Akelarre is one of the three-Michelin star establishments in the Basque region sitting atop a hill overlooking the Bay of Biscay of San Sebastian. I heard so much about the magnificent view from the restaurant and about the modern and elegant Spanish cooking from chef Pedro Subijana. The eating experience itself, however, felt short of my expectations.
The restaurant has three different tasting menus that you can choose from (each at 175 euros per person), one set consisting of Akelarre’s classic dishes and the other two sets based on more recent inventions. I keep wondering to this day whether I should’ve stuck with classics that would highlight all the dishes that the restaurant has been known for over almost four decades. Instead, my inclination for something more modern and inventive took over me, and I decided to go a tasting menu option called bekarki. The beginning of the meal was excellent. Prawns cooked in flame came as juicy and delicate as I had expected with green beans. White beans with chorizo were also flavorful, and the best dish was of the lunch was sautéed fresh foie gras with salt flakes and grain pepper. I don’t know what kind of magic went into it, but the salt flakes didn’t make the foie gras too salty but instead complemented what could’ve been stuffy piece of meat beautifully.
Unfortunately, things started going downhill afterwards. Grouper immersed in “umami” sauce was very well-cooked, but the sauce itself was heavy and quickly overwhelmed the fish. “Desalted” cod box with shavings was more or less forgettable its presentation, and instead of juicy roasted baby lamb that I was expecting, the one coming out from the kitchen didn’t have enough meat or had the best texture. The desserts turned out to be a little too sweet for my taste as well, from the melted cupcake to orange sheet with fruit leaves. I went to the restaurant for lunch, which lasted three hours, and came away overwhelmed by the heaviness of many dishes toward the end.
The restaurant has a modern dining room with splendid views, so if you’re going to visit, lunchtime would definitely serve you better. The services were professional and attentive, and there is a wide selection of wines (many excellent ones from Spain) that would work well with the dishes. Getting a reservation wasn’t particularly challenging, but the restaurant was almost full by 2:30 (one thing I learned while dining in Spain is how late people eat here; most groups started filling in after 2). I really wish I could’ve liked Akelarre more and believe I should give a second chance to this place ordering classic menus that have made this place a renowned institution for a long time. But for now, I would say my dining experience (compared to all the great places I’ve been to during my trip to Spain) at Akelarre definitely had some hits and misses.
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 7.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.0/10
- Flavor: 7.0/10
- Texture: 7.5/10
Address: Padre Orcolaga, 56 (Igeldo), 20008 San Sebastian, Spain