MUGARITZ (Lunch, 8 June) Not much needs to be said by way of background here, and needless to say, we were all looking forward to this . . . but no one was blown away by our meal here. Indeed, I can think of several places we ate at previously on our travels that I would return to ***before*** returning to Mugaritz. Now let me quickly add that the meal was NOT bad at all. The service was outstanding, and because we were traveling with Susan Spicer, we were taken back to see the kitchen (or maybe everyone is; who knows). I am very glad we ate here, but -- as I said -- no one was blown away. We liked the "playfulness" of the menu, and some of the dishes (the crispy fish bones; the combination of teeny, tiny baby peas and white fish eggs) were outstanding! But a couple of the dishes missed, and missed badly -- like someone at bat with the bases loaded with two outs, only to swing wildly at three bad pitches in a row -- it was surprisingly disappointing. Now, I will quickly grant you that -- sticking with the baseball metaphor -- Babe Ruth struck out a lot, but he also homered a good deal. In other words, the dishes that missed missed by a mile. Not even close, at least one bordered on the inedible; indeed, I don't think anyone finished it. I am glad they take risks in pushing the boundaries of what one expects, but it still has to taste good -- and too many courses did not.
THE MAYFLOWER (Dinner, 8 June) Located in Getaria, the fresh sardines, anchovies and grilled squid were excellent. Paired with bottles of Txakoli, this was one of those times when it was really hard to beat (relatively) simple fare prepared simply but expertly. Very nice.
GASTRONOMIAZKO EUSKAL ANAIARTEA / COFRADIA VASCA DE GASTRONOMIA (Lunch, 9 June) OK, this doesn't really count, as we hit the local markets and then cooked with Chef Iker Uranga, but -- damn! -- was it good.
Dinner that evening was bar-hopping from one Pintxos bar to another -- could not tell you all the places we hit, but it was a lot of fun . . .
RESTAURANT NERUA (Lunch, 10 June) Located inside the Guggenheim in Bilbao, this was a classy Michelin 1-star that was innovative, stylish, creative AND delicious -- exactly what we were hoping for from Mugaritz. Definitely worth a return visit.
Dinner was another Pintxos crawl . . . yum! Ended up at the Museum of Whisky -- WOW! Definitely worth a visit -- not only an incredible selection of whiskies, but one of the best Gin & Tonics ever!