San Sebastian Day/Night 2 – Modern Basque

According to my various weather apps, today would be pretty much the last nice day of my time in San Sebastian. Therefore, a drive through the Basque countryside to a spot that I was told featured the best bargain for a great set meal in the area sounded like a good plan. I hopped in the Black Stallion and navigated my way through the winding roads to the small town of Irun, very close to the French border.  I got a bit lost trying to find the restaurant as I wasn’t expecting it to be in a huge industrial center, tucked away in the corner.

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Inigio Lavado, named after the chef, who cut his teeth in kitchens such as El Bulli, Arzak and Alaine Ducasse, featured a modern take on classic Basque fare. There were 2 options for the set menus but I decided to go with the cheaper one at 25 Euros – 4 courses.

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The first course was an emulsion of potatoes and eggs with wild mushrooms. Basically creamy mashed potatoes with a yolk and some excellent earthy mushrooms. A great way to start. Since I was driving, I opted for just a single glass of Albarino, which was at the perfect chilled temperature.

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The next one for me was the star of the show.  It was listed as a cream of pumpkin soup but turned out to also feature some slow roasted beef cheeks that was in large chunks throughout. This led to a fascinating mix of texture and taste with the velvet smooth pumpkin soup combined with the smoky, salty beef goodness. A top 5 soup all time for me.

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After that, I was glad I had selected the fish option – grilled salmon with a lime cream sauce. The salmon was perfectly good and the slightly acidic sauce paired nicely with it. I particularly enjoyed the salmon skin, which had been made into essentially a chip placed on the side.

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For the final course, a classic that never goes out of style – creme brulee. This was an exceptional version that I eagerly ate every last bite. The total bill was 27 Euros, a complete steal and very much worth the drive.

I drove back through a different route through the valley, which was full of fall colors. No pics alas since there was nowhere to pull over and driving a stick makes a quick snap almost impossible. I had to run a couple of quick errands back in town and afterwards, decided to take a quick walk down the beach area called La Concha.

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I headed back to the hotel to do some work (hey these good meals don’t pay for themselves – or sadly via this blog) and after a couple of hours got back into the Black Stallion for my destination of the evening – The Basque Culinary Center.

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I had stumbled across this place during my research and lucked out in that their monthly “Showcooking” class happened to be tonight. For 2 hours, I would watch their teachers assistants prepare 3 courses which I’d then be able to eat along with matching wines.

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We were led to the bottom level of the center into their food lab where the event would take place. I had been warned in advance that it would all be in Spanish, which I was fine with but it turned out one of the TA, Reinholdt, also spoke English. The theme was root vegetables and soon they started on the first course – pickled beet salad with a yellow pepper mayo.

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I was pleasantly surprised how I was able to keep up with the presentations although I did have to look up – remolacha – which turned out to be a key ingredient – beet. The mayo had already been made but the 2 TAs assembled the other components, explaining how they were prepared along the way.

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I’m not a huge spicy pickle fan so this dish wasn’t my favorite but the mayo – which didn’t have any eggs – was quite good and yelped combat sone of the heat.

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The main course was roasted beets (red and golden) with a kimchi salsa. This time they actually cooked everything in front of us.

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I love roasted beets (especially golden ones) so this was a real winner. The kimchi salsa added some nice heat to the dish and overall a very satisfying main course.

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For dessert, they featured a carrot ice cream with a honey tulle and yoghurt cream. This obviously was mostly premade although they demonstrated how they did the tulle as well as showed off the canister they used to aerate the yoghurt. The ice cream was more like a sorbet which turned out to be wise given the tangy creamy yoghurt. Overall a very fun night.

I chatted a bit with Reinhardt after the class, getting a couple of insider recommendations to check out and eventually drove back to the hotel. It was only 10 PM so I wasn’t ready to go to my room yet so I decided to have a class of cava and just enjoy the splendid Villa Soro, which is even more beautiful at night. Tomorrow would be my epic Mugaritz lunch so getting some rest was important.

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