After much agonizing, I canceled our lunch reservation at Akelarre in favor of an opening for dinner at Mugaritz. Having not eaten at Akelarre, I can't say I have regrets . .maybe we should have just forced ourselves to do both on that last day! We though Mugaritz to be an exceptional dining experience. A renovated, very modern farmhouse -- the grounds are really incredible, with a large garden of labeled fresh herbs and vegetables to "tour" and a very zen like -- simple wood/modern decor in the dining room. Tables are spaced very far apart for a very intimate dining experience at each table. We did not ask to go into the kitchen, but it is separate from the dining room by a frosted, electric sliding glass door that wooshes open and closed as food comes out of the kitchen. Two degustacion choices, the more experimental tasting and a tasting with more traditional takes on food. We both opted for the experimental kitchen:
amuse bouche of another poached egg creation, this one in a beef consomme that is poured over the egg tableside.
Warm Mixture of Necora Crab with saffron and spring onion dressing -- read designs of saffron and green onion "oil" on the plate.
Split crayfish upon a bed of plant roe. Can't tell you what plant roe is, it had the texture of tiny couscous and the earthy taste of plant
Sauteed squid, thai onion and simple grains of paradise
red mullet steak with crunchy bone and juniper iodized base
tuna supreme covered by fresh almond and macadamia nut slices wild herb fresh curry
beef stewed at 70 degrees and cut just before serving. Roasted vegetable tears.
passion fruit soup with white pepper ice cream
pumpkin and tahiti vanilla ice cream with sugarred black sunflower seeds.
Everything was creative, inventive, kept you guessing about little aspects of the dish and the decision on how to prepare things. We had the sommelier match wines to each course and found his selections to be very well thought out and balanced. A truly memorable dining experience fom this young chef.
A few other dining highlights:
pinxnos at Yola Berri in Honerrabia
Dining at the parador in Cangas de Onis in the Picos de Europa and El Corral Del Indianu, a michelin * in Arriondas on the way to the mountains. Carmelized sweetbreads that were truly to die for.
Visiting Bodega Ysios and Bodega Ugarte near Rioja. Great tours of every aspect of the vineyards and excellent tastings. A wonderful contrast between the very new (Ysios)in a state of the art facility designed by a famous Spanish architect with a heavy Gehry influence and a very traditional bodega (Ugarte).
The dining room at Castillo Collado in the walled city of Laguardia.
The Gran Hotel Domine across from the Guggenheim in Bilbao.
We cannot wait to go back to Spain. The country, the people and the food combined to make a vaction that was unforgettable. I don't think I can bring myself back to the likes of Taillevent, Lucas Carton, Charlie Trotters or points in between any time soon, knowing that there is so much more of Spain and its excellent chefs to experience.