Restaurants & Bars 5

Spain Roundup (Disfrutar, Martin Berasategui, Mugaritz, Akelare)

sunvalleydevils | Aug 11, 201610:53 PM

What an incredible trip! I can't fit my entire write-up here, but I'll make some general observations.

Disfrutatar: Such an exceptional meal for the price. Nearly half the cost of the other restaurants, and an experience that is not lacking in comparison. A beautiful space, and as a lone eater they sat me right beside the kitchen, where I got to get a great look at the action going on there. The food tends towards the experimental (as you can imagine), and sometimes you get the sense that they're more interested in surprising you than making you go "Wow that's incredible" -- nonetheless I ended up uttering that phrase numerous times.

The waitstaff, I will say, was noticeably stressed, in a manner I did not see anywhere else. There was one outright confrontation and reprimand over a miscarried tray by a headwaiter. I'm not sure if anyone else noticed but I imagine if I did, others did, too. Upon leaving, a waiter was hailing a taxi for me and I mentioned how stressful the job seemed. She responded, "Getting the taxis is the most peaceful, cherished part of the day. After this I must go back inside..." It was in good humor, but again, the stress was palpable here.

Martin Berasategui- Pretty much a flawless tasting menu. I can't really mention one negative thing. More than any other series of courses, this one felt the most masterful. Excellent service, continuously struck by the balance of taste and flare. The highlight was undoubtedly the Lemon with basil juice, green bean and almond ice cream. It had the richness and sweetness of the finest vanilla ice cream accompanied by the most spine tingling lemon and lime tartness. Not to mention the presentation that made it resemble an actual lime. Astonishing stuff. But it would be wrong not to mention the pigeon, red shrimp royale, and so many others. I would say it's the best overall meal I had in my time in Spain.

Mugaritz - This was a pretty major disappointment. For all its accolades, I would say it was my least enjoyable meal. Some of the dishes (chilled crab threads, which literally tasted like crab that had been taken out of the freezer 15 minutes beforehand, lemon oyster that tasted overwhelmingly tart and unbalanced), were just total misfires.

A few dishes were so adventurous as to earn the Mugaritz label of innovation, but too often it felt like they missed the mark. Beyond that, unlike the other restaurants, they did not make it clear what exactly was edible and what was not, and for a restaurant that creates an atmosphere of "trusting the chef," little trust was gained by explicitly telling me parts of dishes are edible/inedible and actually just being wrong -- which happened more than once.

Beyond that, the waitstaff was rather chaotic, and each dish brought a new server who asked me, time and time again, what language I spoke so they could describe the item to me. Now, I get they're accommodating me, and it was greatly appreciated, but I'd be lying if I said it did not grow tiresome having to tell them I speak English, upwards of 15 times.

Hot towels were left on my table indiscriminately, crumbs were never picked up, so my table was sort of just a mess by dish 10 of 20.

I'm not some restaurant snob (far from it), but these just seem like things one of the best restaurants in the world would care about? I didn't get the sense that they did. So this was a very disappointing meal.

Akelarre- An excellent experience here. Lots of home run with dishes like the lobster salad (The plating was pretty ingenious too. It all looked like it was just the shell of the lobster, and that I was about to be in for some work in cracking it -- only for it all to be meat. It was some sort of lobster illusion), the equally illusive "pasta," the foie gras with salt was delicious, and of course the signature broken jar.

A really low key but impressive service, and an all around enjoyable time.

That about sums it up. Had a wonderful time all in all, and hope to return at some point in the future.

Also, I made a post about whether or not these restaurants have cocktails: if anyone else is curious...

Disfrutar: No cocktail menu.

Martin Berastaegui -- Cocktails (22 euros each, but cocktails nonetheless).

Mugaritz -- did not inquire or imbibe.

Akelare -- very reasonably priced, and very good, cocktails.

Happy eating!


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