Donostia is the Basque name for the city of San Sebastian in Spain. I’ve made a trip out to the Basque region last September largely to expand my culinary horizon, and had a lot of great food there. What particularly struck me about San Sebastian and the surrounding Basque region is that, in addition to all the great pioneering fine-dining establishments with multiple Michelin stars, you could have just as a memorable experience at all these smaller pintxos (Basque tapas) bars sampling a variety of small plates. Add to the fact that Spanish wine is one of the most underappreciated in the world, you could really have an amazing experience at these places without shelling out hundreds of dollars. After visiting Spain, I realized how the Spanish food in New York City is not quite like its original counterpart and have been looking for a more “authentic” place. Donostia has been on my radar as a restaurant/bar that has such potential. Overall, I did have good dining experience, but felt that it is probably the best place to go to sip some Spanish wine with a couple of bites, but not a full dinner.
Donostia’s menu consists of a variety of small plates that are easily shareable. I started with a plate of jamon iberico de Bellota (two-year, salt-cured ham) that was pleasant but not overly memorable. Some dishes were quite nicely done without being fussy. I enjoyed each bite of alcachofa (artichoke) that was fresh and served as a great start to the meal, and finished quickly montadito (think tiny open-end sandwich) of tortilla con morcilla (with aioli and guindilla pepper) that was also quite delightful with a nice touch of tortilla. Bacadillo (think small sandwich) of pulpo (with Galician octopus, aioli, parsley and escarole) was also delicious and well-balanced in flavor and texture. Spain is well-known for cheese as well, and the 6 month aged smoked sheep’s milk cheese (idiazabal) that I had at the end was very good.
On the other hand, the more dishes I tried, the more I started finding some misses. I am a sucker for sea urchin, but the tartaleta with sea urchin pate, octopus, guindilla and aioli turned out to be less impressive than I had hoped. The server highly recommended montadito with smoked salmon and crema and local raw honey, but I wished the crema and honey were toned down to give more room for salmon to shine. I had high hopes for conservas (preserved food), but both chipirones (whole baby squid in ink) and navajas (razor clams) felt a little flat in freshness department. I can tell that the restaurant was trying to be more authentic in its approach to Basque/Spanish food, but the execution overall had something to be desired.
Donostia does have an impressive collection of Spanish wine and other beverages like cider. I do highly recommend sampling different drinks to get a full range of Spanish beverage. The restaurant doesn’t take reservations, but I had no problem getting seated at the bar right away. The vibe is that of a typical tapas bar with intimate and cozy setting; if possible, sitting at the bar and talking to the bartender about what to order would probably get you the most out of the experience. I do think Donostia is a good place if you’re stopping by to sip on Spanish wine along with some bites; the overall consistency of food, however, didn’t quite match the level that I had experienced on my trip to the Basque region.
- Creativity: 7.5/10
- Execution: 7.0/10
- Ingredients: 7.5/10
- Flavor: 7.5/10
- Texture: 7.0/10
Address: 155 Avenue B, New York, NY 10009
Telephone: (646) 256-9773