Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Martin Berasategui, San Sebastian

Martin Berasategui, San Sebastian, 5/18/2018 (14-Course, €260, incl. VAT), Mediterranean

Martin Berasategui, located in Lasarte-Oria in the suburb of San Sebastian, offered a 14-course Tasting menu. However, in addition to Tasting menu it had an a la carte menu. The year number at the beginning of each course indicated the year when each respective dish was first introduced.

The main dining room is classic setting with white table cloth, fresh and elegant floral arrangement, ample space among tables. It also offered outdoor dining when weather condition allows. 

San Sebastian has three Michelin 3-star restaurants – Arzak, Akelarre, Martin Berasategue and one Michelin 2-star restaurant Mugaritz. Since I have visited Arzak and Akellare a few years ago, I will visit Martin Berasategui and Mugaritz in this trip. San Sebastian is by the Bay of Biscay, Cantabrian Sea. The cold water of Cantabrian Sea supplies fish and seafood of excellent quality, including goose barnalces, spider crab, meaty lobsters, clams, delicate langoustines, king prawns and squids.

There was only one set of Tasting menu for its 25 year anniversary, comprised of Chef's signature dishes.

1st Course - 2018  Gilda (anchovy, chili pepper and olive) with Agrucapers Caper Soup and Balfego Tuna Tartare

Gilda is the liquid version of anchovy, olive and chili pepper. Thru the spherification, each flavor was filled in a small round shaped ball containing its respective flavor inside. The main ingredient was Balfego Bluefin tuna tartare, from Cantabrian Sea, which was served with tomato, caper jell, amaranth (red leaf), chopped chive. Balfego Bluefin tuna has very sophisticated taste, with a wonderful minerality of the ocean. When eating bluefin the difference is immediately discernible. Inquiring my server, I found out the unusual tenderness of the tartare was due to using 1 portion of toro (fat belly) and 1 portion of loin. Chef’s usage of ingredients is quite thoughtful and interesting. At present, amaranth has been cultivated and consumed as a leaf vegetable in many parts of the world, it has been known to the Aztecs as their main energy consumption before the Spanish conquest. It contains a lot of antioxidant, protein, it is also decorative. What a great combination!

Breads were served. They had extraordinary selection of breads. I selected only those which are not available in most of the restaurants - pork brioche, fig and walnut, focaccia with anchovy and blue cheese. Varieties of butter were available - fungi, avocado, lemon grass, caper, black olive and anchovy.

 2nd Course - 1995  Mille-Feuille of Smoked Eel, Foie-Gras, Spring Onions and Green Apple

This is Berasategui’s best known signature dish. It has multiple layers, from the top, 1st layer was caramelized thin sliced Granny Smith green apple, 2nd layer was foie gras, 3rd layer was smoked eel. Then repeat the ordinary apple slice, smoked eel and foie gras again, and with a thin slice of apple at the very bottom. Eel was from the Cantabrian Sea, a fully-grown eel can reach 2-feet long. However, for gastronomic purpose, baby eels are more pricier and are preferable. The house smoked eel was flavored and cured to perfection and caramelized apple gave your taste bud a bit of sweetness to provide the overall well-balanced taste and flavor. On the side, there was cream of spring onion, mild taste, to make the dish taste creamier. 

3rd Course - 2018  Cod Jelly with Asparagus Pickled with Anana Salt and Its Cream

Cod fish was from local, Cantabarian Sea. At the very bottom, there was cod fish jelly and eggs. Served with pickled sliced and diced white asparagus and topped with white asparagus cream and crispy cod fish skin. It was decorated with red Amaranth leaf and green baby carrot herb.

4th Course - 2018  Oyster with Green Olive Juice, Wasabi Emulsion and Crunchy Sea Lettuce

Oyster was from Galicia, part of the Northern Spain region famous for producing many varieties of quality shell fish such as oyster, scallop, clam, mussels. Wasabi emulsion frozen pearls (in the glass), topped with powder of roasted red pepper. Oyster juice contained within little balls with the molecular gastronomy technique spherification by dipping sodium alginate into calcium lactate. In addition, there were fried sea lettuce (seaweed). At the very bottom, there were chopped green apple, red apple and cucumber. 

5th Course - 2001  Vegetable Hearts Salad with Seafood, Cream of Lettuce and Iodized Juice

This dish was created in 2001 when Berasategui received its 3rd Michelin star. It was comprised of vegetable hearts salad with 3 different types of cream - sea lettuce (green), avocado (light green) and seafood (yellow). There were vegetable rolls of kohlrabi, avocado, tomato, sliced radish, purple flower (garlic flower). In addition to 3 types of cream, there were hidden treasure of half-raw tender and juicy Langoustine meat, macadamia nuts, seafood jelly and seafood sauce. It was another sophisticated and well-balanced dish.

6th Course - 2017  Langoustine Over an Aniseed Sea-Bed and Coral Mayonnaise

3 different types of cream - sea urchin, seaweed, fennel. Smoked Langoustine from local, fennel, fried shrimp head crumbled, spider crab consommé. Spider crab is a local variety around San Sebastian area. Chef used slightly different method of preparation for langoustine, the meat was as tender and tasty as what prepared by another method. The smoked flavor was paired with fried and crumbled shrimp head (with potent flavor) to complement each other. 

The 2nd photo shows langoustine and lobster side by side.

7th Course - 2018  Seafood and Seaweed Tremble, Plankton, and Prawn Consommé

Plankton was made of seafood (substitute for filling in a sandwich) and seaweed (substitute for bread), sitting on the edge of the bowl to maintain its texture. Cardinal shrimp consommé was in the middle of the bowl. Nori rice soufflé (crunchy rice), kumbu, served in heated bowl. 

8th Course - 2018  Semifreddo of Shrimp, Red Curry, Lettuce Hearts and Spicy Broccoli Marrow

Marinated monk fish liver half-raw sitting on the left side of the plate. This is the 2nd time that I had monk fish liver, I had it the 1st time at Nohonryori Ryugin. Coincidentally, I talked to the manager who also had fine dining at Ryugin. It was served with green tomato foam, lettuce heart and red curry, tempura fried seaweeds, broccoli marrow (white folded). Broccoli marrow is a marvelous way of preparing broccoli stems. Firstly, peel off the skin then vinaigrette in Korean spice Gochujang. Gochujang is a Korean spice made from chili powder, glutinous rice, meju (fermented soybean), barley malt powder and salt. Even though gochujang is spicy, broccoli marrow was not overwhelming. It was a well-balance match with monk fish liver. This dish was another masterpiece.

9th Course -  2018  Grilled Piece of Monkfish with Its Stewed Juice, Roast Diced Fennel and Crunchy Squid

Suquet is like seafood and fish stew, seafood bisque. This dish was made from rock fish Red Mullet suquet, with grilled Mediterranean monk fish, fennel, crunchy squid ink (black) and chive powder (green). the fried squid and prawn carpaccio. Crunchy squid ink was certainly a good practice of molecular gastronomy by drying squid into sheet and then fried it into crunchy form.

10th Course -  2015 The Truffle with Fermented Wild Mushrooms and Collard Greens with Alma de Jerez Oil 

The truffle was not the authentic truffle, it was man-made by the chef by fermenting black chanterelle mushroom. Man-made truffle is the part with smaller portion of black powder of mushroom. The man-made truffle covering foie gras, with red Iberian goose ham on the side. The larger black part was the fermented wild mushroom.

11th Course - 2015  Suckling Lamb Chop with Parmesan Whey, Fritter and Wild Asparagus

I requested for this dish because Basque lamb is famous for its unique taste from being fed by the region’s slightly salty grass. Restaurant used 20-day old baby lamb to prepare this plate. On the left, it was fried brain. Brown dotted juice was reduced lamb sauce, white dots was parmigiana juice and fried sweetbread was placed on the left side of the plate. In addition, white asparagus marmalade and green asparagus was served with dates sauce across the plate. The tenderness of the baby lamb chops was the best ever comparing with the 3-month old baby lamb that I had in Paris a few years ago. Baby lamb’s meat texture is different from full-grown lamb’s, it tasted less gamy. I hardly needed much efforts to get the meat off the rib bones. Tender and succulent were not exaggerated statement. However, I felt guilty eating baby lamb.

12th Course - 2018  Tender Young Pigeon, Stuffed with Olives and Foie Gras, Charcoal Roasted with Pil-Pil Kohlrabi and Carrots, Cocoa and Potato Capuccina

This was the last savory course. Potato foam was topped with cocoa powder, with potato purée, Iberian ham and lima beans on the side. Roasted pigeon was stuffed with olives and foie gras and cooked rare (black and blue) with crunchy skin. Baby carrot was cooked and glazed with orange juice, pigeon liver pate was served on toast, and cooked kohlrabi dice was glazed with roasted pigeon sauce. In addition, roasted pigeon sauce was reduced (in brown color) and placed in the middle of the plate for decoration as well as for enhancing flavor.


1st Course  -  2017 Lemon with Basil Juice, Green Bean and Almond

This was the palate cleanser. It had granité gin (in white color bit), lemon sorbet with zest, some cooked green beans served in basil juice and a few raspberries. This was the 1st time that I had green bean in a dessert course. It provided a neutral role in the overall taste. The center piece of this dessert was the fake lemon which was made of white chocolate. Granité gin and basil juice complemented each other well.

2nd Course -  2018 Chocolate, Coffee and Tea with Crunchy Quinoa

Center piece was the chocolate cup. It had granité rum on the left side of chocolate cup which was filled with ice cream and gold coated quinoa.  Pieces of carrot cake were bridged by chocolate cigar. To make chocolate cigar requires skill and precision, it can only be done at the right room temperature and right chocolate temperature. In addition, there were a few flavored half-cut dark cherries. It was certainly a sumptuous desert for the end of meal.   

Petit Four

Milk, cinnamon, Armgnac (A popular French brandy from a region south of Cognac)
Grape, passion fruit juice
Chocolate (up) - orange, caramel
Chocolate (bottom)- chocolate, vanilla
Chocolate - pepper, salt
Almond lemon financier
Yuzu chocolate
Hazelnut creamy cake

Each of these bite-size involved so much work. They were all delightfully enjoyable even though I have reached my max capacity.

It took 3 ½ hours to finish the whole meal. Toward the end of meal, Chef Berasategui came to greet guest at each table with the manager being the translator. It was as good as I expected even though it has the highest menu price among all 4 Michelin-starred restaurants in San Sebastian. Chef Berasategui certainly delivered the best out of the ingredients, his culinary skill, presentation, innovation and the utilization of molecular gastronomy. 

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