Before our trip to Basque Country I often read about Mugaritz, its chef and the experimental kitchen there. To be honest I was curious to see what a place is like that’s been part of the world’s 10 best restaurants in the past decade according to the San Pellegrino list.
Culinary trip instead of a’la cart
The two Michelin-Star restaurant is just outside of San Sebastian, located between ancient, oak filled hills. Here, their three-word motto – nature, time and senses – makes perfect sense. Andoni Luis Aduriz, the head chef considers it his mission to deconstruct limitation imposed by tradition with his astonishing dishes and by showcasing the flavors of nature. What does this mean in practice? Don’t be surprised, we have to eat most of the food with our hands. Dishes here are plated in a variety of ways, like wrapped in a cloth or hidden under a bunch of leaves. One of their specialties is that guests don’t get a menu card after they sit down to a table. The servers only ask about our personal preferences or if we have any allergies and the chefs construct the menu according to these informations.
Ancient elements on our plate
The 25-course meal we had was very carefully constructed to be a trip around the Basque Country from the depths of the ocean to the highest mountain. We started our journey with a licorice bun served with anchovy butter which perfectly showcased how simple but great this restaurant is. Following this we had a chance to be acquainted with the waters of the region through dishes like oysters inside lemon peel, melt-in-your-mouth crab pincers and crispy trout served with “clouds” filled with its own caviar. The order of the dishes is consciously built. The dominant seasonings and the natural flavours alternate each other regularly. Water and land often meet in a cacophony of flavours which produces miracles like the lobster and bone marrow duo. The play on textures can be felt throughout our meal. A good example of this is the succulent lamb served on crispy dried leaves that should be eaten whole.
Dive into sin!
The desserts didn’t disappoint either. Spicy pumpkin, flowers, and spices pressed into paper-thin sugar sheets, marshmallow served in oxidised wine soup. These were all ideal endings to a great meal. At the end of our meal, we arrived at the tower of the seven deadly sins which we have to deconstruct level from level. We start with jellied tongues that symbolise wantonness, continue with truffles symbolising gluttony and end with cornflakes that symbolise avarice. Mugaritz is not only a restaurant or a tour of flavours through Basque Country, it’s much more. A 25-course play with textures, the senses, and passions with guilty pleasures at the end.