Perhaps, one of the wildest waters on earth is Atlantic…
In the sailor myths, it is notorious for its waves as tall as an apartment along with its monstrosity swallowing Atlantis, Titanic and many ships with their crew.
Indeed, in a peaceful afternoon when the sun is warming your skin with its familiar affection and the sky is rolling over into the horizon to meet the sea, there can be only one kind of wave that you’d rather care about: the taste wave of Akelarre…
Spectacular View and Wonderful Food
As its name means “magician or coven” in Spanish, Akelarre is one of the most important restaurants that contribute to the gastronomic scene in San Sebastian.
The chef of the restaurant is Pedro Subijana Reza who is taller than average and has a handlebar mustache as well as a constant energetic smile on his face.
When he was planning to study medicine, he found himself taking courses from Madrid Hospitality School. Although he had a low-profile career working for a few restaurants in Basque, his star in the culinary world began to brighten up while he was working for the French restaurant “Zalacain” in Madrid. Following his years working for Estella in Navarre, he eventually opened Akelarre in 1975. The restaurant is a member of Relais & Chateaux as well as it has been awarded with three stars so far.
He has also been awarded many times for his contributions to the Basque cuisine. As a person who holds up as an example in terms of his contributions, he practice passing his knowledge down to new generations in a room behind the restaurant where he calls “Cooking Classroom”.
When you’re driving from the city center of San Sebastian towards Zarautz, you will find a huge rock and a small path beneath it. If you follow this path, you will arrive the big complex.
We arrived the door when the sun was still up in the sky. As they already knew about our visit from the letter I wrote, the chef and the restaurant manager welcomed us with a big smile on their faces. Following a brief greeting, we headed towards our table with a sweeping view of the Bay of Biscay.
Even though it has been built on a wide space that would serve more people, the restaurant has a serving capacity of 80 people only. The grey wood dominates its decoration. But in contrast to not-so-friendly feelings such a color would arouse in you, the restaurant still has a quite cozy and sincere atmosphere. The view of ocean from the huge windows that lightens up your table is the charm of the atmosphere. When you are making a reservation, I recommend you to state that you’d like one of the tables beneath the windows; because this gorgeous scene is not visible from the other tables.
The quality of the service indicates the magnificence of the restaurant. It should have been because I mentioned GEVREK & GINGER in my letter, the staff placed a notepad and a pen without asking for one. The service staff seemed to have a good command of English and well-informed enough to give detailed information about the ingredients and cooking techniques.
Akelarre offers three tasting menus; each costs 170 € : Aranori, Nakerki and Classics.
I and my gastro-partners created a customized menu choosing from all of them but mostly the Classics and set to wait for the dishes.
I love butter especially in countries like France and Spain. The delicious butter accompanying the whole wheat sourdough, prepared our palates for the dishes by blending with the flavor of black pepper and melting in the mini and piping-hot breads.
The amuse bouches of the night were bloody mary which looked like a cute sponge and had the taste of tomato juice blended with its unique aroma; stuffed mussels which, as Mehmet Yalçın said, almost exploded into our mouths and “blew up our palates”; crispy potato and prawn amber flavored with some garlic; and finally anchovy stuffed black olives.
Our first dish, lobster salad entered my list of impressive tastes already. Flavored with a basic sauce made with apple cider and olive oil, its taste was boosted with the fresh greenery the chef Pedro had grown in the backyard of the restaurant. On top of that, the lobster pieces was cooked al dente and firm to the bite.
While we were still enchanted by the taste of the first dish, the other hit was pasta carpaccio. Flavored with a type of hot pepper genuine to the north of Spain, “piquillo” along with jamon iberico, the pasta almost reminded us of a huge stracci. Mushrooms with parmesan and baby rocket leaves seemed to liven up the dish added zest to the dishes.
With a consistency between paella and risotto, rice with snails was made with carnaroli rice. It was one of the average dishes of the night.
The following dish was starring red mullet, accompanied by little pieces of colorful spiral pasta called “fusilli” which was flavored with garlic, parsley, soy sauce and onion. Since the chef rolled out a new skin on the fish to cover its head, bones and liver, you won’t notice you’re munching on a whole fish.
Only with sprinkles of large pieces of salt, I can say, the Galicia steak was the masterpiece of the night. The accompaniment of the dish was a successful tiramisu-like cake which was composed of layers of hot piquillo peppers and beef tail in fois gras sauce.
As I already don’t like the cod fish a lot (also known as Morina), Akelarre was unsuccessful at changing my thoughts too. On the other hand, the crustaceans accompanied by the wheat named “gurullos” that looks like the Turkish şehriye got a good mark from the table.
After all these great dishes, our eyes were on the gin & tonic written in the menu. But in this restaurant, instead of sipping from a glass, we were spooning it up from our plates! Made with gin & tonic, the jello was crowned with Juniper sauce and vanilla ice cream. Its presentation successfully put a smile on our faces.
This fine refreshment was followed by the apple tart. Although it is a usual dessert, the Akelarre version was made with an unusual recipe. As it was composed of puff pastry toasted apple cream, the dessert was accompanied by an edible apple-flavored napkin.
The coconut-flavored ice cream in coconut iced mousse was in the form of cotton candy. As such, it easily melt away in our mouths. The chocolate ball with almonds in the middle of the dessert tastefully ended our dinner at Akelarre.
During the conversation we had with the Chef Pedro, following the dinner, we were cheered up with his jovial laughter and having seen the kitchen, we were pleased with its immaculate hygiene. As they say, there are two important factors to determine the cleanliness of a restaurant: the first one is the kitchen and the second one is its restrooms. Actually I always take the photograph of the restroom of every restaurant I visit. For the first time, I’d like to share with you the photo of the restroom at Akelarre which got a great mark from me.
An Ideal Place for Lunches
If we think about “Arzak, Mugaritz, Martin Berategui and Akelarre” as the four major restaurants in San Sebastian, for me, Akelarre is the second best in the list, following Arzak. Having enchanted our palates with its incredible tastes and our eyes with its unique view, the restaurant proved that it was aptly named.
Those who would like to enjoy the restaurant and then the blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean should visit the restaurant in earlier hours of the day. Akelarre would be the perfect restaurant in San Sebastian to have a lunch before ending your day enjoying a wonderful dinner at Arzak.
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…
Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008 San Sebastián