An evening at Mugaritz, Gipuzkoa 17 August 2010

Now there’s something special with some meals. With some restaurants. With some evenings.

I’ve already written about our plan to visit Spain again after last summers fantastic experience and told you about the great pintxos in Donostia. Now it’s time to summarize my party’s evening at Mugaritz.

According to the San Pellegrino top 50 Mugaritz is on fifth place – yes for all you observant people reading it dropped one from last year and who took the fourth place if not the good people at El Celler.

I’ll just go dish by dish and end with a little thought about the experience as a whole and how I compare it to the restaurant that took it’s fourth place.

Arriving a little early, how un-Spanish of us, we took a seat in the garden. I had a look at the herbs and flowers that they use in their cooking and behind me in the picture you see their new kitchen – with all the windows – nice!

As an amuse buche we got stones. Well biting into them we found out it was really potatoes. Don’t know what kind but they were really tasty and they came with awesomely good aioli and a glass of Mokoroa 09, Getariako, Txakolina by Mokoroa.

Potatoes as Stones for appetizers

Inside we were seated at a big round table, love those, and also got a tour in the new kitchen. I’ve seen a few kitchens, both as a member of the staff as well as a curios patron and I’ve never seen such a well-organized and squeaky-clean kitchen.

Kitchen at Mugaritz

Back at the table we got two more appetizers. First some grilled paprika and then a baby squid salad served in its ink. Now we got to decide on the wine. They didn’t cater a set wine menu so we asked our very helpful sommelier for a selection that would fit both our menu and our wallet – he hit a home run! First up – Ossian 07, Verdejo, VdT de Castilla y Leon.

Baby Squid Salad

Ok, first dish. Roasted Tomato Salad and its own cool water. Best tomato I’ve ever eaten. So rich in flavor it was insane. The cool water was a kind of white tomato juice sorbet.

Roasted Tomato Salad

After that came a Silky Bread Stew, infused with pink geranium leaves covered with crabmeat. Just the smell of it was lovely. Digging in was even better.

Silky Bread Stew

Now came the favorite of a couple in our party – Roasted Lobster, herbs and dried peach. Even if I do think that lobster usually is a tad overrated this one was good. I wouldn’t say dry but a big chunk of lobster is, well a big chunk. The flavor combination was excellent though. I think this is when we got the next wine – As Sortes 09, Godello, Valdeorras, by Rafael Palacios.

Roasted Lobster

Now for a fun ingredient – Razor Clams flavored with a rich black bean broth, perfumed with cinnamon oil and Sweet Black Beans. The flavors was very delicate but when I think about the painstaking job of picking those clams by hand with snorkel and mask I wonder if it’s worth it. Pick an oyster instead. But then I’m not fair. Sorry no picture of this dish.

Next on the plate were Megrim Stuffed with Vegetable Pearls, pickled herbs and small sautéed onions. This dish was more about the clean flavors of the ingredients, as was most of the menu, and it was very nice. Nothing more, nothing less, just very nice. Next wine was Etiqueta Negra 07, Albariño, Rias Baixas, by Terras Gauda. Could be that Rias Baixas is a new favorite denominación.

Megrim Stuffed With Vegetable Pearls

Continuing on the sea theme we got Sea Bass with tomatillos and Iberian sheen. Got to love that sea bass and tomatillos was a fun type of tomatoes that looked like black currants.

Sea Bass

Now we went over to Loin of Duck, served with iodized compliments; crumblings and shavings of summer truffle. Me, I really like truffle so this was tasty. The duck itself, maybe, just maybe, a tad overcooked. It seemed like a fantastic idea that in the end was just very nice and not all that fantastic. However, the wine that was being poured up was amazing – AALTO PS 05, Ribiera del Duero by AALTO. Kudos to AALTO!

Loin of Duck

Now for the absolute favorite – Tradition, Ocean and Land they call it. Braised Iberian Pork Tails and pan fried Langoustines, reduced braising juices infused with Iberian “jamón”. Halle-friggin’-lujah, that’s what I call a surf ‘n’ turf! That pork had such a rich taste and langoustines cooked to perfection are just filthy good – there was a party in my mouth.

Iberian Pork Tails and Pan Fried Langoustines

Exit savory main dishes; enter dessert. Not my focal point in any meal but hey, who am I to pass these little plates of heavenly sweets up. Warm Artisan Tablet with whipped honey and oats – say what? Well look at the picture. Loved the honey foam and all in all a nicely put together ensemble. The dessert wine that followed was Seleccion Especial No1, Malaga, by Jorge Ordonez – great stuff.

Warm Artisan Tablet

The second dessert was the best – Broken Walnuts, Toasted and Salted, cool milk cream and Armagnac jelly. It was ice cream on goat milk that worked like a charm with the faux walnuts, eatable what else, and the fiery jelly inside.

Broken Walnuts, Toasted and Salted

The chef said in the beginning of the evening that we could switch any dish and ask for more whenever. Now came the time when some ordered an extra dessert. They got an awesome chocolate thingy like a chocolate cream or soup with a lid of white chocolate and powdered sugar.

Extra Dessert

As for all the wine, I liked that we got to try two dishes with each wine so we got the opportunity to see how the wines played out differently. Well of course you think but the thing is – the wines was so damn well matched with all dishes and that I’m impressed with.

Another interesting detail is that almost every ingredient is sourced from no more than 30 km away. The Iberian pork is apparently an exception as the Galician ones are the best. Also something that we learned when we asked if they had anything with Foie Gras, we love that shit, they told us it wasn’t in season. Silly us thought that it could be consumed whenever.

So how can I compare this with last year’s evening at El Celler de Can Roca? Well, I don’t really want to. I know that the total experience was a tad better at El Celler; the least exciting dishes was better there, the setting and service just a tiny bit better, the bread better, the appetizers more inventive but the wines was better at Mugaritz. But as I said, don’t really want to compare the two. Both evenings were truly fantastic. Go visit them both!

And by the way, what do you think – have you tried any of the above or what do you think about ranking these kinds of experiences?

One Reply to “An evening at Mugaritz, Gipuzkoa 17 August 2010”

  1. I know you’re not supposed to compare apples with pears…but one is allowed to have a favourite, right? And I have to say that I preferred the food and overall experience at El Celler over Mugartiz.
    However Mugaritz scored points with the guest visit to the kitchen and all the locallly produced ingredients. The minus points were for the complicated wine ordering.

What do you think?