Review Score: 92 / 100.
After a fantastic dinner at Arzak, we moved on to Akelare, which is the final Michelin starred restaurant on our itinerary. This is another venerable dining institution in the Donostia – San Sebastian region, and ran by another Basque culinary legend, Pedro Subijana. He started his restaurant in 1975, and his hard work paid off when he finally received his third Michelin star in 2006, which he had retained ever since.
The restaurant is about 10 minutes drive from the San Sebastian, and sits on the hill slopes with a magnificent view of the sea and the Concha bay. The interior design is quite contemporary, and the dining room was also very elegantly designed.
We started off with meal with a Bloody Mary albeit re-imagined into an amuse bouche. It certainly tasted of Bloody Mary, and was a flavourful bite.
Some additional amuses. One of which resembled an olive but was filled with what I think was mackarel, which was a pleasant surprise.
My first course was ” the leaves and the Foie under the rain”. Foie gras was shaped into leaves, and it was well paired with the salad and red currants, the latter of which provided some acidity to the dish. If I recall correctly, there was also some apple in the dish which provided some additional tartness.
Next, was a green broth infusion with scampi and smoked monkfish. The smoked monkfish was incredibly delicate, whilst the scampi was perfectly cooked with a firm flesh to dig into. This was served with a side of Tempura scampi head, which was crispy and provided texture to the dish. A delicious dish.
After that, was a delicately prepared dish of beef tartare with potato souffle and aromatic herb bread. I’m typically not a fan of beef tartare, but flavours here were subtle and worked very well with the potato souffle and bread, which provided textural contrast to the smooth tartare.
Moving on, was a perfectly cooked piece of sea bass with an intense Umami broth. A seemingly austere and simple dish, but underlying all that is perfection in every single component which made it a very successful dish. I couldn’t recall exactly, but the Umami broth was made with a staggering amount of components in order to achieve the required depth of flavour.
This was followed by a cod dish with edible shavings, cod tripe and tomato water. The Cod was a homage to the traditional manner of salting to preserve the cod, then re-hydrating and cooking it. Once again, the cookery was very precise and another immaculate course. Tomato water was a nice touch that provided Umami to the dish.
The last savoury course was Roasted suckling pig with “bone” and Iberico emulsion. The crackling had the perfect crispiness, and the flesh was moist and tender. The Bone was made with some form of sugar and was interesting, albeit honestly it didn’t add much to the dish.
The first dessert course was actually quite exceptional. Xaxu, which is a sort of bun with custard, served with a side of Coconut iced mousse. The Xaxu filling was redolent of Kaya, sans the Pandan. Lovely combination of flavours, which was both familiar yet foreign at the same time. The Coconut iced mousse was particularly smooth and delicious.
The last dessert was unfortunately not very good. Couldn’t recall the exact elements, but it was a forgettable dish. Although the previous courses were consistently good, the meal has to end strong as well in order to give the diner a lasting impression. Unfortunately this, for me, detracted from the overall dining experience.
Akelare is an exceptional place. All the courses were consistently good and memorable, except for the last dessert which I did not really care for. The cookery is modern and technically precise, yet it is also rooted to the traditions of Basque cuisine. This was quite a contrast versus Arzak, which would probably seem more soulful and unabashed about the presenting its flavour profiles. Plus points would be the beautiful dining room and the spectacular view of the sea, which added to the overall experience.
San Sebastian is renowned as a gastronomic destination, and restaurants such as Akelare and Arzak are a testament to that fact. It was certainly worth the journey here, and perhaps even worth a return trip in the near future. Although next time, it would probably be high time to visit Mugaritz and Azurmendi.