My Favourite Food in Paris

I absolutely love French pastries. Every time I head to France, the thing that I am most excited for is stuffing myself silly with French pastries. My favourite carb is bread, and there is nothing like crusty, rustic, fresh French bread. I used to buy a baguette before leaving the country, and finish the whole stick in one or two sittings. I know, I’m crazy.

DSC_7401

Golden, buttery, flaky, crispy palmier as big as the size of my face.

Paris is the city that I visited the most number of times when I was studying in the U.K. I have been there four times now, and I have taken a photo with the Eiffel tower in almost every season. Food in Paris can be a hit or a miss. Based on my experience, popping into random, unknown restaurants more often than not yielded bad meals for me. Nevertheless, I have tasted some amazing food in Paris, so this post is about my favourite places to eat at in the City of Love. In fact, I visited my first Michelin-starred restaurant there, which started my journey of becoming a full-fledged food lover!

Fine Dining

Restaurant David Toutain (1 Michelin Star)

DSC_6173DSC_6190DSC_6201DSC_6212The food presentation was unique and beautiful. For example, I really liked the amuse bouche, which is the smoked/roasted salsify shown in the first photo above. I also found the course shown in the third photo to be very interesting! It looked like pappardelle, but it was actually a type of vegetable (unfortunately, I no longer remember the ingredient) made to look like pasta. Everything was cooked well and the flavour combinations were great. If you could only pick one fine dining restaurant from this list, I would definitely recommend this restaurant!

Restaurant Frenchie

DSC_5742DSC_5748DSC_5767DSC_5778There is only a single option of the 5-course tasting menu. We opted for the ‘surprise menu’, which basically meant that we would only know what we would be served when the dish arrived at our table. It was so exciting! Overall, the food tasted delicious, except for the scallop course which was sadly overcooked. The lemon dessert (fourth photo) was one of the best desserts that I have ever had. It tasted like the most amazing frozen cheesecake, with the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and it was so delightfully fresh! I would go back to the restaurant just to have that dessert again.

Le Chateaubriand (No. 93, World’s 50 Best Restaurants)

DSC_6121DSC_6130DSC_6134DSC_6147This restaurant also only serves a 5-course tasting menu. Once again, we chose to be surprised. It was really fun to wait in anticipation as the servers brought us our food. One of the highlights was the dish shown in the second photo, which looked unassuming and way too green to taste impressive. It was a fish course with lots of vegetables/herbs on top. Surprisingly, we really enjoyed the fresh, light and ‘green’ taste that the dish offered, and it tasted very pleasant on the palate. The star of the night was definitely the candied raw egg yolk on a meringue pictured in the last photo. We popped it into our mouths and the egg yolk burst to coat our tongues with sweet, creamy goodness. Some courses wow-ed more than others (we were baffled as to why they would end the meal with something as mediocre as a slice of nectarine with some liquorice sprinkles), but overall, this restaurant is still worth a visit.

Restaurant Itinéraires (1 Michelin Star)

IMG_0688.jpgThis is the first Michelin-starred restaurant that I have ever visited. Back then, precise food plating and interesting flavour combinations were all very new to me. Throughout this meal, I was so amazed by how much flavour a dish could have and this opened the doors to a whole new world of food for me. In fact, the course that I remember clearly until this day is actually…the amuse bouche. It was a small and simple cucumber starter, but a single bite of it packed sweet, sour, spicy and fresh flavours. I was mind-boggled by how something so small could provide such big flavour explosions. Since then, I discovered a love for a different genre of food and have travelled around the world in search of the best food experiences. (This photo collage was actually taken from my Instagram. The restaurant did not allow photos but I sneakily took some with my phone.)

Classic Parisian Bistros

La Petite Périgourdine

DSC_7445.jpgAs it was cold and rainy in Paris, we huddled away in this neighbourhood bistro for lunch. There is nothing as comforting as perfectly-seared medium rare steak on a bed of aligot (cheesy mashed potatoes) on a dreary day. You know a neighbourhood bistro is legit when they have a ceiling to floor pigeonhole shelf filled with special napkins for the regulars.

Philou

DSC_6357.jpgThis is another neighbourhood bistro with its menu handwritten on a chalkboard. As this quaint restaurant is a little away from the tourist attractions, it seemed to be filled with locals when we were there. If you want a reasonably-priced and classic French bistro experience in Paris, this place is a safe bet.

Modern French

Clown Bar

DSC_7846.jpgClown Bar is the little sister of Michelin-starred Saturne. The restaurant is quirkily decorated with clowns painted on ceramic tiles (don’t worry, they’re not the scary type like Pennywise from IT), and the food is exciting and adventurous (veal brain, anyone?). The pithivier (pictured above) consisted of medium-rare duck and foie gras housed in a thin flaky pastry. The date jam added a fragrant sweetness and the freshness from the yuzu cut through the heaviness of the dish. Even my mum, who is very difficult to be pleased with her Asian palate, agreed that this was a winner.

Bakeries and Desserts

To be honest, I have never had bad pastry or bread from any bakery in France. Even random bakeries had, at the very least, decent baked goods. The pastry that I will always get from boulangeries is éclair!

Du Pain des et Idées

DSC_5792.jpgThis bakery is most famous for their Pain des Amis and escargots. A charming traditional boulangerie, this place is worth crossing the town to get your dose of buttery delicious carbs.

IMG_9775.jpg

Liberté

DSC_7482.jpgThis bakery made it to the list because it is open in August, when most of the bakeries in Paris are closed for their annual summer vacation. You cannot imagine how sad I was when I discovered that boulangeries like Du Pain et des Idées, Blé Sucré and Aux Péchés Normands were all closed. So kudos to Liberté for staying open and satisfying my cravings with delicious sweet treats!

Eric Kayser

DSC_7452DSC_7465.jpgEric Kayser is a chain bakery that you can find all over Paris, but the quality of their products is actually pretty good!

L’éclair de Génie

IMG_9191.jpgThis place makes éclairs in various unique flavours. The éclairs almost look too beautiful to be eaten!

Jacques Genin

DSC_5825.jpgThis chocolatier makes the most luscious hot chocolate. It is not overpoweringly rich and has just the right balance of bittersweet fragrance from the chocolate and creaminess from the milk. As if this pot of hot chocolate is not chocolatey enough, we were also served four pieces of exquisite chocolate to go with it. I have tried the hot chocolate from the popular Café de Flore but this one wins hands down. Jacques Genin is also known for serving one of the best made-to-order millefeuille in Paris.

Pierre Hermé

DSC_5614.jpgDSC_5627.jpgI know you can get Pierre Hermé macarons outside of Paris but it just feels different when I munch on these while walking down the streets of Paris. I always buy a few of these sugary treats whenever I am in town.

Brunch Cafe

Holybelly 5

DSC_7870.jpgWho would have thought that I would find a Melbourne-style cafe that I really liked in Paris? This hipster-ish cafe had nice brunch vibes and there was a long queue forming even though it was an early Sunday morning. The savoury stack was excellent! Fluffy pancakes topped with bacon and sunny side ups, drizzled with Bourbon butter and maple syrup – this is what makes waking up for brunch worth it.

Bonus tips:

If you are going to Paris for a food trip, try to avoid heading there during the French summer holiday period, which starts around the end of July until most of August. The majority of the restaurants and bakeries will be closed during this time.

IMG_9188.jpgI am obsessed with these dinosaur-shaped chocolate biscuits. I have only ever seen them in France, so I always bring boxes of these back to the U.K. with me.

Bonus photos:

DSC_5936DSC_6046DSC_6270

DSC_6296

Chef Adeline Grattard’s famed Stilton Cheese and Amarena cherry bao at Boutique yam’Tcha.

DSC_7396

Look at those flaky layers.

DSC_7656Until next time, stay hungry and keep exploring!

Arzak or Akelarre – Which should you visit?

No foodie trip to San Sebastián would be complete without a meal at at least one of the three 3-Michelin starred restaurants there – Akelarre, Arzak or Martin Berasategui. Following my previous post about my favourite pintxo bars in San Sebastián, today I will be reviewing my dining experiences at Arzak and Akelarre. We chose Arzak because Juan Mari Arzak is known as a culinary legend of San Sebastián and one of the founders of the New Basque Cuisine. We also decided on Akelarre because of the raving reviews that the restaurant has received under the helm of Pedro Subijana.

Both restaurants’ online reservation pages do not reveal whether tables are available for any date. You simply request for a reservation for your desired date and time by filling in a form and waiting for a reply. I wanted to make sure that I secured a table because restaurants like these are often fully booked, so I called each restaurant beforehand to check its availability before submitting my request online. Thankfully, I managed to make a reservation for lunch at Arzak and dinner the next day at Akelarre.

So how did the restaurants fare up against each other? If you could only pick one restaurant to dine at, which would I recommend?

Arzak

Anyone who watches Anthony Bourdain’s travel guides would feel like it is almost a crime to go to San Sebastián and leave without eating at Arzak. Oh how I wish that I too could sit at the chef’s table with Juan Mari Arzak and Elena Arzak, chatting over food and wine like old friends.

Arzak is housed in a simple, unassuming building located on top of a hill in the outskirts of San Sebastián. The building was actually built by Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents and as the origin of the restaurant can be traced back to 1897, this restaurant steeps with history. Juan Mari Arzak is currently in the process of handing over the reins to his daughter, Elena Arzak.

DSC_0217

It was simple enough for us to get there by public bus. Along the way, we joked that we are probably the only diners who want to eat at a 3-Michelin starred restaurant, but yet cannot afford the taxi fare to get there.

DSC_0237

Now let’s get into the gist of the meal.

DSC_0241

Restaurants that serve good, warm bread are instantly given an extra 10 points in my books. The two choices of bread had nice and crispy crusts, and soft and chewy centres, which I love!

Amuse bouche:

DSC_0257 copy

Moringa and prawn gyoza.

DSC_0260 copy

Alternative – Corn soup.

My friend is allergic to shellfish, so he receives alternative courses to suit his dietary requirements. Surprisingly, I sometimes find myself preferring the alternative dishes to mine, and this was one such example! The soup was creamy with corn bits, and packed a depth of flavour.

DSC_0267

Banana and squid.

DSC_0279

Pita bread.

DSC_0281

Eel rod.

DSC_0275

Marinated anchovy and strawberry.

The five amuse bouches tasted delicious, but nothing stood out in particular.

DSC_0289

Fish of the day with “patxaran” and purple corn.

DSC_0308

Scarlet prawn with krill: The prawn was fresh and cooked nicely. This dish had nice flavours from the lemon grass and mint, and I really enjoyed it!

DSC_0318

Cromlech, manioc and huitlacoche.

Crispy manioc hydrated with huitlacoche stuffed with a preparation of onion, green tea and foie gras. I am a huge fan of Top Chef and I have watched enough episodes from the series to know that huitlacoche is a type of fungus that grows on corn.

DSC_0342

Egg with tomato candy, “pozole” corn and cordyceps.

DSC_0363

Sole in red box.

Sole fillet with beetroot and obiant cube, pak choi and arenga.

DSC_0358

Monkfish Cleopatra.

One thing that I was not impressed with was Arzak’s plating. For a restaurant of its calibre, the way that some of their food was presented was rather uninspiring and at times, it even felt like they were trying too hard. For example, we were not fans of the Egyptian hieroglyphic patterns made with pumpkin and chickpeas on this plate. When we asked our server whether it represented something, he sheepishly replied that it was supposed to translate roughly into ‘enjoy your meal’. While I applaud the effort put into making the patterns, it just did not work for me.

DSC_0389

Orange-coloured pigeon. This was definitely our favourite dish on the menu. The pigeon was cooked to absolute perfection. The meat was incredibly tender and the flavours were well-balanced with sake, ground cherries, mandarins, oranges and crispy onion.

DSC_0382

Sailor’s lamb.

The lamb was roasted just to the right pinkness in the middle. The dish was served on a glass ‘platform’ with an electronic screen underneath displaying flickering flames. Unfortunately, the plating felt rather gimmicky to me and in my opinion, did not enhance the dish in any way.

DSC_0395

Spring frost.

Delightfully fresh granita is a sure winner for pre-dessert. This was with acai and fruits.

DSC_0426 copyDSC_0413

Square moon. A familiar combination of flavours.

DSC_0418

Skate and Vietnamese chocolate.

 

I usually am not a fan of chocolate mousse, but this was truly the best chocolate mousse I have ever tasted. It was so creamy and smooth, the delicious dark chocolate flavour really comes through, and it wasn’t too sweet. It was so good that I had to compliment Chef Elena when she came around to our table!

DSC_0429

Initially, I was a little doubtful about the choice of plating again – I mean, who serves dessert on a wooden board? But Chef Elena later lifted up the board and revealed that it is actually a part of a skateboard! She shared that San Sebastián has a hilly terrain and locals often commute by using skateboards. The dessert was plated in this manner to reflect this. This was so interesting and I love it when dishes tell a story!

DSC_0416

Pistachio granita: I have never seen nut-flavoured ‘granita’, so I thought this was really unique and delightful.

DSC_0435

Petit fours: The chocolate frogs made us giggle!

We ended the meal with a visit to the kitchen. Chef Elena was very friendly and down-to-earth, and we managed to take a photo with her before she had to leave for somewhere else.

Thoughts:

There were a few dishes which won our hearts – the prawn, pigeon, and chocolate mousse. But would I go back again? Probably not. Unfortunately, we did not leave as wow-ed as we expected to be. Don’t get me wrong, everything tasted delicious. But it just wasn’t exciting enough. It wasn’t a meal that would be etched in my memory for years to come. Service was of course impeccable.

Price: €205, not including drinks and tax.

Akelarre

DSC_0663

Akelarre’s dining room overlooks the Bay of Biscay and boasts a breathtaking view of the ocean. Tip: Remember to arrange your reservation for a time when there is daylight (lunch during the winter months) to fully enjoy the incredible surroundings. A dinner reservation during the summer months may give you a stunning view of the sunset if you are lucky with the weather! Unfortunately, the weather was rather overcast when we were in San Sebastián, so we could only imagine how much more beautiful the dining room would be if only there were clear skies and blue waters. Don’t forget to request for a table with a view!

Once again, we took a public bus to the restaurant. However, we took a taxi back into the city after our meal as it was past 11pm by then.

We were given three different tasting menus to choose, and were told that we could select any of the meat courses across the menus as our meat course. I decided on the Bekarki, while my friend settled on the Akelarre’s classics menu.

DSC_0613

Bloody Mary.

DSC_0618DSC_0631

Diabolic butter.

The amount of detail that goes into ‘simple’ butter is stunning. It was paired with beautiful tri-coloured bread (pepper, squid ink, normal).

DSC_0639

Potato Snacks.

DSC_0625

Pickles.

The ‘olive’ was not olive, and the garlic did not taste like garlic, which was great because every single fibre of my being hates eating garlic on its own. For the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed eating garlic.

DSC_0644

Black pudding cookie.

These look like chocolate biscuits, but your taste buds have a surprise coming for them.

Bekarki:

IMG_1096DSC_0667DSC_0683

Prawns and Green Beans cooked in “Orujo” Flame, and sea roes.

The prawns were cooked in front of us in the dining room. This is as fresh as prawns can get. They were incredibly sweet and had a beautiful charred flavour.

DSC_0702

Chickpeas and Violet Potato, not Conventional at all.

I really enjoyed the flavours and different textures from the smooth mashed chickpeas and potato, potato crisps and crunchy fried chickpeas.

DSC_0721

Souffled kokotxa, white garlic pil-pil

DSC_0780

Hake in Seaweed steam, plankton and oyster leaf.

The leaf really does taste like oyster!

DSC_0819

Squid as a risotto, butter flower

The ‘risotto’ is made entirely of little pieces of squid. There is not a single grain of rice on the plate. The beautiful butter flower melts with the parmesan cheese to create a stunning dish.

DSC_0833

Roasted suckling pig, “bone” and Iberian emulsion

The suckling pig is cooked in Iberian broth and finished in the oven. What results is unbelievably tender and juicy meat, and perfectly crispy skin. The “bone” is – you guessed it – not bone. The Iberian emulsion was full of depth and flavour.

DSC_0857

According to our server, the pig-shaped potato soufflé is actually the most difficult component to execute on the plate. Once again, I ate the garlic with no qualms. Akelarre has changed me.

DSC_0860

Melting Cupcake.

The yogurt foam is made to resemble a cupcake. The flavours are coffee and chestnut, with some grapefruit on the side.

DSC_0875

A Different Apple Tart.

The amazing thing about this dessert is that there is not a single piece of fresh apple on the plate, but yet it tastes like an apple tart. Everything on the plate can be eaten, including the apple paper with the words printed on it.

DSC_0887

Underneath the paper are puff pastry, toasted apple cream and praline.

Akelarre’s Classics:

DSC_0695

Very thin and light Beef Tartar, new Potato Soufflé and Aromatic Herb bread (alternative course to the lobster salad).

DSC_0714

Pasta Carpaccio, Piquillo and Iberic with Parmesan shrooms.

The ‘ham’ underneath is actually pasta made to look exactly like ham!

DSC_0733

Asparagus, little tear green peas and liquid salad.

Beautiful ‘ravioli’ made with white asparagus.

DSC_0784

Sauteéed fresh foie gras with “salt flakes and grain pepper”.

Our jaws almost dropped to the floor when our server placed the plate of foie gras on our table and proceeded to dump a whole lot of salt and pepper onto the plate. But we took one bite, and we were mind blown. I don’t want to spoil it for you by revealing too much, but this dish took us by surprise and was an absolute winner.

DSC_0805

DSC_0807

Whole-grain red mullet with sauce “fusilli”.

Every single part of the red mullet is utilised in this dish, including the head, bones and liver. The fusilis on the side are filled with parsley, soy and “ajo blanco” sauce. Such an inventive dish!

DSC_0848

Carved beef, tendon and lacquered skin, “potatoes and peppers”.

DSC_0871

A little bit of cheese before the dessert.

I confess that I am no cheese connoisseur and I have still yet to learn how to truly appreciate different cheeses. I definitely need to up my game in this section!

DSC_0895DSC_0901

The broken jar of yogurt, “Gatzatua” and Berries

The broken ‘jar’ is completely edible as it is made of sugar and the label is made of edible ink and paper. The plate was visually stunning and definitely one that left a deep impression on me. The level of intricacy put into the presentation is astounding. The presentation evokes memories of accidentally broken jars and bottles. This dessert is certainly one-of-a-kind.

DSC_0904

Petit fours

Thoughts:

Our server was very knowledgeable and it was interesting to learn little nuggets of information about each dish as they were served. As you can tell from the photos, the presentation of the food at Akelarre was exquisite. The dishes came with surprises and twists, which kept us hungry and enthralled for more. Garlic is my worst nemesis and I hate it with a vengeance. But Chef Pedro managed to make me eat garlic alone. What more could I ask for?

Price: €195, not including drinks and tax.

Verdict:

While Arzak’s served food of very high quality, my personal favourite would have to be Akelarre. I found the dishes at Akelarre to be more creative and exciting, both in terms of flavour and presentation. After eating at many good restaurants, it becomes more and more rare to come across a restaurant that really stands out. After all, flavour combinations can become similar and good cooking techniques are generally expected when you dine at restaurants of this level. However, Akelarre managed to dazzle and impress. I hope to return again one day. Hopefully, the weather will be good to me the next time and I will be able to dine with the golden sunset as a backdrop. It would definitely make the dining experience more magical than it already is!

Stay hungry and keep exploring! x

The Ultimate San Sebastián Foodie Guide

San Sebastián (or Donostia in Basque) is renowned for being a foodie paradise. This city located on the coast of the Bay of Bisque at the Northern part of Spain boasts the second most number of Michelin stars per square metre in the world, only behind Kyoto, Japan. Food lovers from all over the world throng to the Parte Vieja (Old Town) to hop from one pintxo bar to the next. The cobbled streets are lined with bustling pintxo bars brimming with people holding a pintxo in one hand, and a glass of txakoli (a local sparkling white wine) in the other. It is unsurprising that the town holds the title for having the most number of bars per square metre in the world.

DSC_0025

Pintxos set out on the counter at Bar Zeruko.

As you would know by now, food plays a huge part in my travels, so I was extremely excited to kick off my Summer holidays with a trip to San Sebastián. It was a very laidback holiday and what I did there was literally wake up, eat, nap, chill, eat, sleep, repeat. Unfortunately, it was rather cloudy and it drizzled quite a bit when I was there, so I only did a little bit of sightseeing on my last day. Contrary to what I expected, the city actually experiences overcast conditions for the majority of the year. But that’s okay, because give me good food and I’m good to go!

DSC_1164

Head to the sandy beach, Playa de la Concha when your stomach needs a break from eating.

We hopped through quite a number of pintxo bars, visited a traditional Basque cider house, and dined at two 3-Michelin starred restaurants – Arzak and Akelare. Overall, I think I had a well-balanced experience of the food there! This post will be a rundown on the places that I ate at in San Sebastián, with a focus on the pintxo bars and cider house because I will be reviewing the Michelin-starred restaurants separately. Alright, let’s get into the main course of this post!

How to Get to San Sebastián

I took an Easyjet flight from London Stansted airport to Bilbao airport, and then took a bus from Bilbao to San Sebastián. The buses run quite frequently and tickets can be easily bought from the ticket office on the spot, so it is convenient to get from Bilbao to San Sebastián. I chose to fly in to Bilbao, instead of San Sebastián, because the flight tickets to Bilbao were a lot cheaper, even after taking into account the price of the bus tickets. I actually spent a day in Bilbao, before heading to San Sebastián the next day. I got to visit an extra city, and save on travel costs – killing two birds with one stone!

Bus company: Pesa

Bilbao City – San Sebastián: 12 Euros

Bilbao Airport – San Sebastián: 17 Euros

Travel duration: 1 hour 15 minutes

Where to Stay

I stayed at Pensión San Vicente which was right in the heart of the Parte Vieja. I would highly recommend finding an accommodation which is close to the pintxo bars in the Parte Vieja because there is nothing more convenient than being merely a few steps away from some of the best food in the world. The main ‘touristy’ area of the city is very walkable, and I never had to take public transport, unless the restaurants were located outside of the city.

Where and What to Eat

Pintxo Bars

Pintxos are small bites, traditionally served with a bread slice at the bottom. They are similar to tapas and are commonly priced between 2 to 4 Euros. The bars usually also serve small plates which would cost slightly more. We averaged around 5 to 6 pintxos or small plates per person for each meal. The list below consists of our favourite pintxo bars and what to order at each bar.

Tip:

Each pintxo bar has their own specialties, so if you want to taste the best of the best, you have to be disciplined! After all, there is so much food, but you only have so much stomach space. With the wide array of tempting pintxos displayed on the bar counters, it was really no easy feat to exercise self control and stop ourselves from putting all the pintxos on our plates. So head in, order only the food that they are known to be good for, pair it with a glass of txakoli (at less than 2 Euros per glass, you’re welcome to drink to your heart’s content!), finish up and hop on to the next bar. A word of warning – it can get very busy, especially in the more popular bars, so be prepared to wait to be served. However, there’s nothing that a cheerful mood and delicious food can’t cure!

1. Goiz Argi (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_9987Gambas (Prawn skewers): The prawns were cooked to order perfectly and incredibly fresh.

2. Borda Berri (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0106

Veal cheek: Slowly cooked until it disintegrates in your mouth.

DSC_0111

Pig’s ear: Crunchy and nicely seasoned. Don’t be afraid. It didn’t taste funky at all!

3. Gandarias (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0084

Solomillo (Tenderloin)

4. La Cuchara de San Telmo (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0181

Suckling pig: We did not order this initially, but the kitchen accidentally prepared an extra and the server highly recommended us to try it. It was the best mistake ever! The skin was crispy, the meat was tender and the apple sauce was a beautiful match. Definitely one of the best suckling pigs that I have tasted (only behind Akelare’s)!

DSC_0191

Foie: The foie was cooked and seasoned perfectly so that it didn’t taste sickeningly fat!

DSC_0185

Squid ravioli: The skin of the ravioli was not like conventional pasta, but instead thinner and slippery, almost like wanton skin. It is not something that everybody would fancy, but it is definitely something different and worth a try!

5. La Viña (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0075

Cheesecake: If you prefer lighter cheesecakes, unlike traditional New York cheesecake which is richer, then you would love this cheesecake. The shelves are lined with rows of beautifully caramelised and wobbly cheesecake, with the smell of freshly baked cake wafting through the restaurant. The texture of it is almost like crème brûlée and I really enjoyed the hint of burnt caramel taste. I loved this cheesecake so much that I went there three times!

6. La Cepa (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0520

Fried Milk

7. Zabaleta (Traditional)

What to order:

DSC_0912DSC_0920DSC_0923

Tortilla (Spanish omelette): The tortilla was so yellow that it almost looked golden. Locals frequent this place for breakfast and together with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, this was the perfect way to start my day.

8. Sirimiri (Modern)

Sirimiri was my favourite pintxo bar! It served many of my favourite dishes, and the restaurant had a very chilled vibe which I enjoyed.

DSC_1005

DSC_1027

Dinosaur ribs.

What to order:

DSC_0579

Ibérico pork: Perfectly cooked Ibérico pork with a sweet glaze, hazelnuts and bacon bits. It was so delicious that I went back the next day and ordered it again.

DSC_0571

Octopus: One of my pet peeves is rubbery, overcooked octopus, but this was beautifully grilled. This ranks as one of the best octopus dishes that I have had, and this is coming from someone who orders octopus whenever it is on the menu.

DSC_0563

Salad: This salad is proof that salad does not need to be boring. A delightful mix of fresh leaves, beets for sweetness, nuts and seeds for crunch and texture, fresh goats cheese, tossed in a fresh and tangy dressing. Amongst the heavy meats that we had all day, this was a wonderful relief.

DSC_1083DSC_1091

Burnt cream: The cream on top is torched for a burnt caramel taste. The inside is cold ice cream with a buttery biscuit base.

9. Zeruko (Modern)

What I liked about Zeruko was that everything was plated so beautifully. It is a modern pintxo bar, so the pintxos were served with a twist. I didn’t even know what were the ingredients for some of the pintxos. All I knew was that they tasted great.

DSC_0004

What to order:

DSC_0148

La Hoguera (The bonfire): It was a fun way to eat because we had to smoke the cod for 10 seconds on each side, eat it with the bread slice, and finish with the refreshing shot.

What we also ordered:

DSC_0012

DSC_0030

The two photos above looked like eggs, but they were not!

DSC_0138

DSC_0154

Fried courgette flower stuffed with cheese. This was 10 times better than Barrafina’s (1-Michelin starred Spanish tapas restaurant in London), and at a fraction of the price!

10. Atari (Modern)

What to order:

DSC_0547

63 Degree Egg

Cider House

This region is famous for cider production and local farmhouses have been making cider using the traditional method for centuries. The cider is crisp and dry, and is a perfect accompaniment to wash down a meal. The most exciting part of dining in a cider house is entering the cold cider rooms filled with huge chestnut barrels, and filling your glass with cider flowing directly from the barrels.

DSC_0443

Petritegi has three cider rooms filled with these massive 15,000 litre chestnut barrels.

Cider season runs from January to April, but some cider houses open throughout the year. We decided to visit Sidrería Petritegi because it is open all year round (we visited San Sebastián in June). It took us around 45 minutes to get there by bus, but we had to take a taxi back after dinner as it was past 11pm by then.

We decided on the traditional cider house menu which costs 28.50 Euros per person. For 4 courses and unlimited cider, it was well worth the price! The food did not look fancy, but it was truly one of the most enjoyable meals I have had. There’s something about traditional, humble food which touches your soul and leaves you feeling extremely satisfied.

DSC_0458

Each table had a baguette to be eaten together with the courses. To be honest, it looked like bread from the supermarket, but don’t judge a book by its cover! First, we were served two pieces of chorizo as appetizers. They didn’t look like much, but when eaten together with the bread, they tasted so flavourful and delicious!

DSC_0459

Next, we had the salt cod omelette which was smooth and creamy.

DSC_0473

The following course was the fried salt cod with peppers. The cod was a little bit overcooked, but it was still a delicious dish overall.

DSC_0480

The txuleta was the star of the night. This 700g bone-in rib eye steak had its outside seared crispy. The inside was rare, but not chewy at all. It was melt-in-our-mouths! This was the steak of my life.

DSC_0490

The dessert course was cheese, quince jelly, walnuts, almond ‘tiles’ and ‘cigarettes’. Cracking open walnuts was so addictive that I couldn’t stop even though I was already so full by then.

Final Thoughts

The restaurants in San Sebastián always cook to a very high standard and we never had a bad meal there. It was an amazing destination for a relaxing holiday filled with endless eating, with beautiful beaches as a side. One of my friends remarked that when in San Sebastián, you only have one meal a day because the meal lasts from morning until night. The food in San Sebastián was truly game changing and I don’t think that Spanish cuisine outside of Spain can ever be a real match to the amazing quality of food there!

DSC_0085

A Summer holiday isn’t complete without gelato.

Processed with VSCO with a5 presetDSC_1128DSC_1153DSC_1178Processed with VSCO with a6 presetUntil next time, stay hungry and keep exploring!