San Sebastian Day/Night 5 – New Discoveries

The weather in San Sebastian had turned nasty – cold and rain. Still, there was enough of a break in the dourness to take a quick walk down to Bar Zapoleta, which had been recommended to me for their tortilla espanola, which was apparently the best in town. It also happened to be in Gros basically right down the street.

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I opted for a slice of the tortilla plus a glass of Txakoli por supuesto. I was excited to try the torilla and boy they weren’t kidding about it being the best in town, if not the best I’d ever had.

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The key different was how moist it was whereas most tortilla espanolas, even the good ones, tend to be on the drier side. This was decidedly not and so good I immediately ordered another slice. Outstanding. I paid the 5 euros – absurd price – for my meal and took off for my next destination, this time one I had been before – Bar Bergana.

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Known for their outstanding and creative pintxos, the place was packed to the gills with locals enjoying their food. I was once again able to carve a tiny space at the end of the bar and got my order in relatively easily.

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Given the cold, rainy weather, I chose 2 of the heartier options on the menu – Puff pastry with duck, apples and Calvados, and one of their signatures – Xtalupa – Baked crab au gratin. Both were delicious and by the time I finished them, I was more than full for my lunch. I headed back out into Gros and took some pics along the way, including several of the truly unique architecture of the Basques.

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After catching up on some work and blogging, it was time to slum it at only the 30th best restaurant in the world, Elkano – I know, for shame, for shame. I had hoped the rain would have stopped by now but nope, still going. This made the trek over to the small fishing village of Getarria a bit more challenging than anticipated. Of course, this being Spain, parking was also very difficult to find although after inquiring what to do at the restaurant, they guided me to the port that was below the town.

After running up a truly large set of staircases in the rain, I eventually got back to the restaurant. This had been a very tough reservation to get so I was damned if I was going to let some rain get in my way.

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Elkano looked like a classic seafood restaurant, including the de riguer nautical theme. However, it was known for its incredibly fresh seafood, with no set menu – whatever was caught that day and then prepared with minimal fuss on a large outdoor grill just outside the restaurant.

Most of the main dishes were whole fish meant to be shared amongst a group. Since I was just oh solo meeoh, I couldn’t get, for example, their specialty – grilled turbot – but the owner said they could still do fillets of others. I had read about another speciality I could have, which was the Xtcholoas (throat) of the hake, done 3 ways. First up though was an amuse bouche of smoked hake with an avocado sauce.

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The Xtocholas arrived shortly thereafter – one grilled, one breaded and one with a classic Basque pil pil sauce. All 3 very good and very unusual. I had never had anything quite like it. The texture was borderline gelatinous, especially the pil pil one but still had a meaty firmness of the hake. A nice start.

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Next, I had the cream of crayfish soup. Typically I’m used to having lump crayfish as part of this but this had no meat, just the pure crayfish flavor – it was very, very good.

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As I waited for the main course, I asked what the WiFi password was and was handed this wood block – that was definitely a first.

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I also observed the owner carving up one of their turbots table side for a group that was near me. He explained to each what part they were getting and why he chose it from the fish. That level of detail is part of the reason the restaurant is so well regarded.

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One of the fishes I could get a portion of was fortunately one of my favorites. The owner explained to me that they had chosen the upper chest for me because of its combination of firmness but also flavor. He also gave me a steak knife for it, which really wasn’t necessary given how tender it was. Grilled with just a bit of salt, which is all this magnificent fillet needed. Simply one of the best grilled fish dishes I’ve ever had.

After I finished the grouper, the table next to me motioned me over and asked for me to join them. Three older friends from Madrid on a weekend getaway, they told me how much they loved this restaurant and I chatted with them about my own travels to Madrid. They also told me occasionally the road to the restaurant is under water this time of the year so we lucked out apparently. I was also served some final sweet bites.

I said my goodbyes and thankfully the rain had now stopped. The Black Stallion once again proved surprisingly adept guiding me home and while tempted to get a nightcap, knew that given the long day ahead tomorrow, probably best not to push it.


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