If you thought that you had committed the sin of Gluttony over Christmas, you will realise that you were actually being quite frugal if you read in the online magazine Slate their wine columnist’s report on a day he spent in San Sebastián. Mike Steinberger resolved to visit one of the town’s Michelin three-starred restaurants for lunch and the other for dinner.
After preparing himself with a gourmand’s breakfast (some water and a couple of Immodium tablets), he went to Berasategui’s restaurant ‘in a drab suburb’ at 1.30 and began with ‘two perfectly fried, delicious potato croquettes’. This is what followed (exactly as described in the English menu):
Mille-feuille of smoked eel, foie gras, spring onions, and green apple
Consommé of almond with apple ice shavings
Squid soup, creamy squid ink ravioli with squid crouton
Oyster with watercress, rocket leaves, and apple chlorophyll; lemon grass cream with oxalis acetosella
Raw fennel with smoked cream, caviar, and curry and cucumber custard
Green tomato jelly with grey mullet roe, lemon and basil sherbet with olive juice, and ginger and citric air
Razor shell custard with soya sprouts, coffee cream, cinnamon, and curry
Farm's egg with beet root and liquid herb's salad, carpaccio of Basque stew and cheese
Onion and idiazabal cheese soup with zizahoris and seasoned pigeon cream
Warm vegetable hearts salad with seafood, cream of lettuce hearts, and idionized juice
Roast red mullet with crystals of soft scales, consommé of cucumber, tomato and vodka emulsion, and raw cauliflower
Roast Araiz's pigeon with cream of apple, lime, and basil and its toast
Strawberries and green apple with black olive sand and frozen flakes
Yogurt liquid bubble, mango and passion fruit sauce, mist of gentian and crunchy flowers
Creamy coffee ice cream on top of a soft hazelnut and chocolate cake with whisky ice shavings
He confesses that he was not able to finish all the nine glasses of wine which were served, but proudly notes that by 3.45 he had cleaned all sixteen plates, not because he liked everything but because he had decided that this was his mission.
One must remember that this kind of food comes in minute quantities—a smear of this, a teaspoonful of that, a dab of jelly, a mist of nothing much, some bubbles of something and a few frozen flakes of something else. I guess that if you put the whole meal in a bowl and gave it a good stir it would occupy much the same volume as three sausages and a dollop of mash. Nevertheless Steinberger considered it the most challenging meal he had ever had, ‘a full-palate workout’, though he was ‘not overwhelmingly’ full when he had finished it.
Back to his hotel for a few hours well-earned rest, then our hero sets off for dinner. I lack his stamina so I will take a longer break before describing it here.