Much of the past 10 days has been dedicated to learning the basics of Basque cuisine. Accordingly, Mamma Parla and I have spent a lot of time eating pintxos, perusing markets, quaffing txakoli, and frequenting simple taverns. It has been hard to resist the restaurants of the world’s leading chefs, especially in San Sebastian, but I am a firm believer that in order to appreciate the creative cuisine of a place, one must learn its central tenets first. Plus, Mamma Parla would kill me if I dragged her to every Michelin and San Pellegrino rated restaurant in Basque Country.
I thought a reasonable compromise would be a visit to Chef Hilario Arbelaitz’s Zuberoa, located in Oiartzun, a 25-minute drive from Donostia-San Sebastian. (Unless I’m navigating. In which case, it takes closer to 90.) Zuberoa was recommend to me by my friend Eleonora Baldwin, a cook, gastronomic guide, and blogger extraordinaire. I got a table for lunch on the lovely flower scented patio and what followed was just perfect.
We started with an earthy amuse bouche of layered mushroom gelatin and foie gras cream. The way to my heart, Chef.
Grilled foie gras is a Basque specialty. You can hardly turn around in San Sebastian and the environs without running into it. At Zuberoa it is served with a warm chick pea puree, sauteed cabbage and fried breadcrumbs. Exquisite.
Mamma Parla is a hard core scallop junkie and judge. Hers were cooked to perfection and served with caramelized endive. Superlative.
Mamma Parla stuck to the fish theme with the next dish, hake and clams with green pea cream. This remains one of her top favorite dishes all trip. Memorable.
My main dish was a standout, as well. Suckling pig confit, crispy outside and succulent inside, was served with a side of spiced fruit compote. Life
Cheesecake, a local specialty, reaches staggering heights at Zuberoa’s table. I never would have ordered this had the server not recommended it (I’m more of an apple pie or hazelnut-chocolate kinda gal). I’m glad I did, and so where the servers who got a good laugh out of my ecstatic expression as I ate. Pure magic.
Lunch at Zuberoa was exactly the kind of experience Mamma Parla and I look for in a special meal: attention to details and ingredients, a discernable connection to local traditions, attentive service, and casual elegance. Perfection.