Why the hype?
The name Arzak really needs no introduction if you are a serious foodie, located in the gastronomy capital San Sebastian, it is a 3 Michelin starred restaurant with serious reputation. It has constantly been voted as one of the finest restaurants in the world from the World 50's best guide and it's head chef: Elena Arzak has been named the best female chef in 2012. I have eaten at Arzak's outpost in London: Ametsa, back in 2013 when it was first launched and it wasn't anything special at all. But given the fact that so many high profile foreign chefs failed in London, I was pretty sure Arzak would be a different story and could deliver an extraordinary meal, but sadly, that wasn't the case.
|Prawn gyoza and anchovy|
|Sea bream with patxaran|
|Scarlet prawn with krill|
|Red space egg|
We opted for the tasting menu. One of the dishes that got the table buzzing was the scarlet prawn which was served on an iPad. The prawn itself was sweet, with the lemongrass and mint added a hint of lovely freshness, but is it really a state of the art, 3 stars quality dish? Not even close, it lacked the refinement and explosive flavours. The only outstanding dish for me was the monkfish with pumpkin, it was seasoned masterfully, and the sweetness, saltiness and umami profile of the dish struck a perfect balance. The presentation might not have been the best, but taste-wise, it was astonishing. The orange pigeon: the quality of the pigeon was fantastic, tender and blessed with rich luxurious flavours, but what really puzzled me was the fruity garnishes, the orange and mandarins added nothing but confusing sour flavours, which didn't work with the earthy profile of the pigeon.
|Monkfish with pumpkin|
To sum it up, the quality of the meal was good, but it was far from anything special at all and it really didn't justify the 3 stars status as well as the crazy price tag. For me, the cooking level was only 1 star at best, while there were some fun and interesting elements in the meal, I felt the kitchen paid too much attention to the "dining experience" factor and forgotten the basic: Delivering great taste. I just felt Arzak were trying to be too clever for their own good. Besides that, the service was pretty forgettable, soulless and acted like robot, it was far from expectations, given the high price tag the restaurant it was commanding. There are two far superior 3 stars restaurants in San Sebastian, the only thing that kept Arzak popular would be the false media hype.
What I paid:
230 Euro per person with wine
Average cost without drinks and services:
Alcalde José Elosegi 273 (Alto de Miracruz), 20015 Donostia-San Sebastián