Having now read every post on this board made in the last three years comparing the various high-end restaurants in San Sebastian, I was hoping to reopen the dialogue now as I choose among the very many seemingly fabulous places to eat in and around the city.
Our current plan is to fly into Bilboa, rent a car, and drive into San Sebastian this September. I am considering the following restaurants, in rough order of how excited I am about them:
Asador Etxebarri: Unless there is a chorus of disagreement, this feels like a must to me. This is likely be our only chance to explore this part of the world and there doesn't appear to be anyone doing this kind of cooking, at this level, anywhere else. I was thinking we could have lunch here on our last day and try to find a place to stay nearby and then drive to Bilboa for our flight back to the States in the morning.
Arzak: My fiance is a pastry cook and Elana Arzak's wold-famous hospitality and amazing innovations are a must-experience for her. This, too, is a probably a definite on our list.
We would also like to try one or two of the following four place, and would very much like to hear about truly great meals within a couple hours drive of the city (or, of course, elsewhere in San Sebastian) that we might be missing:
Mugaritz: I understand this to be the most hit-or-miss of the bunch: some people swear by it (and I assume some of those benefactors do so only because they spent so much money to eat there) and some people simply do not like it at all. Generally speaking, we are willing to take the good with the bad and think the potential for the most ingenious bite of food is worth the trade for a dud dish or two, but certainly don't want to feel experimented on. Does this place deserve the hype? Is it worth the splurge? Does it have greatness in it?
Zuberoa: The setting sounds remarkable. My thought was that this place offered us a chance to experience a more traditional meal with precisely prepared high-quality ingredients. My only concern is that it seems somewhat expensive: is it worth it? Does anyone have a recent experience there?
Martin Berasategui: MB wasn't on my original list, but some of the photographs I have seen of the food are truly astonishing. It seems to be left out of the discussion on this board, perhaps because it is outside San Sebastian or perhaps for some other reason that we should be aware of. Are the plates as beautiful in person as they appear on line? Can the food compete with that of Arzak?
Akelare: This is currently at the bottom of my greatest hits list, though it could certainly rise. My main hesitation is that people mainly talk about how great the view is. I would prefer a prison cell with awesome food to the best view and a hot dog, but that doesn't move me much.
Are there places I am missing? Is there anything I should keep in mind when making these decisions? I would like to send out reservation requests soon, so any help would be much, much appreciated.