Location: Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Date: June 16, 2016
Cuisine: Modern Spanish Gastronomic (Michelin 3 star!)
Rating: Amazing. Playful and delicious
Akelaŕe is the first of the “big guns” in our dining schedule.
3 Michelin stars and helmed by Pedro Subijana, this is a world class dining establishment in every respect.
The view alone is a stunner, perched on the cliff tops of the amazingly beautiful Basque countryside about 15 minutes west of San Sebastian.
No drama here.
The dining room floats above the Atlantic.
The view from our table most decidedly set expectations.
Akelaŕe currently offers three different tasting menus, two current and one more of a “best of” from the restaurant’s long history (it’s the same age as me, having been founded in 1970 and climbed from 1 star in ’78 to 2 in ’82 to 3 in ’07).
This “dish” served as an amuse for our 7 year-old son. It wins hands down for presentation. Sort of “bathroom” themed it consists of a number of playful items. A toast in which the “liquid soap” is used as a condiment. A cheese dish disguised as face cream, and a Shirley Temple in a cough syrup bottle! Great fun.
A tomato amuse. Even I, tomato hater that I am, enjoyed it.
A sort of ravioli, or unusual skin of food with one of those “caviar” not made from fish eggs. A kind of ajo blanco underneath. I remember it being delicious.
Reconstructed olives. These looked like olives, and somewhat tasted of them, but were reconstructed out of olive paste mixed with something else. They were delicious.
Fried zucchini “chips”.
Mussel fritters. Like a fried mussel, but in croquette-like ball form.
2012 Tricó Rías Baixas. 89 points. Light golden color; floral notes and lemon zest on the nose. Lively and fresh on the palate. Good acidity. Medium light body. This is pleasant to drink, very crisp and food friendly wine.
Cubed tear green Peas. The center batch is in an edible “plastic” bag.
Lobster salad with Cider Vinegar. No shortage of lobster here! Particularly considering this is just 1 course in a big tasting menu.
White asparagus meringue. Smores anyone?
Pasta, Piquillo and Iberico Carpaccio, Mushrooms and Parmesan. This alternate version of the classic Italian carpaccio has the “meat” replaced with a pasta. It did look and taste pretty meaty, but pasta like at the same time.
Prawns cooked in “Orujo” Fire. Not quite sure what the fire part was, but this was a delicious prawn.
And in a very Japanese style, it also came with the fried head. Bugs of the sea!
This bread took on an “interesting” shape.
Hake in Seaweed steam. Plancton and Oyster Leaf.
Very thin and Light Beef Tartare and…
new Potato Soufflé and Aromatic Herb Bread.
The leaves and the Foie under the rain.
Okay the name was a little confusing. It had “salt and pepper” on top — except it wasn’t salt and pepper but I think a sugar and and some kind of chocolate maybe? Hard to say, but it was delicious and a huge chunk of foie.
2013 Ossian. 90 points. An unusual heavier Spanish white.
Rice with Snails and Periwinkles in Tomato and Basil film. Sounds funny, but was delicious. Tasted like some kind of Chinese fried race, maybe a snail sausage fried rice!
Whole-Grain Red Mullet with Sauce “Fusili”.
One of the fusili, which was some kind of corkscrew of sugar? filled with a broth. Interesting. Wasn’t oily or fishy like many red mullet preps too.
I’m not sure what this dish was. May have been mushroom.
“Desalted” Cod Box with Shavings. It just comes in the box.
It was plated like this and basically like a nice piece of cod.
The “Umami” was this separate grouping of stuff that you could put on the seabass to add, you guessed it, umami. I think it was made of anchovies and other bits like that.
2006 Bodegas Muga Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea. VM 92. raised in large oak vats for a year, followed by three years in small, used American oak barrels): Dark ruby. Highly fragrant scents of redcurrant, dried cherry, pipe tobacco, leather and rose oil. Lively and precise on the palate, offering deeply pitched red fruit and floral pastille flavors and a hint
of black pepper. The youthfully tight finish features excellent clarity and lingering spiciness.
Roasted Pigeon with a Touch of Mole and Cocoa. The thing on the left was a kind of cookie with spiced pigeon meat inside — delicious.
Closer picture because this pigeon was SO GOOD. Just amazing. Tender rare meat, and an awesome rich mole sauce.
Carved Beef, Tail Cake “Potatoes and Peppers”.
The Tail Cake in focus. Like a meat tiramisu.
Melting Cupcake. Like a semi-fredo.
Xaxu and Foaming Coconut Ice Cream. The styrofoam looking stuff tasted like coconut gelato.
The Broken Jar of Yogurt, “Gatzatua” and Berries. This won the cool look award for the night. Everything was edible! It was made of yogurt too.
The different Apple Tart. I don’t know what the “plastic” was made of, but it was edible (and good).
The inside was basically a perfect crunchy apple tart like pastry. Really quite awesome.
Some various petite fours.
This was an amazing meal. The style at Akelaŕe seems to be playful reinterpretations of classic French/Spanish/Italian dishes. It uses modernist techniques, but not so heavily as to distort the dish into unfoodlike forms. And most importantly, the dishes retain solid flavor profiles with balance. They don’t always taste exactly like you’d expect, but they taste good and in the “frequency range” of whatever dish roll they serve in the meal. I.e. a savory, while perhaps having sweet notes, still tastes like a savory. As general rule the dishes are also complex, involving multiple ingredients working in harmony, but the chef has a fabulous sense of pairing and I don’t remember anything with a jarring or off-putting combinations as is sometimes a problem in extreme modernism.
Setting, as you can see, was magnificent, as was service. Not only were they extremely attentive, but they easily dealt with several different dietary rule sets, including our young son.
Certainly a worthy three star experience. Akelaŕe is crafting cutting edge food that sings on the palate.