Just got back from Madrid and San Sebastian and wanted to report back on the places we ate at which we found primarily through suggestions on this board. We went to a bunch of places so I'll just provide brief summaries of each place.
One thing about restaurants in Madrid - pretty much every place charges you for bread.
Diverxo - My favorite meal of our entire trip. We ordered the infiniti menu and pretty much every course, except for 2 was outstanding. Of the 2 that were not outstanding, one was just ok and the final course, a desert, was just not good in my opinion. Very inventive and creative dishes. For example, one of my favorites was a celery, olive and apple desert. I saw some other posts on this board saying that the restaurant can be pretentious and I can see how people can come away with this perception, but the food is fantastic.
San Miguel Market - Filled with tourists and can get pretty busy. We had various small plates at the different vendors. We went to one seafood counter and ordered razor clams and saw the owner microwave the clams. I expected the clams to be a disappointment but, much to my surprise, the clams were cooked very well. All the food we got was pretty good, even the paella at the paella stand was ok.
Meson Cinco Jotas - Ordered a plate of the Jabugo Ham which they hand slice. Excellent ham and I was disappointed I only got to go here one time.
Combarro - Another excellent meal. This restaurant had the best service of all the places we visited in Spain. They do speak limited English and have English menus, but some knowledge of Spanish would be helpful here. They specialize in seafood and we ate very well, eating goose neck barnacles, clams, langoustines, shrimp, octopus and turbot. The seafood is very fresh and expertly prepared. The restaurant is on the pricey side.
Casa Lucio - The biggest disappointment for me. We ordered the famous fried eggs over french fries and a mixed grill. The mixed grill turned out to be beef - a steak that was about 1 kg - it was huge. We ordered the steak with a side of vegetables and the vegetables turned out to be canned peas. The food was just average across the board. We got seated at 9 p.m. and the place was packed by 9:30 p.m. I guess I just don't understand the appeal of this place or maybe we just didn't order well.
Gabinoteca - A gastrobar serving tapas. This restaurant is a little removed from the touristy areas. I thought the food was just ok.
Tapas on Cava Baja/La Latina district - We went to Casa Lucas (ordered the pork loin tapa and a tuna tapa), Same (for grilled pig ear) and Juana La Loca (for the tortilla). All in all, the food was just average and I was a little disappointed with the whole tapas experience at this point. Maybe we just went to the wrong places. Casa Lucas does seem to be popular with tourists, as almost all of the patrons when we went were speaking english.
Arzabal - We went here for dinner. The tapas here are excellent, far better than what we had on Cava Baja. Really lived up to my expectations regarding tapas. I would return to this place if we ever get back to Madrid and also explore the other tapas places in this neighborhood.
Chocolateria San Gines - churros and hot chocolate. Excellent.
Restaurant Jose Maria - we ordered the suckling pig. The restaurant brings out the whole pig and does a little presentation, cutting the pig with a plate. It was exactly as advertised, tender pork and crispy skin.
Etxebarri - I can't really add anything knew here that hasn't been already posted by others. It is a really really good restaurant, but my expectations were so high based on reading reviews, that I left just a little disappointed, so really no fault of the restaurant. We ordered the tasting menu and one of the deserts, a smoked ice cream, was just out of this world. We also supplemented the tasting menu with a foie gras terrine made from goose which was also excellent. One note about getting there - we rented a car and also rented a separate GPS unit from the rental car company. Coming from Bilbao, the GPS unit took us there easily and we didn't get lost.
Mugaritz - Had dinner here. The price of the menu was 160 euros. I thought we would get a choice of tasting menus, but on the night we were there, the table was offered just the one menu. You can put me in the camp that enjoyed the restaurant. There were a couple of great dishes (sea bream caviar with peas and the foie with apple juice), the remainder were all very good, and there was just one dish from that menu that night I really disliked. Each of the tables that night was also given a tour of the kitchen. In terms of getting there, the GPS unit we rented couldn't find it, so we took a cab.
Pintxos crawl in the Old Town - We ate pintxos for lunch and for dinner. We went to a few places, and my favorites were the prawns brochette at Goiz-Argi and the mushrooms at La Cepa. We did go to La Cuchara de San Telmo, and it was just ok. Overall, I'm glad I went to the pintxos bars, but if we return to San Sebastian, I'd probably skip the bars next time as I don't think the food is really comparable to what you can get in a restaurant.
Thanks to everyone on this board.