Tucked away in San Sebastian’s Old Town, La Cuchara de San Telmo is a small restaurant that serves tapas and raciones made to order. In a city whose restaurants tend to serve a small variety of staple dishes, La Cuchara is a breath of fresh air, as their food is more innovative and creative than that of the traditional Basque tapas bar.
Julian: This place was packed when we got there. It’s a tiny little bar with some outdoor tables. We couldn’t get a table, so we had to sit on the cobblestone street, using a chair as our table. Freddy, who helps run the hostel we’re staying in, had been to the restaurant many times before, so knew exactly what dishes needed to get. It was clear from the very start that this was definitely going to be quite the experience.
Jesse: With so many people waiting around I thought it would take quite a while to get our food, but about 2 minutes after we sat down the food started flowing. Or rather, the guy behind the bar yelled, “hey guy!” to Freddy, which was how we were informed it was time to come get our plate of food. There was something refreshing about being yelled at while sitting on the street after eating at Mugaritz. But it only was acceptable because they weren’t doing it to be assholes, they were doing it because it was the only way they could serve so many people with such a small space, and small staff.
goat cheese dish
Julian: I loved the whole experience. They were just doing whatever they wanted, kind of like a Joe Beef of the Basque country. We started with a plate of squid ink risotto with Idiazabal cheese. That was bomb. The pig ears were also really good–unlike every other pig ear dish I’ve had in the past, this didn’t just taste like fried food. Instead, it was a thick cut, maybe a whole ear, with this goopy mouth-feel. But goopy in a good way.
Jesse: And even though the food was flying out of their tiny kitchen, the plating was done in a simple, but very appealing way. We had arguably the best foie of the trip here as well. It was a nice solid chunk of liver crusted perfectly, instead of the mousses or terrines we’ve been experiencing at some of the more pricey restaurants.
Julian: Honestly, from a taste perspective, the food was better than a lot of the high-end places we’ve been. Well-balanced, not overly complicated, fresh, and flavorful. And we got out of there with a $51 bill for five people, including wine. I often judge a restaurant by gauging how content I am after the meal, and how I feel physically. And I was really happy when we left. Even though we were sitting on the ground. Even though the wine was poured in water glasses. Even though we had to continually get up to retrieve our food. Even though they didn’t really give us what we ordered. It was sort of the perfect little restaurant.