More arthouse than restaurant, David Muñoz's occasionally magical restaurant fell down on some easy basics; dirty, streaked dishes, forgetful and poorly-trained service got in the way of an otherwise out-of-this-world kitchen and physical space.
Extraordinarily formal even by 3-star standards, Martín Berasategui's Barcelona outpost does not achieve the same levels of culinary or service prowess as his flagship restaurant (located in Lasarte, Spain, interestingly) but it comes close.
Arzak is one of those handful of restaurants that, to me at least, represents the most exciting restaurants of my whole entire Michelin 3-Star experience. Ever since watching Netflix’s Chef’s Kitchen episode about the father-daughter team that runs Arzak, I was attracted to their humility, their dedication, and their intense commitment to improving that which was already close to perfect. For example, they keep a "flavor library" in their restaurant to test drive new pairings and combinations for their diners, filled with hundreds of unique scents and tastes they have collected from around the world.
Arzak, at moments, came close to perfect. There were some truly inspired flavors and presentations (the beer can dish really stood out- see below) but elements of the experience really lacked. The dining room is really, really tightly packed. Certain dishes kind of fell down with their own complexity. To be really clear: at no time was Arzak bad, and this is still one of my top ten favorite restaurant experiences.
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
PRICE PAID: $241 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 8.0/10
We were seated in a corner table in a space that, to put it generously, was a touch overcrowded. Though I’m sure they’re eager to remain humble, it’s pretty clear that their massive popularity has forced them to get more from their space. Probably two or three tables too many crowded the tiny room.
A charming waiter named Cesar joined us at our table to give us a full course-by-course description of the menu; a unique gesture that I enjoyed. There were few choices to make on the tasting menu, and he walked us through what to expect for each one. The options were pretty easy- seabass vs. monkfish, pigeon vs. lamb, etc.
Some delicious, thick wheat bread and flavorful olive oil to start. 8/10.
These very colorful chips, complete with flower petals, were a delicious salty intro. They had shellfish flavors and make a pretty picture. 8/10.
Next, some fried anchovies—the anchovies aren’t oily or fishy in the least—that taste fresh, flaky, and lean, with the chives brightening the flavors significantly. I end up eating the tail and don’t even mind. 9/10.
Next, some gyoza of prawns with a batter made from Moringa, a spice from India known as the horseradish tree. Spicy, and the orange and green peppers add a nice texture note. There's a lot going on in these small dumplings, though. 7/10.
Check out this completely amazing presentation of mango and Basque "txistorra" sausage (a thinner, leaner version of chorizo) on the tail of a crushed beer can! The mango flavors pair with the protein perfectly, and I love the delightfully Instagram-worthy plating. 10/10.
Next, some black pudding with cabbage, which I (rather unwisely) ate in a single bite. A very soft mouthfeel and there were so many tastes throughout that the impression ends up being surprisingly neutral; the strongest flavors I could pull out are those of frosted sugar. 7/10.
The choice in opposition to the oysters is a fish of the day, which turns out to be sea bream. It doesn’t disappoint- zingy fresh, with a subtle clear sauce that adds a lot of depth without making it heavy. 8/10.
Like most of the Spanish restaurants I visited during this trip, olive oil is the standard bread pairing. I always ended up feeling slightly guilty requesting butter, because it comes out from the kitchen in these clearly hand-made flourishes. But then I immediately stop feeling guilty and enjoy the hell out of this awesome butter. 9/10.
Next, an extremely delicious plate that pairs freshly cooked lobster with… bee’s pollen? The pollen is also included with some blue honeycomb, and both taste a lot like honey. They add delicious waxy depth to the dish; I can safely say that I never would have guessed that this pairing works out, but it really does. The stickiness of the pollen goes with the crackling, firm freshness of the lobster in a unique and beautiful way. 9/10.
The zucchini tasted smoked, and grilled, yielding something like a barbecue zucchini. Not sure where this came from, or how it's supposed to fit into the flow of the meal, or if it was even supposed to be thought of as a whole course, but it tastes simple and delicious. 7/10.
Nobody on the staff was quite sure how it ended up with the name “Space Egg,” but the farm-fresh egg in this dish was slow roasted at 65° C for 40 minutes, which brings out tons of rich flavor. Surrounded by flowers and tiny dabs of sauces and spices, the flavor is so natural and bright, you can practically taste the seeds and grains the chicken that produced this lives on. I've never had an egg quite this good before. 9/10.
Next up, some sea bass with a graviola sauce, which is a tropical fruit from Brazil. The fruit has a flavor that's a midpoint between pineapples, bubblegum, strawberries, and bananas. It works just perfectly with the light, flaky, perfectly cooked fish. Yet another flavor combination that reflects the incredibly hard work and research done by Elena and Juan Mari. Super excellent. 9/10.
And now the big show: lamb with cypress, yuca, and grapefruit. The base of the dish has amazing flavors of armanac as well. We got to hear a neat story about how Elena and her father were visiting a friend named Vicente Carrillo, who makes guitars. As they stood near him in his shop while Vicente shaped a new guitar out of cypress wood, the shavings flew through the air and created a heavenly aroma that Elena and her dad agreed they had to share with others. So, the shavings of wood that surround this dish (and, truthfully, that occasionally landed on my plate) is an homage to that experience. The scent of the tree pairs perfectly with the lamb. A really cool idea and great execution. 10/10.
In another celestial reference, this dish is titled "Square Moon," and it's basically a chocolate cube filled with mint, neroli, and kiwi, a complex set of flavors that somehow work together perfectly. The server walks over with a teapot full of melted chocolate and proceeds to pour in, collapsing the structure in a big awesome pool. Check out the video to the right. 9/10.
Another dessert, another complex medley of flavors. This dish is a creamy mix of buckthorn (a somewhat bitter herbal) with smoked sheep's milk, sweet potato, and peanut. Everything goes together, but I feel like there's so much going on it's almost overwhelming. 6/10.
A simple, fun bowl of fruit ice creams. 8/10.
A lovely birdcage with folding gate is brought over with small petit fours. The pink is passion fruit with milk, green is apple. A delightful ending. 8/10.
Some pretty excellent coffee rounds things out. This place met, though didn't fully exceed, my very high expectations.
Azurmendi is most memorable for its treatment of the meal as an educational, enlightening, (maybe even moving?) experience. The event begins with a facility tour- we are walked through the lobby, the kitchen, a greenhouse, and given "snacks" along the way at each step. The tour is very showy—employees are pumping smoke into a fog generator, carefully placing small bites before arriving guests walk in—in a way that feels quite artificial. Not to say any of it was unenjoyable; it's a hell of a way to spend an afternoon, and it felt like so much more than just a meal.
On the approach up a steep hill alongside a highway, we drive past Eneko Atxa's cooking school and culinary center, and then finally arrive near the top of the hill at the restaurant itself. The restaurant itself has the look of a large greenhouse- floor-to-ceiling windows, glassy rooftop spans- lending the whole place a feel of transparency and eco-involved-ness.
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
PRICE PAID: $230 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 8.0/10
A gorgeously-manicured eco-garden full of the flowering plants that eventually become the fruits and vegetables on our plates surrounds the building. Down the hill from the main structure are a few thin rows of wine grapes, which also end up getting consumed a few meters away as the crow flies by the restaurant’s guests. The on-site winery is run by head chef Eneko Atxa's cousin, Bertol Izagirre, who specializes in Basque txakoli wine.
After a quick greeting (interestingly, the restaurant doors open promptly at 1PM and not a moment earlier; typical, I suppose, by Spanish standards). We give our names and are brought into the back of their lovely, verdant main lobby near a small waterfall for a “picnic course.”
Tucked into a classy little picnic basket are some delicious first bites: smoked eel sandwich in a bed of black volcanic salt (9/10), tomato water with marigold leaves (9/10), and some "Txakoli punch" with a liquid center that tastes what candy would taste like if it were made out of wine. Which is to say fantastic. (9/10).
Next, we are marched into the busy kitchen, which is in full swing preparing for lunch service. Every surface gleams, and the feel of the space is open, well-lit; focused but calm.
Our small group is herded into a corner, where the lovely tree-with-snacks combo you see above is presented. Some hazelnut chocolates and foie gras "seeds" with lovely golden color (9/10) and an almost sickly-sweet floral emulsion of Hibiscus (8/10).
Next, we are brought into the restaurant's "greenhouse," for a seasonal tour that included panoramas of different natural scenes complete with a small snack to accompany. It was entirely for show (the real greenhouse was towards the back of the property, this was more to convey the idea of where some of the ingredients arose from) but it was extremely entertaining nonetheless.
Perched in a small glass container with cork stopper, some delightfully rich corn soup. 8/10.
A fragrant herb garden is the next stop; accompanied by a snack that could best be described as what Oreo cookies would taste like if they were made of rosemary and basil. 8/10.
The next stop is a "cotton field;" in a small treasure chest is some cotton candy doused with asparagus dust. The cotton melts instantly in your mouth, and the sweetness and asparagus go together perfectly. Extra points for the incredible presentation. 10/10.
Lastly, we are brought to an area with "rotting logs" that are growing a small collection of mushrooms- Oyster, Shiitake, etc. We are handed a small leaf-shaped treat made from a paste of all those mushrooms, which tastes almost like beef jerky. 8/10.
Finally, we are led into the dining room to begin the meal service. The space is open and airy, and I dig the concrete flooring.
First up, a beautifully-presented frozen olive with a liquid center made of Vermouth. Alcoholic and very strong flavors of olive, which is a loud way to start the sit-down portion of the meal. 7/10.
This is served alongside an aperitif of a tiny glass of orange juice- more of a shot glass portion, I would say. The sweetness balances the savoriness of the olive quite well.
This egg has been injected with black truffle consommé and then cooked, in a technique the chef describes as "inside-out." The result is super soft and decadent; it doesn't get richer or more delicious than egg yolk with truffle. Maybe a quarter-step too rich. 9/10
Some "Milk bread" with olive oil. Soft and sweet, almost like cakebread. 9/10
With a name suspiciously similar to the opening course served at Per Se and the French Laundry, Azurmendi's "oyster and pearl" doesn't quite live up to the standard set by Thomas Keller's restaurants. Made up of oysters with liquefied seaweed, the taste is very fresh and clean, but it doesn't exactly burst with flavor. The oyster has a firm, fresh texture. 8/10.
And then, next up, some more oyster. This one with a super, super heavy sauce with some intense flavors- totally overpowering. 7/10.
An interesting change-up to the bread service- "double-fermented" bread. Richer, much thicker than the milk bread served previously. 8/10
Next, three versions of sea urchin- above, in a strawberry-bright red broth. To the right, raw sea urchin with vegetables, and further right a sea urchin "waffle," which is basically a sandwich. Super intense flavors or sea urchin throughout; that lovely, earthy taste; but three in a row is a lot to take in. The roe in the soup brings welcome additional texture. 7/10 overall.
Some caviar peas served beautifully with fresh caviar. The peas pop in your mouth, and the caviar flavors do not overpower. 9/10.
Another multiple-choice style dish: lobster in different versions. The portion in the center is roasted and quite fresh but not terribly flavorful. The much more interesting bit is the crunchy, light shell off to the right. 7/10 overall.
Next, some Basque cheeses with fried suckling pig. The small pipes of cheese are very strong, and pair nicely with the light crisps. The pork itself is just outstanding- this dish targets bold, bold flavors and just nails it. 9/10.
Next, everyone's favorite: cod tripe, or more specifically the bladder of a cod. Just kidding, but this dish somehow makes it completely delicious. My only complaint is the somewhat sticky mouthfeel that makes the dish come off as very fatty; feels like eating cream and deep fried cream together. 8/10.
Next, the server brings over this presentation of cauliflower with egg, and then carefully shaves a small black truffle on top. This dish felt strangely autumnal (it was Springtime when we visited) but the flavors worked together very well nonetheless. 8/10.
Delivered on a plate that loosely resembles the bottom of the sea with wisps of artichokes and vegetables floating upwards like seaweed, this perfectly-cooked monkfish was incredibly fresh and awesome. 9/10. Buried somewhere within is some basil that pairs more or less perfectly.
And now onto the big show- pigeon, on a base of duxelle (a mixture of mushroom, shallots, and garlic slow-cooked with herbs). Presented simply and with large nuggets of salt gleaming from the crusted skin. Super fresh, great presentation. 9/10.
And now, onto desserts. This first dish is a really cool combination of pineapple, cardamom spice, and celery. I never would have thought celery either A) paired well with pineapple, or B) would belong in a dessert, but you live and learn I guess. 8/10.
Another mottled plate surface is brought out, this time with yogurt, honey, and a five-spice combination that seems to mostly feature cinnamon. A nice simple wind-down from the more complex flavors of the dessert previous. 8/10.
And onto the last dish- a shoe-shaped dessert made of chocolate, peanuts, and licorice. I'll admit that licorice is not my favorite flavor in the world, but once again the main flavor combinations have been perfectly balanced. 8/10.
A pretty, rich cup of coffee served in a delicate handmade ceramic. 9/10.
Get it? It's a hand waving bye-bye to you and serving you some delicious petit fours as it does. The small box behind contains chocolates of mint, lime, and mango tea flavors. They're presented on a layer of chocolate and coffee grounds that smell delightful. Well done. 9/10.
And, just for the hell of it, a few parting macarons of nutella-like flavor. 9/10.
As we exit, a small bit of evidence for how hard Azurmendi works to stay organized and give everyone a great experience. I would return here in a heartbeat.
Martín has one of those very, very few restaurants that in all my journeys I would not only be interested but extremely excited to return to. With a bulletproof menu, incredibly disciplined and alert staff, beautiful physical space, and a creative and near-flawless execution, this is one of the best restaurants I have ever visited. It will be difficult to describe the fullness of my positivity without straying into hyperbole, but I will try.
Martín owns several restaurants around the world—in Spain, Shanghai, and the Caribbean—and has a philosophy of discipline, teamwork, and openness. His eponymous restaurant was opened in 1993 near San Sebastián, his hometown. He won his first star six months after opening, his third in 2001, and he has held them ever since.
The chef walked through the dining room to greet everyone post-meal. That particular day, he was wearing an immaculate white outfit with a BMW logo stitched on the nameplate, as though he were just arriving from the kitchen of some F1 team. An imposing but lighthearted person.
Martín grew up right next to the famous Mercado de la Bretxa watching fresh fish, vegetables, and produce get hauled in every day, providing his first exposure to Basque food culture. His father (and later Martín himself) ran the famous restaurant Bodegón Alejandro where he instilled in Martín the virtues of teamwork and tradition. It seems his dad knocked it out of the park.
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
PRICE PAID: $200 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 9.0/10
Shitloads of egotistical, self-celebrating metal yard art are rarely a good sign about an impending meal. Luckily, that premonition would be proven wrong shortly, but a small holy-shit moment did occur right as I was snapping these photos.
I really and truly hope that whole squads of brightly colored avians didn't have to die to make this lobby come together the way it does... But somehow, I'm pretty sure they did. I am reminded of the expression: “some days you’re the peacock, some days you’re the duster.”
Floor-to-ceiling windows yield views of riotous greenery. Subtle lighting pervades. One of my favorite dining rooms of all time.
Most of you who follow me regularly know that I’m a total freak about bread and butter. I am exorbitantly pleased to observe the touchdown of some multicolored butters (Beetroot, salty, spinach, and mushroom) alongside some lovely sliced sourdough.
The server takes the time to tell us that the bread is from the same yeast from a many, many years-old long-running ferment. 9/10.
First, a few amuse-bouches; sea crunch tempura, followed by a kumquat, anchovy, and olive combination (on the right). All the flavors contrast yet support each other well- the warm seafood tempura is set off against the sweet and crunchy kumquat in a delightful way. 9/10. Interestingly, the spoon motif is repeated from the metal sculptures outside.
Next, a menu participant since 1995- a collection of smoked eel with foie gras and green apple. The server pours a delightful mixture that activates the frozen nitrogen under the plate, creating a "fog" with lovely aromas. Super cool effect. The server recommended that we take each bite with a bit of cream. The foie has the texture and flavor of cream cheese, and is exceedingly rich. During prep the apple was carmelized giving it both a crunchy and sweet profile- the perfect combination of savory and sweet. The cream has a ton of flavor, complimented nicely by the spring onion. This dish really sings together. Amazing. 10/10.
The last appetizer course—a “red shrimp royale,” with dill and Venta del Baron olive oil. We got some coaching on this one also; it was recommended that we dip the spoon all the way to bottom to get one of each layer. The red shrimp is small compared to the surrounding sauce, and quite salty, and everything is quite flavorful but tastes a bit like Thousand Island dressing. 8/10.
As we get into the main dishes, a new-age version of a surf-and-turf arrives. Sea urchin curd, along with jamón, seaweed, and anise. And, as it is plated before us, another recommendation for how we should consume it: “mix it all together.” The sea urchin and jamón flavors are strong and quite contrasting- the sea urchin almost tastes like lobster, and the ham is rich and salty. Cubed apples jump up the texture contrast, but it's really creamy and overly rich. Tastes like you're eating a sauce with a sauce in it. 7/10.
Next, the beetroot course with its stunning red colors. The beetroot itself is sliced into tiny cubes, and includes some horseradish for a spicy kick. The cream is made from salmon marinated with citrus. The texture is just awesome; chunking the beet into tiny bits was the right call. The dollop of horseradish brings the whole damn thing together, and to top it all off, the salmon was super flavorful. A very exciting dish. 9/10.
The next dish is cheekily named: “The Truffle,” and includes some fermented wild mushrooms and collard greens. There’s a strange, interesting balance going on in this dish between warm and cold. Really rich, deep, and earthy flavors abound. 9/10.
Served on a plate whose surface almost looks rocky. this next dish is called “Gorrotxategi.” It consists of an egg resting in a liquid herb salad with dewlap carpaccio- bright, clean, crispy vegetable flavors and the egg is a deep yellow I’ve never seen from any American grocery store. 8/10.
A stunningly enormous salad shows up next; "vegetable hearts" with cream of lettuce. It’s a good salad for people who don't like salad- strong seafood flavors, crisp and crunchy. 9/10.
On the lower left and then clockwise- a bonbon of liquid squid, a mousse of saffron and then fennel, and finally mullet with crystallized scales on. The mullet is totally delicious- crunchy, warm, and rich (not fishy, like Akelarre), and perfectly fresh. 10/10.
And finally, we move on to the main course—lamb with sweetbreads, presented confidently on this colorful dish. Served alongside some Parmesan whey, a fritter or two, and some asparagus. This dish is literally perfect. Temperature, freshness, everything works together- this dish is crazy good. 10/10.
In a nice recall to the beetroot course- the sticks are meringue of beetroot, and they're so brittle they fall apart like they're freeze dried. The foam is made of tea, which has a delicious, rich, smoky flavor. Pepper ice cream brings it all together for a near-perfect ensemble. 9/10.
Lastly, a “salted rock” of chocolate with pistachio and salty Quinoa. The ice is cold, and the chocolate is mousse-y for a really good temperature contrast. 9/10.
Some coffee, and then a lovely wrought-iron tree with various small last bites of dessert. Milk cinnamon and Armagnac (tastes like Christmas), passion fruit and grape dessert, some striped chocolates with orange custard, plain ones with vanilla. The long, skinny cakes are hazelnut. 8/10.
Overall, one of the most enjoyable meals of the entire trip. Can't say when I'll be back, but it couldn't be soon enough.
Pedro Subijana is a Spanish chef-celebrity, and Akelarre is his San Sebastián headquarters. The man has had his own cooking TV show since 1992, and a third Michelin star since 2007; going on almost a decade. He started at the restaurant in 1975, and has maintained an absolutely fantastic mustache throughout.
Pedro has been instrumental in the re-discovery and re-invigoration of Basque cuisine- he and a group of friends began working a few decades ago to explore the lost art of Basque cuisine, and attempt the following (I'm paraphrasing):
- learn why older dishes had been lost, and recover the recipes
- learn to make those recipes in the most authentic way
- contribute something to the Basque culinary legacy.
The drive along the coast from San Sebastián to Akelarre is one of the most beautiful imaginable- you’re on a high mountainside that cascades all the way down to the Cantabrian Sea, and taking this route around sunset leads to some of the most gorgeous views I have ever witnessed.
SAN SEBASTIAN, SPAIN
PRICE PAID: $235 PP (LIST PRICE- PRE-CHALLENGE)
FINAL SCORE: 6.0/10
The restaurant itself has a simple, semi-circular format to emphasize its high clifftop perch and fantastic views. Lots of wood and glass; a gorgeous interior with smart lighting. The space is comfortable, warm, and welcoming.
As we were seated at the table, the sun was still high enough to show off the ocean’s vastness. Totally stunning.
A few words on service. Our waiter seemed extremely put-upon in his role— he needed to be a quadrilingual waiter, server, table-clearer, water-pourer, and menu-explainer along with serving many more tables than would seem reasonable (maybe they were short-staffed that evening?) Stretched as he was to the limits, I wasn’t surprised to see him literally toss silverware in front of us, stack dishes that were headed back to the kitchen like an Applebee’s, and forget us for half-hour stretches. As I said, I get the feeling that the restaurant itself was understaffed rather than he himself was a poor performer, but service at Akelarre absolutely did not belong in the 3-star category. It really needs work.
The restaurant offers three menus, all for the same price- “Aranori,” and “Bekarki,” which are forward-looking, experimental menus, and the Classics of Akelarre, designed to show off the traditional plates that made the restaurant famous. We chose the Classics menu, in order to (hopefully) best experience the restaurant on our very first visit.
Some lovely first bites are brought out almost immediately- first, a vodka-tomato-mussel combo. A very foamy dish, the tomato comes through well. The olive flavors buried within are very, very subtle. I would go so far as to say this dish is peppery. 7/10.
In what would turn out to be the first of several implementations of the idea that “looks can be deceiving,” from left to right- the cucumber-slice-shaped dish is actually potato and shrimp with basil on the outside to make the green skin. Totally excellent, 9/10. Next, black olives with anchovy that looks exactly like black beans. 9/10 super creative and really flavorful.
Those chocolate truffles are actually stuffed mussels- rich, a bit spicy, and also excellent. 9/10. It’s nice to start with such a clear message; a reminder of how subjective our reality is. At least, that was my interpretation, and I'm sure it's open to many more besides that.
The bread was fresh, crunchy, and warm, but also quite plain. 7/10.
Because we were in Spain, the condiment on offer for bread was olive oil. We requested some butter, and a mere three reminders later were presented with this clearly hand-scooped arrangement of butter flowers. I felt a bit like a whiner for having asked, to be honest. 8/10.
On to the first course- lobster salad with very quotidian mesclun salad plunked in the middle. It's made with San Sebastián classic cider, and the apple flavors come through quite nicely. As a quick sidenote- San Sebastián itself was formed hundreds of years ago as a plantation for growing apples for cider, so it's a Basque culinary touchpoint. The bitter mesclun leaves go well with the dish- they offset the sweetness of the apple and lobster very well. 8/10.
Next, another implementation of the looks-are-deceiving idea- a “carpaccio” of Ibérico ham with mushrooms and parmesan that is actually a pasta, and it both looks and tastes exactly like ham. A really incredible effect. The pasta even emulates jamón's characteristic bits of fat and marbling. The effect is playful and interesting, and the strong parmesan flavors balance the dish nicely. 9/10.
The third course is foie gras, and in an oddly charming gesture of showmanship the server then pours an entire dish of “salt” and “pepper” directly onto the foie. On the surface, it appears that the server is intent on murdering the guest by way of heart attack. Turns out, it’s not real salt and it's not real pepper- the “salt” is sugar, and the pepper corns are puffed rice balls. The sugar has smooth apple flavors, an echo of the previous course's cider roots. Another really interesting course. Trickery abounds. 10/10.
Next, white rice with snails in tomato and basil. Some very strong aromas going on here, but the flavors don't quite line up- the snail bit doesn't taste like snail, it tastes like a rubbery mild mushroom. The overall taste, if I had to label it, is like a bouillabaisse with a bunch of paprika. Hearty, savory, and interesting. 8/10.
For reasons that aren’t clear to me, the chef chose to cook this red mullet (normally a mild, flavorful fish) with crushed-up heads and scales on the outside, I suppose to add texture. This leads to an extremely fishy flavor that tastes like it was sitting in the fridge for a day-and-a-half too long. We only ate a few bites, and I was quite surprised by the interaction that followed. The server asked us why we didn’t like it, heard our response that approximated the above, and seemed unsurprised, shrugging, “Yes, that’s because we cook it with the heads and scales…” and then just looked at us, as if the problem wasn't that the dish tasted poorly and more that we were too dense to appreciate it. He then made a decidedly half-hearted effort to offer us another course, and immediately dropped the issue when we politely declined. Another strike against service. Overall, truly not good; the fish wasn't fresh, and the fake fusilli doesn’t make sense. 4/10.
Next, a beef course with a “cake” of foie gras. The beef itself is firm and well-cooked, but nothing terribly special. Alongside, a powder-dry cake of chocolate and foie gras that desiccates the mouth on the first bite. It's yet another continuation of that oh-so-zany trickery formula that's actually getting pretty old by this point; the technique is less interesting when it doesn't taste good. 6/10.
And now, on to the desserts. First up, a deconstructed gin and tonic on a plate. There's a super, super tart sorbet in the upper right corner and it's paired off with a jelly tastes like dehydrated gin. The flavors work pretty well together, but the only problem is that the proportions are off- there's way, way too much jelly. Like, a quart of jelly. 6/10.
Next, an apple tart with edible paper that Akelarre has chosen to print their name upon. It's one of the first truly made-for-social-media dishes I have ever come across, and I really like the idea. The paper itself is actually quite flavorful, and underneath the paper is a buttery crust, like a croissant. Lots of apple sauces to round the dish out. 8/10.
Lastly, a charming group of petit fours. 8/10.