It is not often that one is blessed to enjoy the finest of food prepared by one of the top chefs of the world. During my recent visit to San Sebastian, I was fortunate to have lunch in the restaurant of Martin Berasategui, in Lasarte, a small town near San Sebastian. The chef proposes to the visitor to taste rather than eat. This means, he prefers to serve small bites of representative dishes that he has created over the years, rather than one or two big dishes. The degustation menu that he has put together spans the period from 1995 to 2010.
The official name of the dish does not mention that the thin slice of the fish rests on a puree where the taste and flavor of parmesan cheese is prominent. The fish actually disolves into the puree and the combination is inspiring!
This is a signature dish of the chef, one of the dishes that have established him in the Pantheon of modern gastronomy. What is quite remarkable is the balance that he manages to maintain, between the eel and the foie, which have abundant flavor and “personality” .
This is a very fresh, light bite, made even lighter by the celery ice cream and the strip of lemon sauce. The salmon is velvety, full of flavor.
The black ball is a ravioli filled with squid ink, the crouton is a flake with ink juice and rice, and beneath it the chef has placed razor thin slices of squid. This dish is the essence of squid, presented in three distinct forms. The instruction is to put the ravioli in your mouth intact, and then crush it in order to enjoy the power of the ink’s taste. Then you water down the powerful taste with the soup’s liquid and the rest. The slices of squid add to the harmony of textures, but the taste and flavor are in the liquid stuff.
Extremely delicate flavor and taste, requires meditation to obtain the depth of the delicate structure the chef has put on the dish. A very intellectual dish!
What you see in the middle is a bouquet of tagliatelle made of gelatin and fennel. It is surrounded by the foamy stuff that also has fennel in it. It is a dish that uplifts you because it is so light!
This is a heavier dish, the bubbles are quite tasty and hearty, while the vegetables and the liquids accompany them well.
The test of the artistry of a chef is the cooking of an egg. Here we have the egg (poached without the white) covered by a transparent slice of lardon fat. On top we have pieces of beet root a bit of cheese, black truffle and the liquid herb salad. The combination is ok, but lacks focus. Of all the dishes I tasted this was the weakest.
This is a painting, a pleasure of the eye. Once you start tasting the salad, you have the feeling of being submerged up to waste level in the sea, and from the waste up to a vegetable and fruit garden. A sheer delight, the gastronomic equivalent of Mozart’s String Quintet 6.
This is an audacious dish, the combination of the mullet with the succulent pig’s tail is incredible! Not to mention the scales, that have been turned into air by the chef.
Wonderful flavor of the pigeon, assorted by the woody mushrooms and the truffle sauce. This may have been the best pigeon I have ever tasted!
The deserts were a disappointment, after the huge satisfaction of this display of culinary expertise and creativity.
At the end of the meal, the maitre d’ hotel asked me to go to the kitchen, where I was greeted by Hector Botrini, the best Greek Chef. Hector was visiting Martin as they are good friends and enjoy working together. Martin Berasategui was very polite, he asked whether I enjoyed the food and why. It is good to see that one of the best chefs of the world takes time to ask his unknown customers about their feedback. It is one of things that can keep Martin at the top for many many years to come.