San Sebastian Day/Night 1 – Deja Vu All Over Again

It had been just over 10 years since I first visited the magical foodie wonderland that is San Sebastian, and I had been eager to return ever since. For my first day, since the weather was pretty good, I decided it would be a good time to revisit some of my favorite spots, beginning with one of the highlights from my last trip – Hidalgo 56.

image0 (5)
image4 (7)

Hildago 56 is located in the Gros district of the city, the same as my hotel. Although I could have walked there, I opted to drive my Black Stallion (aka my black Fiat 500) as I also wanted to go back to some of the farther regions of the city afterwards. Although the restaurant has the usual spread of pinxtos, they also serve full meals, which is what I was after in this case.

image1 (5)
First up was a complimentary starter of delicious house made/cured chorizo. Always a welcome beginning when dining in Spain.

image2 (5)

For my main course, I couldn’t resist going for the grilled wild mushrooms with foie gras oil drizzled on top and an egg. The earthy, perfectly cooked mushrooms with just the right amount of salt were delicious and the foie gras oil gave an even deeper depth of flavor along with the thick yolk of the egg – outstanding.

image3 (6)
Although I was already getting pretty full, I couldn’t resist the description of this dessert – Smoked “in the moment” Idiazabal cheese cake with fruit compote, walnuts and an Idiazabal ice cream. It was, not surprisingly given the picture above, excellent. The cheese cake surprisingly light with the slightly acidic compote helping with the richness. The ice cream was smooth and not overly sweet. Everything worked together in pretty much flawless balance. A perfect start to my San Sebastian adventures.

I took a walk to work off my lunch and explore the city a bit.

image7 (6)

image8 (5)
image9 (5)
I made my way back to my car and navigated over to the far end of the city, which ends in a point at the coastline. The wind was considerably gustier here and waves were crashing against the rocks. My main goal though was to check out these magnificent iron sculptures.

image13 (4)
image10 (5)
image11 (5)
image12 (5)
I battled the wind to get back to my car and drove up the steep, winding cliff to get some truly spectacular vistas.

image14 (3)
image15 (3)
image16 (3)

image17 (2)
After reaching the top, I cruised back down into town, drove along a different part of the coastline and eventually returned to my hotel. The Hotel Villa Soro is where I stayed with my dad and one of my favorite hotels. A former mansion built over 100 years ago, the hotel had been expanded to include a back building, which is where I was located.

image18 (2)

After some rest, it was finally time to get my pinxtos on. While it was possible to walk, my feet and back were begging for a break so I decided to drive. That turned out to be not such a good idea as parking in the old part of town is almost impossible. I was about to give up when I finally found a spot about .5 miles away from where I was going – close enuff.

image19 (1)
image20 (1)
Even though it was a cold, rainy Wednesday, that didn’t stop patrons from packing the various bars that line the Old Town. I had another place in mind but along the way passed one I enjoyed last time, Bar Atari so made that my first stop. Atari is a mix of a traditional pintxos bar, especially the classic food, but with a slightly more modern look and feel, including deep house music playing softly in the background. All of the tables were full so I sidled up to the bar and found a tiny little parcel of land at the end of it.

image21 (1)
image22 (1)
image23 (1)
I ordered 3 pintxos staples – grilled shrimp bruschetta, smoked salmon and croquettes of local salt cod also known as bacalao. The shrimps were perfectly cooked, the smoked salmon was delicious with the creme fraiche adding a nice slightly sour note and the croquettes were simple but delicious. Along with a very nice glass of Rioja, this was a great start. I chatted up the 3 amigos who were next to me about their favorite wines and got a couple of recommendations to try in the future. I said adios to my new friends and walked back a couple of blocks to my main destination.

image24 (1)
image29 (1)

I had purposefully selected a traditional (at least in terms of the food) pintxos bar in anticipation of my next stop, A Fuego Negro, which was decidedly not traditional. This was readily apparent when I walked inside. A record player was in the corner with an international mix of music. There was a wall of what at first looked like decals from bands or classic ads but upon further inspection were actually the menu – cool concept.

image25 (1)
I decided to go with a trio of pintxos that I thought would give me a broad perspective of their style. First up was a cold green bean salad with a salmon roe sauce and a yellow pepper mayo. The blanched green beans were very crunchy and played surprisingly well with the two nontraditional sauces. I was told to basically combine them like a pasta, which I agreed was the way to eat it.

image26 (1)
image27 (1)
Next up was a very playful take on Chinese noodles except the noodles in this case were made with leeks and potatoes, presented in a Chinese to go box. The noodles were in an intense broth, which made them very rich but delicious. The texture was more like a glass noodle, which made it a bit challenging to slurp up but I eventually got the hang of it. Delicious.
image28 (1)
For my final pintxos, I had to go with the one that helped bring their claim to fame – the Kobe beef slider with chips. As seen in the picture above, the mini burger had a bright orange bun, which was slightly sweet, and a perfectly medium rare Kobe beef patty. Unlike most of the so-called Kobe beef burgers one can get in the States, this one had another layer of richness. I ate it in a couple of bites and while tempted to get another one, reminded myself this is a marathon not a sprint.

I had walked by the world famous Ganbara, which had been way too packed but noticed it was considerably quieter now so I went in for a look. I was looking for perhaps a final sweet bite but that’s not what you go to there for so I was out of luck. Oh well, I’ll be back there soon though for their vast selection of game meat offerings. Thanks to the Parked Car notice on my Apple Maps, I was able to find my car through the various alleyways of the Old Town and drove back to the hotel. Tomorrow would be the last decent day of weather so another road trip was on the docket along with trying a new spot that I had been told was the best bargain meal in the Basque Country.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s