#13 - Extebarri

September 6th, 2015

It wasn't easy to get here.  There's a whole post about it coming up.  Or maybe there might not be.  I have one written, but  even a month later, the experience of the afternoon is still kind of raw.  There were issues with directions and Jane, the GPS.  There was a road that went nowhere and a scene straight out of The Office.  But at the end of the journey was a restaurant.  We were always going to make it here.  Even if it took us all day.

Extebarri is another restaurant on San Pellegrino's Top 50 list.  This restaurant, like Arzak the day before, was an event.  And it was inevitable we were going to do this.

Well, it was kind of inevitable.  We talked about the restaurants in San Sebastian.  It was probably after watching Bourdain in Spain.  Adele texted me asking how I felt about Extebarri.  I remember watching Mario Batali and Gwyneth Paltrow (or Mark Bittman and Claudia Bassols...it was some combo of the four) on "Spain - On the Road Again" a few years ago.  I remember Extebarri was the restaurant where they grilled shrimp and some kind of wormy thing.  It might have been eels.

Why wouldn't we go there??

We arrived at the restaurant a bit frazzled, so we weren't in the best of spirits to start off.  So we began our meal the way any meal should start.  With the wine pairing menu.  Wine in hand...let's do this.

Chorizo Sandwich

We began our menu with a chorizo sandwich.  Beautiful bread.  Beautiful chorizo.  I took a bite and had a sip of wine.  The difficult journey was slowly melting away.

Butter of Goat's Milk

Fresh Cheese of Buffalo Honey and Hazelnut

Both the butter and the cheese arrived with the bread.  As we spread the butter on the bread and a small bite was taken, the question asked by both of us was, "How is this butter??"  Even the Amish butter Adele occasionally picks up from the Farmer's Market tastes nothing like this beautiful moment.  A few decades ago, an ad campaign touted "Happy Cows, Happy Cheese."  This must have been the happiest cows in the history of cows.


What was on this cracker??  No idea.  I'm not even sure if I knew what it was when I ate it.  But did I enjoy it??  Very much so.

Salted Anchovy with Toasted Bread

I think I've eaten more anchovy here than I have eaten in the last 40 years.  And anchovy on top of crusty bread??  More, please!!


I love the fact that there is no question about what we were eating.  And this was the most tomatoey tomato that ever tomatoed.  It was in a lovely broth, but I don't really remember what the broth was.  It didn't really matter though.  This was all about the tomato.

Courgette Stick

We were still in a very vegetable place, so our next course was the courgette stick.  Which...I'm not gonna lie.  I had to look this one up to remind me what this dish even was.  Not only did I not entirely remember what this was, but I didn't know what a courgette was.  Courgette is a zucchini.  And that information mostly reminded me what was going on here.  The zucchini was grilled and there was some kind of a (hummus-y??) schmear going on before it was topped off with little plants.

Ok, so my description wasn't great.  Eating this course, I remember it being very earthy.  Or woodsy.  It definitely had the feel of nature.  I inhaled it, if that helps any.

Prawns of Palamos

Ever seen a prawn this big??  Me neither.  Prawns of Palamos are prized for their flavor and size.  Palamos is a city two hours up the coast from Barcelona.  These particular prawns were grilled.  Maybe with a light drizzle of oil.  Nothing more.  They didn't need it.

We did use this moment to try to sample a delicacy.  Separating the prawn's body from its head, it was time to suck the juice from the head portion.  And...I mean, it wasn't bad.  But I couldn't tell what the big deal was on this particular event.  The prawn body, though??  Perfection.

Baby Squid

Simple dish.  With just a touch of ink on the side, both as a decoration and a garnish.

King Bolete and Aubergine

A bolete is a type of mushroom.  An aubergine is an eggplant.  Both were grilled and combined into a dish.  Eggplant has never been my favorite thing in the world, but mushrooms are my jam.  This was smoky and excellent.

Red Mullet

The veggies were now over and we transitioned into the fish section.  The red mullet was so light and was dressed with a small amount of oil.  A few onions and light greens were all the red mullet needed.

White Tuna Belly

The tuna belly was our final fish dish and was accompanied by a little tomato on top of pisto.  Now, what is pisto??  It's almost a Spanish ratatouille.  Tomato, onions and other veggies like courgettes (now I know a new word!!).  I generally like tuna.  It's more meaty than other fish.  This was no exception.

I added this picture of the wine because we were actually drinking during this meal.  And the parings were wonderful.  But looking back, I realized I didn't take any pictures of the wine.  I mean, wine in a glass is not exciting.  Unless, of course, you have a thing for glassware.  Which...I very much do.  Most courses were accompanied by a glass of white.  Until the course below arrived.  Because red wine was obviously going to be the pairing on this piece.


Now, know this.  This was not a serving for one person.  No way.  Now I'm not a steak person, but when I do eat steak, I like it one way.  Bloody.  I barely need the steak to be on the grill at all.  Just walking the cow past an open flame is enough for me.  And happily, Spanish steak tends to follow my preference.  Even more happily, Adele is cool with this steak situation as well.  Cause if we were sharing and she didn't like the blood, that would be bad.

During the steak portion, we didn't talk much.  Small grunts.  Louder moans.  Adele declared this the best steak she'd ever eaten.  I had to agree. 

With the steak came a small plate of lettuce.  It looked like iceberg lettuce.  You know, the most depressing of the lettuce.  There was nothing with the lettuce.  No veggies.  No cheese.  No nuts.  No fruits.  Just a small amount of oil.  Honestly, I didn't expect to eat any part of this.  It was looked down on very harshly before the first bite.  But if someone serves you something in a tasting menu, you will eat it.

Wow.  I don't know what they did to this lettuce.  It is still a mystery.  Maybe the oil had some sort of magical spell on it.  Who knows??  But the salad was lovely.  And of course, it worked well with the glorious steak.  I doubted again.  I have to stop doing that.

Reduced Milk Ice Cream

With a steak like the one we had just eaten, of course we were done with the savory.  So it was my favorite time of the meal.  It was also Adele's time to struggle.  You guys, it's Dessert Time!!

The first dessert was a reduced milk ice cream.  I honestly wasn't sure what reduced milk would be.  I mean, I'm assuming it's not like 2% milk, but an actual way of rendering down milk to make a more powerful milky taste.  Or, it could be 2% milk.  Whatever.  The scoop was in the bowl with a beetroot juice surrounding the ice cream.

Now I'm not gonna lie.  I wasn't sure about this at the start.  I am not a fan of beets.  The ice cream was amazing.  The juice was both tasty and not so tasty.  It did work well with the ice cream, but there were moments where I would have been perfectly happy with some caramel.  Some dulce de leche, maybe.  But being slightly weirded out about beetroot juice didn't slow me down.  I slicked up all of the ice cream dish.


Have you ever seen a fig look like this??  Me neither.  These figs, I believe were poached in this sauce.  Or some kind of sauce.  The sauce was a bit coconutty.  I ate them all very quickly.  I may have eyed Adele's dish as well.  But I didn't have her dessert.  Because I am a classy lady.


A small shot glass of chocolate was presented to each of us.  In the chocolate, the chef added honey.  It was a chocolate taste we hadn't really experienced before.  I think Adele was affected most by this chocolate.  She was looking very closely at her finger to see if she needed another delivery vehicle to make sure she had picked up every drop of the chocolate.

This is the moment I did take Adele's dessert.  We ended the eating part of our meal with these little nuggets.  And still, I'm not entirely sure what they were.  Pound cake??  Possibly.  Probably.  They were cakey and lovely.  I happily ate Adele's.  But I was definitely done at this point.  I was really full.

Tea Service

But...I wasn't full enough to say no to tea service.  I've found that tea after a tasting menu is a perfect way to end.  You have the time to linger and digest, plus tea will knock out any feeling of having too much wine.  Though truth be told, we didn't have an overwhelming amount of wine.  Plus, just look at this tea cup.  I'm obsessed with this tea cup. 

Our meal ended and we of course had to compare and contrast the meal with Arzak.  Where Arzak was slick, Extebarri was rustic.  An American Guy (it was very obvious) was dressed in a suit.  He was overdressed.  You could have been very comfortable in jeans.  No one was wearing jeans, but you could have been comfortable.  Where Extebarri was on point with their service, Arzak was a bit sloppy.  At Extebarri, we had multiple servers doing a quiet dance with the plates.  You didn't want for anything.  Both restaurants were an experience.  But how did we feel??

I thought Extebarri was the winner.  Food and experience, I was down with this one.  Adele was on Team Arzak.  But both were amazing.  This was the end of our Big Dining Experiences.  And we couldn't have asked for a better couple of food days.  This is the reason we came to San Sebastian.  And we weren't disappointed.


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