I was in France for a work trip and wanted (as usual) to extend my stay for personal time to explore the region.
Instead of staying in France I opted to make a foodie pilgrimage to San Sebastian -- considered by some to be one of the best places to eat in the world!
I did some research and discovered that San Sebastian had the most Michelin-rated restaurants in any place in the world.
This was a foodies dream come true. The options were endless on the Michelin-starred restaurants you can try while in San Sebastian!
As I explored the different dining options in the area, I stumbled upon Asador Etxebarri while watching "Made in Spain" featuring Jose Andres, "On the Road Again" featuring Mario Batali, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Bittman, and Claudia Basols.
Doing more research on restaurants, I read that Anthony Bourdain said in an interview that he would even die at this restaurant!
I also consulted LA Times Food Critic, Jonathan Gold, before my trip and he told me that Etxebarri is the right choice if I had to choose between the more famous Arzak and Extebarri.
A Michelin-starred restaurant, Extebarri, is also ranked #44 in the 2013 San Pellegrino list of the "World's Best Restaurants."
Expectations were going to be high of course arriving at Etxebarri.
I even decided to rent a car to take me to the picturesque Basque Countryside to dine here.
Once you arrive, you might want to pinch yourself because you might feel as if you're in a dream with the beauty of its surreal landscape.
You will see a mystical looking backdrop of a mountain wrapped in clouds above lush green pastures. The Basque Countryside is blessed with so much rainfall. It reminded me of Portland, Oregon a bit as Portland is a foodie town as well, along with it been so green as well.
So of course, new to driving through Spain, I was one hour late for my 1:30 pm reservation. The staff were all very kind about my tardiness, new me by name, and seated me promptly at my table for one.
I decided to go with the tasting menu to get a sense of the chef's cooking style.
Chef Victor is self-taught and was previously a timber worker with a passion for grilling. The chef has built customized grilling contraptions and also selects his own wood for grilling.
Everything on the menu is either grilled or smoked to impart the flavors of the charcoal -- he even grills caviar, butter, and ice cream!
You must bring your appetite if you will choose to do the tasting menu. It was plenty of food, that I found my asking myself, should I eat my entire plate of food/? I decided to eat everything off my place thinking that I may never return again.
The tasting menu is definitely not for those who are not adventurous eaters. I ate everything that was brought to me and told them to prepare the food however the chef would like to prepare it.
If you're not the type to eat baby eels, baby octopus, sea cucumber, oyster, or chorizo tartare, I'd recommend sticking to the a la carte side of the menu.
broth of chicken
butter of goat's milk with black salt
burrata of buffalo
salted anchovy with toasted bread
oyster with spinach
sea cucumber with green beans
baby octopus caramelized onion and its ink
scrambled eggs with black truffle
tartar of fresh cilantro
green peas in their juice
throat of hake and daikon
reduced milk ice cream with red fruit infusion
souffle of chocolate
copa de txakoli
2 san pelligrino
total = 157.85 euros ($219.21)
This is cooking at its purest form -- fresh, local and seasonal ingredients cooked with passion and love by a gifted, self-taught chef, Victor Arguinzoniz. Chef Victor connects with the ingredients, the grill, and his environment.
At the end of the tasting, I thought that this is the best meal I have ever had. Extebarri definitely deserves its place as the pinnacle of barbecue in the world and worthy of a pilgrimage for food enthusiasts around the world.
It's definitely a dining experience I will never forget. Now, would I die here as Bourdain said that he would, probably not even though the Basque Countryside is surreal and one of the most stunning places I've seen in my life.
I love exploring Los Angeles like a tourist. I have as much fun in my hometown as I do traveling to another country. I hope my adventures inspire you to eat well and travel often.