Address: Latitude: 43 degree 16 minutes 22 seconds North (43.27278)
Longitude: 1 degree 55 minutes 4 seconds West (-1.9178)
Phone: 943 522 455 or 943 518 343
You cannot mention Mugaritz without making a reference to el Bulli. Any food lovers of the world has come to known the best restaurant in the world, el Bulli and its best chef in the world, Ferran Adria. There is no understating the influence and impact that is Ferran Adria and el Bulli. Aspiring chefs flock to its kitchen to train under the master of molecular gastronomy and food enthusiasts would do anything to beat the 2 million requests for 8000 seats odds. Unfortunately, we did not do enough and ended up on the 1,992,000 side of the odds even after trying to make the reservation a year in advance. One of the main reason we decided to have our Spain trip sans el Bulli is because of Mugaritz and its chef. The chef/owner Andoni Luis Aduriz, was a protégé at el Bulli, and he is also trained at some of the best restaurants in the world ie Arzak and Martin Berastegui before opening Mugaritz ten years ago. He’s curious, ambitious and amazingly talented, which is why the restaurant quickly made its way up the pantheon of greatness, the more recent accolade being a #4 on S.Pellegrino’s World Best 50 restaurant chart in 2008 (including Chef's Choice). The food at Mugaritz can be described as part science and part nature, with all kinds of high tech gadgets utilized by young talented chefs (average age of 28) to experiment and create food that brings out the best flavors in the ingredients which challenges both visual and sensory perception, while paying respect to natural ingredients. Their goal is to evoke reaction and emotion, at the same time provide sensual gastronomic experience.
We focus mostly on flavor and taste of the food when having a meal at a restaurant but it is worth mentioning here that the service at Mugaritz is notable. We were especially pleased that Chef Aduriz is willing to give the diners a glimpse of his sacred kitchen. It was in the kitchen where we also met Mugaritz's visiting previous head chef, Dan Hunter, who now runs the kitchen of Royal Mail Restaurant at Dunkeld, a town 3 hours drive from Melbourne Australia. The current head chef at Mugaritz is Llorens Sagarra, who was there to greet us as well. The staffs in the dining room was most graciously helpful despite the language barrier. The head waiter, Jose Ramon, is a sweetheart. He gave us a tour of the kitchen, as well as some souvenirs from the restaurant.
mmmmmmmmmMugaritz dining room
During our 12-course Spanish alta cocina (high cuisine) lunch, we were constantly at awe of the visual appearance and the taste and texture of the food presented. The restaurant’s trademark dish, “rock potato” looked just like real rocks in the basket, but the clay covered potato skin has nice crunchy texture, while the potato itself is moist and soft. The watermelon Carpaccio, which is the restaurant's most popular dish, was just plain amazing. It took us a while to realize that the Carpaccio was in fact thinly sliced watermelon and not some kind of meat or fish. It was one of our most delicious and memorable dish we've ever had.
Clay potatoes with real rocks
Mamia - walnut with raw sheep milk custard
CARPACCIO accompanies by a sweet and sour dressing, D.O. Idiazabal cheese chippings and vegetables splinters
KOKOTXA DE BACALAO (chin of the fish) cooked in its own gelatin with acacia honey
HEART OF BABY LEEKS roasted over vine cuttings and bathed in a stock infused with molusks. Crushed citrus fruit (with razor clams)
The barbeque-smoked scalope of foie gras demonstrated the ingenious creativity of playing texture, having the outer layer of the foie gras mimicking those of a scallop. It was also widely reported that Chef Aduriz had spend some time in a university hospital liver transplant unit to study the cell structures of duck livers. Talk about dedication bordering on obsessiveness. You can also see him pay homage to his birth region of Basque with the "ocean and land" dish with a twist. The braised Iberian pork tails and pan fried languostines with reduced braising juice infused with iberian jamón was very hearty and satisfying. Then there was the famous coal meat, where a piece of Milk Veal was roasted and coated with edible vegetable coloring to produce a piece of coal-look-alike, when it is in fact a piece of meat. The charred twigs were actually crisp radishes. This dish was one of the most complex dish we had ever had and yet one we can easily relate to. Chef Aduriz had mentioned before that one of his childhood taste was the smell of the coal used for cooking lamb when he went to his father's village (Tony's trademark question on No Reservation). The visual impact from the black coal like looking veal and the charred smell of coal would no doubt recall the memory of countryside. But yet, nothing says more than urban sophistication of the technique used to produce this food when you cut through the black coal-meat and see the white-milkishness color of the baby veal. The taste was almost secondary at that point, but it did not fail to deliver. Full savory goodness. It was truly, an assault on all the senses.
Barbeque-smoked SCALOPE OF FOIE GRAS, mustard seeds and leaves
SAUTEED RED MULLET FILLETS served iver a vegetables and liver stew
A PIECE OF MILK VEAL, ROASTED AND PERFUMED, WITH VINE CUTTING EMBERS and fragments of thyme, cinders, salts and crisp radishes
Tradition, ocean and land: braised IBERIAN PORK TAILS and pan fried LANGOUSTINES. Reduced braising juices infused with iberia jamón
The most amazing dessert we had for the night was leaves, fruits and flowers. Fruit juice was infused into ice frost and the result was intensely flavored yet refreshing dessert. The moist chocolate cake with bubbles was fascinating and especially when we found out that the bubbles were made with xantham gum and a modified fish tank bubbler.
LEAVES, FRUITS AND FLOWERS: "Sagasti solla lotan, abar makur naspil, zelaiek, orbelpean, ametsetan Orril, txori gaxoei aztu gau latzaren urbil, aizenoa lillurak otxanduta dabil". Xabier Lizardi (1931) lzotz-ondoko eguzki
WARM PUMPKIN BUTE with sweet and bitter accents
MOIST CHOCOLATE CAKE, cold almonds cream and cocoa bubbles
Kitchen tour: Met Chef Aduriz and his previous ex head chef, Dan Hunter, who nows run the Royal Mail Restaurant at the Royal Mail Hotel in Dunkeld, Victoria, 3 hours drive from Melbourne
Chef Aduriz waving good bye from his kitchen
It is said that over 75% of the diners in Mugaritz are from all around the world, who like us, planned our vacation to San Sebastian to eat at the restaurant. One of the most common gripes on Mugaritz, just like Etxebarri, is the experience of getting there. Hmm.. maybe that is the secret to their success; artificially induced anticipation which is later soothed and rewarded with great countryside scenery and well executed food. The morning before heading to Mugaritz, we actually spent 2 long hours in the hotel room searching for the location of the restaurant since it’s situated in the mountains and does not have an actual address. Think Long/Lat conversion, Google map and GPS navigation on rental cars. Calling the receptionist at the restaurant didn’t help much since she spoke very limited English. We feel most of the reason why people had trouble getting there was because they used a P.O. address which is in the nearby town, Errenteria but the restaurant itself is up in the mountains where the streets have no name. But we managed to pin down the location of Mugaritz in the end, and the trip there and dining experience at Mugaritz is something we would remember for a long time.
Sarah and the trusted rental VW with GPS, without which we won't be eating this well in San Sebastian