Named the fourth-best restaurant in the world by Restaurant Magazine, Mugaritz is one of the most modern, progressive restaurants in the world. It is located about 15 minutes outside of San Sebastian. Chef Andoni Luis Adruiz has created a dining experience unlike any other–evoking emotions in diners and expressing complex thoughts through the cuisine of his restaurant. There’s a lot to talk about with this restaurant. Please let us know if you’d like to know more information.
Julian: I’ve got to take a night to process that meal, mentally. And maybe several days to process all that food, physically. I’m going to bed.
Julian (the next day): Okay, I’m back. I probably won’t ever forget that meal. I don’t even know if I can call it a meal. More of an experience of art. It was crazy.
Jesse: I’m not really sure where to start with Mugaritz. It was incredible, but as Julian said, it was more a mental exercise (in a good way) than a meal. Riding through the green hills in our taxi, it felt like we were hours away from San Sebastian, rather than several minutes. Mugaritz succeeded in feeling totally isolated, so as to completely control and shape our experience from the moment we arrived–or rather, before we even arrived–but still be conveniently close to a city.
Julian: We were a little early for our reservation. We were the first table on the books (even though we had an 8pm reservation), so there was some time before the meal to just scope out the restaurant. The outdoor patio is beautiful–rustic yet refined. There was also an herb garden and a big window into the kitchen to see all the chefs at work. I was seriously pumped for the meal to come.
Jesse: The host had seen that we were early for our reservation and came out to talk to us a couple times, and then brought us into the restaurant early to see the kitchen. We were greeted by the head chef and got to meet a couple other chefs who were eager to explain things and answer all of our questions.
Julian: We actually got our first dish of the night in the kitchen (which is, by the way, the most fully-equipped, ideal kitchen I’ve ever seen). The dish was presented as a stone, but it was edible. I, unfortunately, have read the Mugaritz book, so the surprise factor wasn’t there. But it was still pretty cool how they came up with that. This is one of those places that invents the techniques that you will later see at trendy restaurants back in the States. After talking with the chefs for about ten minutes, we were taken to our table in the then-empty dining room. Let the edible journey begin!
Jesse: The first set of courses was a series of finger-food dishes. Having us eat with our hands in the traditional Spanish style was their way of showing us right away that, although we were eating at one of the best restaurants in the world, it wouldn’t be a traditional French, Michelin star experience.
Julian: Definitely not traditional. From their servers’ dress, to the “plates” they used, to their service style, to their flavors–everything was done their own way. They’re breaking every rule in the book. Even the rule that restaurant food must taste good. They served us one dish, shaved ice with shrimp and scallop juice, which was not good. Actually, it was flat-out bad. Horrible. We couldn’t finish it, and neither could the table next to us. It confused us…how could some of the most skilled chefs in the world ever put that out?? But as the meal progressed, I realized that it was part of the whole experience. It drew out emotions in us, like other forms of art do. It’s about challenging your senses and challenging your preconceptions.
Jesse: But they still had dishes that tasted really good. One of my favorite was a tempura leaf that tasted like a cream-filled churro. It was light, delicious, and got me thinking. With dishes that had so much thought behind them, we thought there would be more explanation given by the waiters, but that wasn’t the case. However, if you did ask about a dish, the servers were brimming with information.
A picturesque Basque building housing one of the world’s best restaurants
Julian: For example, one dish was a loin of perfectly-cooked hake with thickened clam juice and this nutty puree. It was good. But oddly chalky. Not really in a good way, not really in a bad way. Just different from anything I’ve ever put in my mouth. We asked the server what made it so chalky. And, in broken English, he described that when you combine the clam juice with the nut, a slight chalky mouth-feel results. He then proceeded to bring us a bowl of the nuts that they used in the puree, called tiger nuts. By themselves, they were actually some of the sweetest, most flavorful nuts I’ve ever had. They were really woody to chew on–kind of like sunflower seed shells–but the flavor was so good that I couldn’t stop eating them.
Julian contemplates his tomato seeds and cherries
Jesse: Oh man, I didn’t understand how I had never heard of these nuts before. We actually had to ask them to keep them on our table when they were set to take them away (but somehow the bowl ended up disappearing before we finished them…sneaky servers). In the middle of our meal, they had us do something very unusual: we played a game. The game involved holding pieces of bone hidden in our fists and guessing the total number when we each put one first forward. I’m sure that’s a poor explanation, because it took us a bit to figure out the game. But anyhow, the winner of the game got an extra dish that was not given to the loser: caviar.
Jesse gloats after winning an excessively large amount of caviar
Lobster. Interesting note: they light the dining room really well, potentially so yelpers can take high-quality photos. Ingenious PR move, I suppose?
Julian: Yeah that was pretty fun. It broke up the onslaught of courses well, and definitely made us laugh. My favorite part of the entire meal, though, was at the end. They presented these seven wooden containers, stacked on top of each other. They called it their interpretation of the seven deadly sins. In each container was a different little sweet, representing each sin. Getting into the specifics of these would be like trying to describe a Picasso painting, so I’ll just leave it at that. But trust me, it was really cool. It tied the whole meal together, making us realize that this whole experience really was a work done by great artists.
“textures of lamb”
one hell of a kitchen