Eating Out: 3* Akelare San Sebastian, Spain
Akelare was the reason we drove from France to Spain in search of another gastro experience. We got a reservation here at the last minute overnight and decided to travel down from Basque country France crossing the border to Spain since neither of us had been to San Sebastian.
We didn’t have luck with the weather since it rained all day and we didn’t get the amazing view from the restaurant, known for it’s breath taking sunset views. Here’s our foggy view which did not mar our experience at all. We had trudged in the rain all day doing tourist site visit and was ready for a dinner treat.
The food was very creative, beautifully presented and nicely done, but like last Summer’s El Celler di can Roca, I felt that it was missing the saveurs, the flavours and well rounded mouthfuls that come with French cuisine and/or the technique. I’ve been to numerous restaurants with French trained Japanese chef doing amazing food – not necessarily French, but it has the complexities of simple, hearty French cooking.
I’m probably biased but with fine dining, I really just want dinner without the fancy dress or tromp d’oeil of gelatine and mousse with dry ice and things. In short, I want my fish to look like remotely a fish and my gin tonic in liquid form a glass not in a deconstructed version in the form of gelatin.
There are 3 degustation menus, we went with the classic and Bekarki inspired by seasonal produce.
We start off with a beautifully layered salty crusty amuse bouche of shrimp crumbs that look like sand: an oyster leaf, a mussel with shell, sea urchin masquerading as a sponge, shallots and corn disguised as a pebble finishing with a coral looking seaweed deep fried in tempura batter . All very novel and fun but I really only enjoyed and understood the oyster leaf and umami sandy bits of dried shrimp.
I link enjoyment very closely with understanding and appreciating what the chef is trying to do, apart from impress with fancy dress.
My foie gras came in the form of “pearls”, an interesting blend between mousse and ice cream served with grilled peanut biscuits in place for normal bread or brioche. This was interesting and brought me really down to earth with so much of that earthy heavy flavours going on even though they were aiming for “an etheral porous texture”. I’d pick a broiche please.
Other things were pretty good ands simple the way I love it, like the blu lobster salad with cider vinegar before my escargot rice dish with a film of tomato and basil (their classic and signature) which I felt was a let down because took away the joy of the texture or as the Chinese say “mouth feel” 口感 of escargots.
Here we have red mullet and gelatine fusili made with soya, parsley and garlic – this was bland and uneventful probably because I am Asian and we’re a saucy nation, my mullet however was cooked to perfection.
Cod served in a wooden crate with fish flakes, the theatre of serving it more exciting than the dish.
Gin and tonic deconstructed into gelatine form served with a – you guessed it, glass of gin and tonic
I’m not a particularly big fan of branding desserts all over the place. From a marketing standpoint, it bothers me that you have to shout your name at me at the end of my meal, so I don’t forget, this compromises the experience, and a pity right at the end. And when they introduce the dish, they tell you that you can eat the “apple paper” with the name and logo. How does that enhance my experience eating all that alphabets? It doesn’t.
Our bill came up to about 490€ for two including tips. I think the degustation menu was 150€ each and we opted for the interesting wine pairing which was another additional 55€. We had some interesting wines
All in all, it was a really different and eye opening experience, but we wouldn’t be back for a dinner date meal.
Paseo Padre Orcolaga, 56, 20008
Donostia-San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, Spain
+34 943 31 12 09