Sunday, 17 November 2013

Pintxos Perfection - San Sebastian, Spain

For those who haven't been to the beautiful, best in-city beach destination of Europe, you have to go! It's got my two loves side by side.  Golden sand and turquoise water along with an array of yummy food to boot!  San Sebastian is split into the new and old town.   The old town is where you want to be near as this is where you wander around the streets eating pintxos and drinking at all the different pintxos bars.  So the difference between pinxtos and tapas is that pintxos is pierced with a toothpick and the others are tapa.  Tapas from my understanding is a more general term for small plates of various dishes.  Pintxos is more popular in the Basque country.

There are plenty of different pintxos bars to wander into and after 4 days we definitely knew which ones were our faves and went back to for a pintxos or two.  Here is a pictorial list of all good ones we went to.  Some we just ate 1 or 2 pintxos and then left as it didn't have an atmosphere that made you want to stay.  Most of them were the ye oldy ones with not much variety of dishes so they didn't make it to this post.

Ok, so this was the first one we went to as it looked modern and interesting and funnily enough plonked ourselves next to a table of Aussie guys!!!

Beti Tai Berria - Address below
Pintox Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10
Positives: Had my first Kalimoxo (pronounced kali mutcho)! A recent icon of Basque culture.  Equal parts Coke and red wine.  My fave drink along with another traditionally Basque drink, you'll see later on.

Baztan, Calle Puerto 8, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain. 9/10
Pintxos Variety: 8/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Was the first pintxos bar that sold meat pintxos!  The deep fried pork and chicken wings were delicious!  The staff were the friendliest and we ordered our own bottle of Txkaoli  (cha coli) which is a slightly sparkling, very dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content.  Since we got back we have been searching far and wide for this drink, but no one imports this.  There are similar ones but damn just not the same.  We wish we brought some back with us.


Bar Zeruko, Calle Pescaderia 10, Donostia-San Sebastian, Spain
Pintxos Variety: 10/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives:  It is great to see someone push the boundaries of pintxos.  This was one that I had found online before this trip and had it on my list to visit.  They have won awards for their innovation.  Naturally you order what everyone seems to be ordering.  So I ordered this amazing dish of smoked cod with a biscuit covered with sweet jam and cheese followed by a chaser of cucumber juice!  The smoke filled the bar and as each new group of people came in they asked the very switched on people behind the bar  what that smoky tapa  was and ordered this dish.  That's what I did! 

The guy that served us all night was amazing.  Each time you grabbed some pintxos from the bar you showed him and he would take back any that needed to be heated up and then serve to your table when it was done.  He kept tabs on everything.  Again we had kalimoxto, quite a few and stayed there for quite a few hours, people watching and eating amazing food.

Amazing sea urchin roe was so deliciously salty and creamy.  This was one that was at the bar but had to be heated up.  They disappeared quickly.  Hot tapas of tender beef with roasted capsicum sauce ordered from the menu.  Beautifully tender.

This dessert below was another one of their signature dishes.  It was a flavour bomb, literally!  The yolk like bulb was filled with a strong peachy, orangey liquid that was super intense.  I quickly spooned in the cream to balance it out and then ate the sponge with it.  The two little things on the side were a sticky date thing and the centre of a flower which was super peppery and again strong with a lingering numbing feeling in you mouth, kind of like Chinese Szechuan peppers.  The guy told me to specifically eat it at the end.  I wish I didn't have it as it took all the sweetness away.  But it was certainly a taste sensation.  And glad I tried it.  An American lady walked by and said she was watching my expressions as I ate it as she said she did the same thing and commented on how the flower bud tasted. 
This is a must stop by in San Sebastian.

Tamboril, PescaderĂ­a, 2 - Donostia
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Vibe: 6/10 more for old local men
Positives: Cheap.  This little tapas bar was standing room only and specialised in mushrooms and stuffed peppers. We also found out that the pintxos from the menu were mostly deep fried.  The pintxos on offer ranged from the traditional omelette to a few strange ones like a fish roe one, see below in the middle bottom row.  The veins made it a big gruesome but it actually tasted nice and fresh with finely sliced onion and a kind of vinegary dressing.

La Cepa, Address below:
Pintxos Variety: 9/10
Vibe: 8/10
Positives: Lots of space to stand at bar or sit down.  Restaurant area at the back.  A la carte, and lots of large and small plates made to order.  This is where we tasted different grades of Iberico ham!  OMG, melt in the mouth meat!  I never really felt like dessert but had dessert here and chose the the chocolate mousse.  It was to die for, I can still taste it now as it wasn't super sweet just rich in cocoa flavour and super creamy!

Bartolo, Calle San Bartolome / San Bartolome Kalea, 15
Pintxos Variety: 7/10
Positives: Friendly staff who were happy to explain what each pintxos on the bar was.
Negatives:  Filled with young tourists as tourist groups walk by and the guide stops outside this one.  We witnessed and heard the spiel.



La Mejilonera, Puerto, 15 - Donostia
Pintxos: 9/10 - the quality of mussels were so fresh, plump and juicy.
Traditional: Standing space only
Positives:  Fast and tasty.  They pretty much only serve up mussels and seafood.  You can pick from about 6 types of toppings for the mussels.  I'm trying to remember what they were.  Top one was served cold.  The creamy looking one was warm white sauce with a bit of chilli sauce.  This was my fave.   They also put this sauce on top of patatas bravas. The green sauce, have no idea what the flavour was.  Bottom left, we had a plate of plain ones then the red sauce was tomato and capsicum sauce.  Washed down with another Kalimotxo, it was a perfect pit stop before we arrived at the next bar!


A Fuego Negro, Calle 31 de Agosto
Pintxos: 7/10
Positives: If you are after more modern Basque pintxos then go here.  It has a more touristy and cool vibe than the others and prices more expensive and small serves.  We only had 3 plates as the kitchen was closing for the afternoon before opening again later at night.  The rabbit was tasty but tiny, liked the playboy bunny touch.


I took so many food pics that it was very hard to cull and edit this San Sebastian post.  Please feel free to email me if you plan to go and need some more advice on anything food or about planning your itinerary.


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