Spanish, International Restaurant in Errenteria, Spain: Mugaritz

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Review
 
Mugaritz HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
San Sebastian (Donostia)
Open: Dinner Mon - Sat, lunch Wed - Sun
Price: Expensive
Score (/20): 17.5

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +34 9 43 51 83 43
Address: Otzazulueta baserria, Aldura Aldea 20 zk
Errenteria, Gipuzkoa, 20100
Country: Spain
Food Style: Spanish, International

Readers of this web site will know that the main thing we value in a restaurant is the quality of the food. Well, the quality of the food at Mugaritz is exceptional!
The restaurant is in the hills behind San Sebastian (Donostia) in a rural setting. In fact as you sit on the terrace sipping a welcoming glass of Huget Gran Riserva you will see haystacks and pastures and a tractor might pass close by loaded with freshly mown hay!
At the back of the restaurant is a herb and vegetable garden that supplies some of the produce used in the kitchen by superstar chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and his band of helpers.
The first plates to arrive at the table saw some flower-like sea anemone in the first plate, some dense mayonnaise in the second and four slate-blue orbs sitting on very hot stones in the third. We had no idea what the orbs were! On dipping them into the mayonnaise and taking a bite they were revealed as small, dense, waxy potatoes that had been cooked in clay (which you eat with the potato). This was a beautiful dish and a wonderful start to the meal.
The next dish was a dense, upright cylinder of cucumber scattered with goat's cheese 'tears' and a lovely, light, flavoursome gazpacho soup which our young, enthusiastic sommelier matched with a Telmo Rodriguez 2005 Basa from Rueda. This wine is a mix of Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc and Viura and has a clean, crisp acidity that goes very well with food.
A cold prawn deeply-flavoured consommé followed laced with nasturtium flowers and a variety of herbs. At the last moment some 'iced vegetables' were added to provide yet another layer of complexity and subtlety to the dish. The manufactured 'vegetables' looked like frozen peas but had, in fact, been created from herbs and vegetables. With this and the following dish we sampled a glass of 2005 Miquel Gelabert muscat from the Plà i Llevant Designation of Origin area of Mallorca.
The flowers, herbs and vegetables theme carried through to the visually stunning next arrival. A mound of brightly coloured herbs and flowers sat in a deep white plate hiding a mixture of some of the most intensely flavoured baby vegetables that we have ever eaten. It didn't matter whether we found some okra or turnip or cauliflower or a simple green bean it was cooked perfectly and its flavour stood shoulder to shoulder with that of its compatriots. A single, tiny Sichuan pepper flower sat to the side and we were given instructions to eat it last. Unfortunately the surprise was lost on us as we are great fans of Sichuan cuisine and already knew the mouth-numbing effect of this flower.
The only place where we have ever had vegetables that even approached being this perfect was a dish a spring vegetables we tried at Alain Ducasse's Le Louis XV.
Now we switched to a Tierra de Fernandez Gomez Rioja - a white not a red - that we had never heard of but became instantly entranced by its complex flavour. This wine enhanced a dish of organic tomato and crispy lamb skin.
Next to the table came five small white 'gnocchi' made from the famous sheep's milk cheese Idiazábal. Each orb was topped with a different single leaf of the most intensely flavoured herb (dill, tarragon, basil etc) that provided a counterpoint to the cheese flavour.
More complexity of flavour and texture greeted us with the next course which saw slices of sea snail book-ended by raw sliced chestnuts and a little mound of olives circled by a glorious swirl of spinach chlorophyll. The Guitian Godello Valdeorras 2004 that accompanied the dish was a light, clean wine which somewhat lacked complexity.
The meal and the service had been pleasantly informal up until this point, but suddenly we saw the waiters striding towards us with cloche-covered plates! We soon realised that it wasn't to introduce a note of formality but rather to hold in the smoke for the dish of chargrilled squid we were about to receive. As the cloches were removed the smoke from the dish wafted over us linking us to the dish in quite an ethereal way.
The next two dishes showed off the local fish with a small piece of hake topped with a hazelnut praline and a golden sea bream with haricot and fig. The sweetness in both dishes was offset by an intruder in the guise of a Vallegarcia Viognier Vino de la Tierra de Castilla 2002 - a rich and bold white wine.
We now switched to red wine in the form of a Nita Priorat 2004 to herald the arrival of the two unctuous, gooey, moorish pigs tail lightened on the plate with langoustines and an intense herb sauce.
For the desserts Telmo Rodriguez reappeared with the light yet luscious Molino Real Mountain Wine 2003 that worked well with poached peaches in an intense soup studded with vanilla. It also stood up to a perfect wedge of violet ice cream served with shards of chocolate.
All that was left now was to enjoy a grappa-like Fillaboa digestif from Gallicia that was made from the local Albarino grapes.
In summary, Mugaritz provides a magical dining experience in pleasant relaxed surroundings. The food falls in the right part of the continuum that sees blind adherence to tradition at one end of the scale and mad searching for novelty and molecular gymnastics at the other. The food here has a purpose, is produce-driven and exhibits intensity of flavour that comes from a deep understanding of the produce rather than slick manipulation through technology.
We want to go back!
 
     
     
     


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