lovely place. I could make a very good argument for basing yourself there for a few days in the future. Excellent tapas for lunch or dinner. Extremely, adorable houses and impressive fort / palace with great views. Rent a bike for an hour or two. Head to the beach and gaze across at France. Great history to the place too.


3) St Jean de Luz may not be a dining mecca but it is absolutely worth visiting during non-meal hours ... and I have very good options if you are planning to eat in the outskirts. Great beach ... go ahead and walk that one too. Wonderful walking the whole town ... and sure, cross over to Ciboure if you have time and see what's up.


4) Biarritz may not be an eating mecca but it is equally worthy of your visit and it is even bigger than St Jean de Luz ... hence a lot some time to see it if you make the effort.


5) Many / most nooks and crannies between Biarritz and St Jean de Luz are fab ! I love the hippie chill of Guethary. I love the well-populated beaches at Bidart and maybe you can consider a beverage refreshment at Blue Cargo. I was even turned onto an awesome cool place next to a trailer park in Erromardie last summer. Yep, I was very skeptical too as I was parking by that trailer park but it's now my fave spot for a brewski or light nibbles dans le quartier ... NOTE that I'm here in the heart of summer so I have no idea what these places are like in early spring ... but I could make a call and find out if you are actually considering it ... but it doesn't hurt to fly sorties and check them out to whet the appetite for a return visit, now does it ?


6) And there are plenty of nearby and pretty places in-land too ... in France or Spain.


7) They all say head to Tolosa if you want to eat at Fronton ... but some mogul who was munching with his mommy at Rio Ulla in Coruna (who self-qualified himself as a real gastro based upon our gabbing about good eats in Galicia) kept talking about Casa Julian in Tolosa as mom nodded knowingly and in her limited, but convincing, English said stoically to me "Listen to my son. He's a bright boy. And he knows his food. Take a look at his big belly." 


That's enough for the moment.


Note that 2 and 3 work together in a day. 2,3 and some of 5 work. 4 and 5 work. 3, 4 and 5 is pushing it and I think it's too much ... unless you like to be very rushed, wake up real early, want to be on the road real late, or get bored with a new place after a couple of hours. Net net - don't attempt it.



Informal places I was thinking of going to are Bar Nestor,  maybe a few pintxo places in the evening after big lunches.


Pintxos in the PM is the right answer for you, my friend.


Not at all clear that Bar Nestor is needed or nirvana .. but let your eyes guide you ... as I have said ... and continue to repeat.


Hopefully a fuller focus on San Sebast tomorrow ... and it is with that and with sorrow that I say sayonara ...

#80 taion


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Posted 09 April 2016 - 06:51 PM


He looks a little bit like Ted Cruz.
I didn't tip at Per Se either.

#81 balex


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Posted 10 April 2016 - 12:16 PM

Super helpful, Chambo thank you. I will drink a bottle of wine from your village in your honour.

#82 Chambolle


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Posted 10 April 2016 - 11:48 PM

I will drink a bottle of wine from your village in your honour.


Oh come on, man, we're friends. Not necessary. Seriously !


Don't put yourself out and do all that on my account ... just ship it to me !


What bottle, you ask ? Just think about us and don't make a fuss about trying to wow me with the wine cuz I'm not that kind.


I'm a super simple guy.


As long as it comes from the heart what more could one ask for ... ... ... ... but this sure would be nice !!!






... a fuller focus on San Sebast ...


I'll start by repeating this basic pintxo info from the Bilbao thread ...


You can read all these reports / reviews / expert advice and then you go to the places and they may be empty or their trays of tapas are clearly mediocre, etc.


Hence, pop into the places and use YOUR eyes.


If it doesn't look good, it probably isn't !


That said, many of the best little tidbits are often cooked and not necessarily on display :-)


And all that said, it's not like these pintxos are super amazing anyway ... they're fine ... maybe even good ... but it's more about a fun time and being social and being out and about and all that kinda stuff. 


So go for it, but do it with appropriate expectations and your eyes wide open as opposed to doggedly following some insider's list (ie place A has the best bacon turnips, place B has the best cherry / pepper / foie gras on a toothpick, place C is "known" for their blah-buh-dee-blah, etc.) cuz between you and me, such lists are for the most part a giant bunch of baloney.


Ok, some San Sebast spots ...


1. The densest pintxo place population surrounds Constitución Plaza. This should be destination numero uno.


Save the following places in Google Maps. I prefer to first do a quick flyby most of them (it takes about 5-ish minutes) to scope out the situation. Experience has shown that a fine meal can be had by sticking within Tier 1. I have found that Not Tier 1 places can be HIGHLY variable based upon what time it is (ie heading toward the end of service, things become seriously lame) and other random factors. Tier 1 places have interesting cooked stuff (ie stuff that is NOT on display on platters but are written on a blackboard or a little printed menu) but you need to be selective.


The best strategy to "be selective" is to secure your space at the bar, decide what 2 euro glass of wine you are going slurp down first and then observe the stuff coming out of the kitchen for a few minutes. If it looks pretty good, ask what it is. The guys at the bar all speak English and usually enjoy giving you feedback and guidance. Also keep in mind that you may (or not) be attempting to put together a meal than might have a progression from cold stuff to hot stuff and/or from veggies to shellfish to cooked fish to cooked meat(s) or whatever. Nobody said this was going to be easy. It's tough work at first but with practice, pro pintxo players pull this off in their sleep while blindfolded.


Tier 1 - Casa Urola, Borda Berri, Bar Zeruko

Not Tier 1 - Bar Nestor, Ganbara, Gandarias, A Fuego Negro


And since I can never remember if it's TX or XT, I may be calling pintxos tapas to avoid typos.




Casa Urola. nice cooked tapas on the ground floor. a serious resto upstairs. we're talking tapas so stay grounded.
















Borda Berri. a very nice cooked line-up on the blackboard and it is worth your presence ...





But I showed up this time right as they were closing ... (in general I don't take pics of pintxos)






Bar Zeruko. they often have a nice spread of stuff on display. and some stuff then get heated / additionally sauced.
















Bar Nestor. yeah yeah yeah, the tortillas at some specific time. but like, am I really going to have my life revolve around a good warm tortilla ? not I ! they always have lots of tomatoes on display too and people talk about their steak for 2. but but but we're doing tapas, I thought ? Do I really want a steak for 2 ? YMMV 







Ganbara, Gandarias, A Fuego Negro. have had good results with each at least once in the past but they have also proven to be quite variable. when good, they can have a nice spread of platters to eyeball and make quick tactical plays ... but carefully consider meal progression issues. AFN's best days may have been in the past. 



2. Another reasonable pintxo population exists just across the bridge and south of Playa de Zurriola



Viento Surnice, modern deco. slightly upscale tapas bar. order cooked-to-order stuff



Garbola Bar. GastroM liked this place ... and the drinks !   ... but I couldn't get past the tacky sample drinks displayed outside ... 







La Gintoneria. you know, another option is just to blow off the whole food concept and just get stinking drunk on gin !




Speaking of gin, gin tonics are an important part of life in Spain, so let's consider some gin options ...

#83 Chambolle


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Posted 10 April 2016 - 11:51 PM

Gin Options ...




La Gintoneria. a nice gin tonic cocktail place. but no view, no outside tables, hence no Chambo in the summer.










Dickens. good classic GT but expensive. and I'm not loving their outside space. hence no more summer Chambo.








Hotel de Londres. This is Chambo's place for GTs outside in a very nice location. Obviously, warm weather oblige. I don't really like the style / feel of their inside space (Le Swing Bar) ... too stiff, too "British" ... but YMMV





#84 balex


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Posted 22 April 2016 - 04:33 PM

Lunch at Extebarri yesterday was terrific, notwithstanding a few misteps (a croquetta allegedly of sea urchin, some chorizo tartar,

and a bit of very fatty tuna belly, that was chewy and too thick). The good stuff was really good, and I liked what they were trying to do. Definitely worth the trip up into the hills. But I ate and drank too much and could not have anything for dinner.


Ibai today: a couple of plates of peas at 32 euros a pop, some rice with clams, some eggs with mushrooms and then a very good large Dover sole, a fair bit larger than the ones you get in Dover to be sure. The place is a bit of a dump, but friendly service and my vestigial Spanish was pretty adequate. Easy to get to, just a really nice restaurant, focusing on doing very simple things with very high quality ingredients. This was about 250 euros for 2, including a bottle of LdH Tondonia at 50 euros.

#85 Chambolle


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Posted 23 April 2016 - 06:08 AM

Yeah, I was going to say that after a late lunch at Etxe (@mitchells : or Azur), few are going to want to eat much of a dinner. Maybe a tapas or two ... maybe not even.


You don't really want to show up for lunch at these places much before 2pm and the big meal lasts for multiple hours. That doesn't really set you up for a dinner feast. My last Etxe meal started at 3.30pm and the check didn't arrive til 7pm. Granted, that's a slightly late start for Etxe but a 2.30 / 3.00pm start is par for course at Etxe. For Azur, I think the lunch sweet spot is more like 2pm-ish.


Any of these at Etxe ? Notice that a small portion is perfectly fine ...




They are big and thick and super tender ... but not too big and thick ...




And that red color at the very bottom edge and only there is a sign that these are the most highly prized specimens ! Can you see that externally ? Not necessarily :-)




And yes, I'm a savage and I would dig in there with my teeth and grab and chew on that little crunchy nub. Different but good in its own way ...






If you opted to maintain a car for a bit and plan to head out on a day trip, I can possibly offer up a suggestion or two if you say where ...


#86 Chambolle


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Posted 23 April 2016 - 07:01 AM

And if it ever stops raining then there is NO BETTER WAY to get the lay of the land and to check out all The Bastard's beaches than to rent some bicycles.


Be sure to rent some good ones ...




And start exploring ...




And be sure to take the Pasealeku Berria route because you are rewarded with a nice view ...




And then continue and work your way towards Branka ... (if you were to go, you want to go upstairs ... but it's not a must)




But don't you dare call it a day just yet ... because there's more to explore than just the Bastard's beaches ...




Just to have a destination to aim for, maybe you can backtrack towards Mercado San Martin and then head to Don Serapio and pick up some good canned goods for good times sake. Or you can just sit around and do nothing ... cuz this is vacation time after all ...





Bonus points if you spot my favorite San Sebast butler in my now favorite San Sebast hotel ... which is less than a block from Don's.

#87 mitchells


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Posted 23 April 2016 - 04:09 PM

Amazing! You just mention Chambo's name and they automatically upgrade you to Monkey 47 at the Hotel Londres.

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce

#88 Chambolle


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Posted 25 April 2016 - 06:57 AM

Amazing! You just mention Chambo's name and they automatically upgrade you to Monkey 47 at the Hotel Londres.


This surprises you ?


Tell them what happened when you mentioned my name when renting your car and upon arriving the airport. You did, didn't you ?


And I don't mean to be micromanaging your life, mitchells, but do note that many tapas places are closed on Monday in the Bastard.

#89 Chambolle


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Posted 25 April 2016 - 07:42 AM

And before you even ask, you DO NOT order sébaste* in San Sebastian ! 


* That's the French name ... it may be masquerading in Spain under the name of gallineta nordica and other aliases. Why they named it after a chicken ... God only knows.




It's not a very good move, mitchells ... it's total amateur hour.


I can't even recommend it, per se, in Marseille in a bouillabaisse cause it's kind of a bastard child of the real rockfish clan (that ornery bunch of rascasse rascals).




And if you have had sébaste in your past, I hope you did it in the Med cuz it's no way to play in the Bay of Biscay.


And no, mitchells, fuhgeddaboudit, you don't want to be sprinting east for a feast in Marseille (it's a heck of a long way) ... the smart play is to watch Marseille in May on Netflix.



What else of importance do you need to know, mitchells ?

#90 mitchells


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Posted 25 April 2016 - 02:02 PM

Got a nice Mercedez sedan with nav for the trip. Thanks again Chambo. And a table for 3, third table from the end right smack in the middle of the window at Azurmendi. Btw, Azurmendi exceeded all expectations. We had both menus so tried close to 20 plates before amuses and there literally were no missed with 90% of the dishes being knee bucklers. And the wine there is a steal. Had a bottle of white and 3 glasses of delicious Spanish reds for a total of 50 Euros. Ridiculous but very welcome. Will post pictures when I return.

And pinxtos at Bar Zerouka (smoked cod and squid with garlic:both excellent. Ordered a 2nd cod) Then Cafe Utola for Pulpo and Scallops. Then Gandaria for Sitloin steak, mushrooms and limo brochettes. Finished at la vina with cheesecake. Birds Berri was closed for some unknown reason. Thanks for the assist!

All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.
Ambrose Bierce