Asador Etxebarri

This restaurant is located in a small village about 50 minutes from the San Sebastián beach front and the Londres Hotel where my wife and I were staying. We had heard the food was renowned for its simplicity, as all of it is basically grilled on different types of wood charcoal and represents the purist raw materials served unadulterated. It is the total opposite of the molecular cuisine found at San Sebastián’s three-star restaurant, Akelarre. My wife and I loved Asador Etxebarri’s tasting menu, which was the only thing being offered for lunch that day. It took us over three hours to work our way through it and the two brilliant Spanish wines we drank with it, the old vine 2010 Albariño cuvée from Do Ferreiro and the sensationally rich, young, powerful Bodegas Pintia 2006 from Toro (made by the owners of Vega Sicilia). The food was presented beautifully, and the dishes were perfectly cooked. It is hard to say what our favorites were. I don’t believe I had ever eaten Sea Cucumber before, but I found it to be delicious. I had previously had the Goose Barnacles at tapas bars in Madrid, and these were wonderful. The highlights included the Palamós grilled prawns, the salt cured anchovy, the fabulous baby squid and the white tuna belly with local tomatoes. A beef chop (which came from an ox) was unbelievably tender and flavorful as were the hake tongues, one of the specialities of the season in late July in San Sebastián.

I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough as it is the type of cuisine rarely found today – the freshest, finest raw materials perfectly cooked and served in their natural state with just a tiny dollop of sauce on some dishes. While the wine list was very good, it was well behind the breadth of selections available at most of the other San Sebastián restaurants, particularly Rekondo and Arzac. If you plan on visiting Etxebarri, I suggest you hire a taxi to take you there, enjoy a long lunch, and have a taxi return you to your hotel. I think our total charge was around 70 euros, which seemed quite reasonable.

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