San Sebastian has the highest number of Michelin Stars per square metre then any other place on earth; and while I didn’t dine at any Michelin star restaurants I certainly ate a lot of good food!
In San Sebastian there are two main food experiences, pintxos and asadors.
Pintxos is basically tapas but in the Basque region of Spain. The idea is that you do a kind of food crawl from place to place having a few pintxos and a drink at each place before moving onto the next. And trust me you kind of need it to work off what you eat!
Asadors on the other hand are meat and seafood grills, in a barbecue style.
While in San Sebastian my family and I spent one night on a pintxos crawl and the other night at an asador.
On the night of our pintxos crawl we started at Bar Borda Berri on Fermin Calbeton Kalea. This area is dense with pintxos bars. This place in particular is really popular and even at 8 it was really busy. It only has standing room and even then people were spilling into the streets. In saying that, the staff were rather organised in spite of the chaos, and food was coming out thick and fast. This place is known for its veal cheeks so we all ordered one each. The veal fell apart with the slightest pressure and was rich and delicious, it was served with a lovely tomato sauce and a chimmichurri sauce to freshen it up.
We also ordered a beautiful mushroom risotto which is made with orzo, giving it a really nice texture; And oven cooked duck served with a tasty marmalade-y sauce – which balanced nicely against the the skin on the duck which was lovely and salty.
The next place we went to was just up the street at a place called Goiz Agri. It was a small, generic looking place but it had some great seafood. We ordered grilled prawns that was served with a really tasty garlic sauce – and let’s be honest what’s better than garlic and prawns. The grilled calamari was also yummy, particularly the tentacles which were charred and crunchy!
Lastly we went to Bar Zeruko, on the next street over, Pescadaria Kalea. This place was amazing!! It was like molecular gastronomy pintxos. There was so much crazy and interesting stuff here. You were given a plate which you could fill with whatever you liked. You then gave the plate to the staff who would then finish of the pintxos with sauces or heated up etc.
While we had planned very particularly the pintxos bars we went to we really stumbled across the asador we visited as we were just looking to eat somewhere close to where we were staying. This place, Asador Arriola, was very unassuming but made up for it with amazing food and friendly, lovely staff.
My brother and dad wanted a steak each and the chef suggested that the share one big 1 kilo steak as it would be more flavourful and have a nice amount of fat on it. It was an excellent suggestion! The steak came out on a sizzling plate, sliced and cooked quite rare. The idea was that you could lay the slices of meat on the sizzling plate to cook the meat further if you wanted. The meat was beautifully caramelized and well seasoned with sea salt flakes. The steak also had a the most delicious tasting fat, gross I know but it was seriously good! The fat wasn’t overly rendered (which is seemed to be the style in Spain) but the quality of the meat was so good and tasty that you could literally eat the fat on its own.
I had a beautiful grilled squid which was served with a lovely garlic, parsley and olive oil sauce with potatoes. It was beautiful and tender and the sauce was divine when soaked up with the bread they gave us.
They also had a great selection of desserts including the traditional fried milk, which I had tried earlier at another restaurant in San Sebastian. It is like a Spanish version of French toast but instead of using bread they make a custard, fry it and serve it with cinnamon and sugar, and if you’re lucky a caramel sauce! Seriously drool worthy!
San Sebastian definitely has a lot to offer in the way of food but is also a gorgeous city, almost Parisienne in style. Being there three days really wasn’t enough and only fueled my desire to return ASAP!