Mugaritz – a food journey
As soon as you start driving into the hills of the countryside surrounding San Sebastián, Spain, you know this is going to be different, this is going to be big! Nestled in the lush, verdant hills of Errenteria, 20 minutes away from San Sebastián is the number six restaurant in the world (2016), Mugaritz. The restaurant, the food, the architecture and its immaculately kept surroundings are a labour of love.
There is no pretense here, it’s only about the food. The service is like a well-oiled machine, friendly but reserved. The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and have a deep reverence for the creations coming out the kitchen door. One of the more enjoyable experiences at Mugaritz is to book an early table 7.30pm in the summertime (early dinner time for the Spanish!) and start your Mugaritz journey in the outdoor dining patio surrounded by the beautiful Errenteria hills.
The interior design team for Mugaritz has done a fantastic job seamlessly transitioning the restaurant and patio into the countryside. Blending rustic appeal with modern comfort. The inside of the restaurant is a whole other kettle of fish. It’s clean, it’s sharp, it’s edgy. Think a monochromatic colour palette with a contemporary urban feel that extends into the guest bathrooms as well (Black toilet paper anyone??). The stark nature of the design elements of the restaurant space allows complete appreciation of the food. There are no distractions.
The food. What can I say? It’s all about exploration and experimentation, a quintessential journey of Modernist Cuisine. The chef pushes the boundaries of diner’s sensibilities, enticing them to try things they had never imagined they would and then making them ask for more. Dining at Mugaritz requires an open mind and faith in the chef’s abilities to take you on a food journey. The concept here is to take traditional Basque and Spanish dishes, deconstruct them down to their base elements and then put them back together in an innovative way without losing the essence of the dish. It is a true feat!
Some of our favourite dishes from the 25 course menu included: the cooked mother rice and caviar; savoury chip of orange and duck; leaves dressed with pork; and the glutinous marroc of apple and butter. Many of the dishes were presented without cutlery and were designed to be eaten as finger food. Read on for comments and pictures of the entire meal.
The bread in the first course was made using vegetables and was served with a creamy cheese.
Two courses were presented at the same time. The glutinous cloud of hazelnut roe was sticky and chewy whilst the piece of fried trout was confronting as it was shaped to look like a trout. Once you bit into the fish, you realised that it was a small fillet of trout that had been deep fried and shaped to resemble a whole fish.
This was one of my favourite dishes, the rice cake was chewy with a slight sweetness, whilst the spoon of caviar added saltiness to the dish.
Our favourite course! it looked pretty innocuous when it was first brought to our table, however it punched well above its weight! This dish is a deconstructed version of duck a l’orange. The dehydrated orange peel adds the perfect citrusy tartness to the robust duck consommé in the spoon. Simple and fuss-free yet spectacular!
Two courses were again served together. The crab claw was pretty awesome as crab meat had been shaped to resemble a claw shape.
This dish is meant to be a deconstructed version of a tuna and tomato dish from Spain.
This was one of those dishes that was confusing from a sensory perspective. It looked like bone marrow, however, tasted like fish!
The smokiness of the charcoal grill overpowered the subtle flavours of the artichoke.
This dish had nice textural depth with the crunchiness of the biscuit and silky softness of the meat.
I remember the fish being quite oily in this dish! It was a nice change from some of the fish courses we had tried during the meal.
This was an interesting course, it was a piece of garlic in a thick glaze and had quite a strong flavour.
I am not a huge fan of sweetbread but these were very enjoyable!
This was another favourite course, the fat from the pork was brilliantly complemented by the herbaceous, dry flavour from the leaves. It was a perfect way to end the meat based section of the tasting menu.
This course of sourdough bread and local cream cheese was another huge highlight of the evening. The combination of the sourdough and creamy cheese went perfectly together, such a hearty and simple finish to the savoury part of the meal.
Under the edible flower petals was a dollop of tonka bean mousse which helped to sweeten the bitter taste of the flower petals. It really was a journey from bitter to sweet.
This dish was a deconstructed version of strawberries and cream and resembled nigiri sushi. The sliminess of the strawberry made you think you were eating fish! It was actually quite yummy!
This was an enjoyable end to the dessert course, sweet and chewy.
For the Petit Fours section of the meal, this wooden tower was brought to our table. We were simply told that this was the seven deadly sins. Each wooden container held a food item that exemplified one of the deadly sins. The disorientating aspect to this petit four was that you ended the meal on a savoury note with items such as corn chip dipped in melted cheese.
Many of the dishes at Mugaritz push diners to try well-known classical dishes and flavours through the lens of molecular gastronomy and modern techniques. At times the food placed in front of you can evoke emotional responses and shock, however, it always tastes amazing!