Thursday, May 21, 2009

How to Get a Michelin Meal for 30 Euros

OK, I was determined that my next blog post would not be about food, but you know what? Sometimes you just have to go with the moment and write what's on your mind, and my mind (not to mention my stomach) is filled with memories of tonight's dinner, an excellent meal at Kursaal in San Sebastian.

When researching the San Sebastian restaurant scene I came across Kursaal, which actually houses two sibling restaurants of the same name in a modern, multipurpose structure just across the river from our hotel. The chef, Martín Berasategui, has been awarded one Michelin star for this venture, making the fact that you can choose a five course tasting menu (including wine) for about 30 euros in the ground floor gastropub nothing short of an amazing deal. Heck, in the U.S. the wine I drank could well have cost as much.

Six adventerous tour members chose to come with me, and five of us chose the tasting menu. Starting with a slice of spider crab cake artfully arranged with a single leaf each of arugula and chard atop a swil of herb infused cream, the meal did not disappoint. While two of the party were uncertain about this menu, they were able to choose from among the many items on the menu of the day to create their own three course meal, a great option that allowed everyone to leave happy and full.

And lest you think tasting menu means course consisting of no more than two bites, take note that our courses were considerable more substantial. Following the crab cake we were served a lovely bowl of cuttlefish cooked in its own ink, which was sweet, salty, and almost fork tender, followed by a dish of two canneloni with a delicate yet hearty meat filling. This was the substitution for the veal dish that appeared on the original menu that was apparently, but we assured our waiter that the chef was welcome to bring us anything - substitutions were no problem. As one bottle of wine was finished, another one silently appeared, keeping us all happy as we visited between courses.

The last two courses were companion dessert dishes. One, an elegant slice of French toast that had been bruleed to create a carmelized sugar crust that cracked under the spoon, was served alongside a silky scoop of iced cream, while the other was a refreshing pear sorbet topping a jumble of miniature cubes of pear and a few precious candied pistachios.

So now, as it is almost time for bed, I'm still thinking fondly of dinner - the food, the comany, and the wonderful town of San Sebastian itself. I'll be leaving in a few days, and then my meals on my own will probably switch to primarily chicken doner kebabs and beer (not that I'm complaining - I love chicken doner kebaps and the Germand and Czechs really know how to make beer). But San Sebastian, you'll always have a special place in my little foodie heart.

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