|Errentería: October 2023
|Other visits: September 2021 (Main article)
Mugaritz has taken a new approach to their seasonal menus, titling them in the manner of art exhibitions. The theme for 2021 was ‘The first times’, and for 2022 it was ‘The reasons behind taste’. For their 25th anniversary in 2023, many anticipated a retrospective menu, similar to what elBulli did in 2002. However, the restaurant remained true to its creative nature and delivered a menu focused on an oxymoron – ‘Memories of the future’.
This was our first visit to Mugaritz since writing our comprehensive article covering their history, philosophy, and cuisine. We enjoyed catching up with Ramón Perisé, the R&D director and head chef. Time flew as we engaged in a 40-minute conversation, nerding out about the current season’s dishes and addressing some lingering questions from our previous visit. In this piece, we summarise the developments at Mugaritz since 2021 and describe the tasting menu in our usual style. For a more comprehensive understanding of Mugaritz, we invite you to read our detailed article from our last visit.
|Table of contents
|1. A different culinary philosophy*
|2. Their influences*
|3. Is this conceptual art?*
|4. Changes since 2021
|5. Tasting menu – October 2023
|* Sections found in our main article about Mugaritz, from 2021.
A few changes since 2021
Year after year, Mugaritz introduces something new, and for 2023, a distinctive feature was the deliberate eschewing of cutlery. Diners are encouraged to use their hands, which allows for a deeper, more intimate connection with the food. Of the twenty-three courses offered, only three came with any cutlery, down from nine in 2021. And even then, only a solitary spoon was provided for these.
This philosophy builds on a concept that began with their iconic stone-potato dish in 2005. The restaurant has always eagerly explored texture and temperature and using one’s fingers amplifies that sensory experience. Interestingly, as Ramón acknowledges, this year all dishes were maintained at lukewarm temperatures between just below room temperature and around 40°C. The aim was to ensure the food is comfortable to hold and at the temperatures at which we humans taste best. With wet towels ever at the ready, diners can ‘get dirty and sticky’ while ensuring that the experience remains comfortable. However, the delicate nature of some dishes might pose a challenge for those unaccustomed to eating with their hands.
A new approach to wine – ‘Vis a Vis’
The other novelty was the ‘Vis a Vis’ wine line unveiled in 2022. This new wine programme led by sommelier Kristell Monot establishes a synergistic collaboration with winemakers, curating a collection of special cuvées bottled exclusively for the restaurant. This initiative isn’t just about bringing bespoke wines to the table; it’s about reimagining how those wines are chosen and presented. Each year, the ‘Vis a Vis’ collection is refreshed to ensure that each dish is not only paired with a wine but is also developed in harmony with it. This year most of the producers are Spanish, apart from a Champagne. It includes Mencía from Verónica Ortega, Garnacha from 4 Monos, Tempranillo from Remírez de Ganuza, Chenin Blanc from Can Ràfols dels Caus or an ice cider from Malus Mama.
Andoni had always had an appreciation for wine. In his time as a stagiaire he even pursued a course in sommellerie. It’s no wonder that Mugaritz has always had one of the best wine-pairing programmes we have experienced. There is a strong emphasis on selecting wines during the dish development process and sometimes the wine even becomes a dish – see Noble Rots, A cultured molecule or Flor.
During our last visit, there was technically no wine list. ‘Vis a Vis’ is here to solidify this choice. This move aims to align the wine offering with the absence of a menu in recent years. Andoni claims that ‘If menus are redundant, why should wine lists persist?’ This decision echoes the step taken by the Troisgros brothers in the 1950s when they began plating their dishes in the kitchen. It was a revolutionary move that gave chefs control over the presentation of their creations. Before this, dishes were typically assembled or finished tableside, which gave service staff a significant role in the final presentation. Similarly, Mugaritz’s kitchen has taken control over the wine pairing process, bridging the gap between creator and consumer for both food and wine.
Yet, as head chef Ramón Perisé later told us, this apparent centralisation suggesting that everything revolves around the kitchen is misleading. It’s not about restricting the sommeliers. Rather, it seeks to deepen the collaboration between chef, sommelier, and vintner, fostering creativity in the kitchen and a collective emotional attachment to the wine, the terroir and the region. The staff visits to wineries ignite a passion to showcase the unique cuvées and incorporate these discoveries to create a more cohesive dining experience that seamlessly blends cuisine with wine.
Initially, we thought that a single wine programme might be limiting to customers; however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that a traditional wine list is now openly offered in a digital format accessible through a QR code. This ‘hidden’ menu showcases a collection of rare wines, including aged Tondonias and Barolos, a variety of Raveneau and DRC, to rare bottlings from Nicolas Joly’s Coulée de Serrant, a surprisingly broad range of Bordeaux, an excellent selection of well-aged German Rieslings featuring Keller and Bürklin-Wolf, and a comprehensive assortment of Sherry. The drawback is the substantial mark-ups for these wines. For those looking for value, we strongly recommend the wine pairing for their price and the effort put to create exciting harmonies or contrasts. One can select from the concise 88€ pairing, highlighting their favourite and most impactful pairings, the full Vis a Vis pairing at 165€, or the premium selection at 330€, which also includes some of the gems in the hidden wine list.
The menu in 2023: ‘Memories of the future’
The meal commenced with a trio of starters served simultaneously, a collection designed to awaken the senses with flavours from the local area. The first, Bouquet: frosted thyme, was less about eating and more about tasting—a sprig of thyme finished with a sheen of olive oil and served frozen. We proceeded to lick the plant, coaxing the aromatic oils to mingle with our tongue’s warmth. A bit like licking the dew off a bush.
Moving on, the Bunch: chives and butter was the most visually striking of the three. The base, a delicate ‘toast’ (as the waiter referred to it) of chives, offered a satisfying crunch that played well with the smooth blend of butter and lemon. It was made by thinly slicing a bunch of chives held by a gelatine. Though the eating concept hinted at a taco, the reality was a tad cumbersome to eat. The gelatine had warmed up slightly while waiting and the ‘toast’ crumbled a bit. It was a bit tricky to eat without making a mess. Flavourwise, the chives stood out boldly, perhaps too eagerly, while the pickled lemon zest and butter tried to mellow the dish’s overall sharpness. The experience felt novel, with a quirky texture, yet it straddled the line between exciting and overwhelming.
Summer aromas: lemon verbena and peach was more straightforward. The peach, roasted to perfection, was fragrant and soft, yet not too sweet or mushy. It was accompanied by an unusual chunky pesto, featuring whole pine nuts for added texture and Idiazábal cheese for a tangy twist. The subtle addition of lemon verbena brought a fresh undertone, harmoniously uniting the dish. The warmth of the roasted ripe peach melded with the pine nut pesto and cheese, delivering a blend of sweetness, citrus, and nuttiness.
We continued the experience with a course titled Ama, which stood as a poetic ode to motherhood and love, an evocative play on the Basque and Spanish words for ‘mother’ and ‘love,’ respectively. The intrigue begins with diners uncovering a warm bundle shrouded in a soft linen cloth. Within, they find a breast-shaped mould made with coffee, milk, and gelatin. A gentle press releases a warm infusion of hay in sheep’s milk through the nipple. The dish offers an interactive, sensory experience, inviting guests to engage as an infant would—by sucking to draw out the nourishment, rather than biting or chewing.
‘What is this?’, guests murmur. The initial reactions elicit some confusion. Yet, the deep sense of satisfaction that follows is unquestionable. Intentionally served at the nurturing temperature of 37 degrees Celsius—equivalent to that of the human body—the dish is crafted to comfort and console. The gentle heat evokes a mother’s caring touch. The presentation, thoughtfully disarming, is designed to stir both comfort and conversation. The cloth that envelops the dish is also key; it removes part of the shock of seeing a naked breast, and turns the act of uncovering into a moment of tenderness rather than slight brutality. Upon further interaction with the dish, there was an immediate surprise: the contrast of salty and milky and sweet flavours. Its flavour, similar to hojicha, echoed the sensation of sipping a soul-soothing tea with soy milk. The breast was finished with a pinch of salt on the nipple-like protrusion for an unexpected flavour twist. Despite its unsettling resemblance to a breast, which bordered on the uncanny, the overall execution was both intellectually stimulating and surprisingly delightful.
While chatting with Ramón later, we would discover that there is a deeper story to the dish. The nipple is a mould from French artist Prune Nourry, who after being diagnosed with breast cancer decided to immortalise it. Nourry worked with Mugaritz in 2019 for Serendipia, a film that explores the effects of the cancer treatment on her mind and body. It started as a cocktail for the premier of the film, and slowly it developed to Ama.
The duo of Harmony: sea sips and Bon appétit: oyster mantle soup, represented a deconstruction of the quintessential luxury pairing—oysters and Champagne. This sequence of oysters began with what is usually cast aside—the oyster mantles. These were served in a broth of the oyster’s own salty liquor, brightened with a dash of sherry vinegar and a brunoise of green onions. The idea was to drink straight from the bowl, but this approach proved slightly cumbersome. The wide bowl made for a challenging sip, as the delicate pieces of oyster collected at the bowl’s rim, just out of reach, preventing a perfect sip of both components. A spoon would have been helpful.
Pushing the classic pairing of oysters and Champagne to its limit, with Harmony: sea sips the sequence continued in a Martini glass, where the oysters, trimmed from their mantle, were served submerged in Champagne Pehu Simonet from the ‘Vis a Vis’ line. The wine, with its ripe apple, floral and autolytic notes really came to life with the salinity added by the oysters. The exercise was very stimulating, shedding light on why and how this famous pairing works so well. It seemed to make the sip more addictive, perhaps even more umami, accentuating the yeasty and chalky notes. It was akin to adding salt to a dessert – it brightened the flavours. Trying to sip the Champagne while scooping up the oysters was also tricky, but worth the effort. The oysters delivered an intensity that held its own against the Champagne’s richness. Even the slimy texture of the oysters was preserved, with a gel that floated over the Champagne, capturing some of its effervescence.
As a whole the sequence works well. The bowl of soup, sharp and acidic, followed by the Champagne’s richness makes the salinity feel milder, more integrated. We would simply reconsider the choice of bowl and glasses.
The Envuelto: bombón de bacalao (Wrapped: cod bonbon) and Revuelto: enredo de piñones (Scrambled: pine nut entanglement) performed a pas de deux, not just through their gelatinous sticky textures but also through a clever play on words. In Spanish, ‘envuelto’ and ‘revuelto’ are rhymes, meaning ‘wrapped’ and ‘scrambled’. Mugaritz has a long standing obsession with cod and hake, and the cod tripe bonbon was another iteration of their explorations. It brought to mind the hake tripe croquette we sampled back in 2021. Here, the gelatinous and slightly chewy—yet tender—quality of the cod tripe was showcased in a pil pil sauce, all encased within a spinach leaf wrap. However, the spinach layers were overly abundant, muting the otherwise creamy and gelatinous texture of the pil pil that was so memorable in the hake croquette. To make matters worse, the spinach flavour asserted itself more than desirable. The composition was finalized with a Pedro Ximénez reduction, accompanied by raisins rehydrated in the same wine, adding a layer of sweet and tart touch.
The connection with its accompanying serving, Revuelto was purely textural. Indeed, texture is another signature obsession of Mugaritz. On a layer of pine nut cream rested a mound of orzo, transformed by a touch of vanilla and an extensive koji fermentation. On top, candied pine nuts provided some crunch. The fermentative magic of koji lent a lactic tang akin to kefir, which married well with the slightly bitter note of the pine nuts, making it as addictive as it is complex. The vanilla helped to round out these flavours and connect them to the sweetness of the caramelised pine nuts. The most striking aspect was the texture: the orzo retained a hint of its original form, yet it melded into a creamy, slightly sticky composition. As a result, it was surprisingly similar to the cod tripe pil pil.
A theme seemed to build around koji. We were then presented with two sakes from the Tenzan Sake Brewery in Saga for our next course. The first, on our left, was a Junmai ginjo, crafted from a blend of Yamadanishiki and Omachi rice grains, which have been polished down to 55%. This sake presented a fresh and delicate flavour profile, with notes of Reinette apple and green melon. In contrast, the second sake, on our right, made from a diverse blend of five rices and with a higher 75% polishing ratio, offered a more robust sip. It filled the palate with hearty and more rustic nutty notes.
The pairing for these two sakes was Potatoes with tuna. The use of a koji-fermented, saffron-infused potato as a stand-in for sushi rice was a clever twist, offering an earthy canvas for the kombu-cured bonito that was poised on top. We had seen a similar idea in 2021 with a veal nigiri covered in Penicillium roqueforti, but this iteration embraced the quintessential Basque ingredients – tuna and potato. A couple of drops of garum on the fish accentuated the feeling of umami. While the tuna’s texture was spot on, the potato had a strange mealy texture that did not convince us. Did the koji bring out some floral notes from the potato? Or was it the sake pairing? In any case, adding to the complexity, picking up the dish with one’s fingers proved tricky. The surface tension kept the potato stuck to Manu Muniategiandikoetxea’s exceptionally heavy plate.
And the fermentations continue with Lukewarmness: neither one thing nor the other, where Mugaritz transforms verdina beans, a type of bean similar to pochas, into a luscious tempeh through precise fermentation at 29-30 degrees Celsius, finishing with a crab roe emulsion. The result is a tempeh that’s exceptionally tender, with beans that were cooked until perfectly soft before being inoculated with Rhizopus oligosporus. It carries a depth of flavour that’s enhanced by the subtle saltiness and rich texture of the roe, creating a blend that’s more savoury and luxurious than one might expect from its humble appearance. The bite is soft and buttery, reminiscent of peanut butter, all at room temperature.
For some time, Mugaritz has featured a dish challenging diners to guess its main ingredient. In 2021, the surprise element was veal brain, cleverly disguised as rice pudding. In 2023, the challenge was Strange creatures, guessing the main ingredient from its taste and texture. At least in this one they did provide a spoon to help us. The dish was served as unidentified round morsels napéed in a deep yellow mustard-vinegar sauce, and topped with tarragon and Peruvian black mint. This combination harmonized well with the exotic flavour of the mint. Although the presentation was visually striking with its sculptural shapes, it didn’t make it any easier to guess what was hiding under the sauce. The main ingredient presented an intriguing texture: crunchy yet chewy, and tough. It was unlike typical meat or fish, leaving us guessing until the end. The surprise? Sea cucumber fried in a tempura batter.
The pairing for the next servings was a 2020 Garnacha by 4 Monos from a particular vineyard in Cenicientos, Sierra de Gredos. We love these perfumed versions of Garnacha, particularly those from Madrid, Navarra, or Aragón. It featured a very aromatic bouquet with floral and red fruit notes. Despite its light extraction, the wine displayed good body and concentration. On the palate, the crisp acidity, silky tannins and red currants reminded us once again of Pinot Noir.
This was followed by a duo that offered a respite of simple pleasure and indulgence, Tenderness: ox hump in sauce and Hunches: of sweetbreads and watercress. On one side, there was a nugget of veal sweetbreads, glazed in meat jus and garnished with watercress. The sweetbreads boasted a sublime milky flavour and a creamy texture, ranking among the best we’ve ever had, arguably even surpassing those from Hugo Desnoyer in Paris. Their caramelisation was impeccable, lending a satisfying crunch to the smaller morsels. While the sweetbreads truly shone, the watercress seemed to serve more as a decorative element. The meat jus, on the other hand, deepened the meaty flavour of the dish.
On the other plate, the ox hump was served as a thin, large cut similar to Texan brisket but without any spices. Instead, it was accompanied by a rich, collagenous beef glaze, onions, and mushrooms. Like in most of the dishes that we were served, there was no cutlery provided. In this case, one was supposed to roll the piece of the steak like a cannellone. However, the meat was so tender and generously topped with the glaze, that our fingers were left sticky and slimy. Was it intentional? Certainly, it was finger-lickin’ good.
Initially, the combination of these two dishes seemed unusual, but their complementary nature soon became clear. Both dishes featured beef at different ages of maturity (veal and ox), and both played with textures—crispy and creamy sweetbreads against the soft and delicate hump steak.
Face to face: the skin I live in reveals a reinterpretation of their 2021 creation ‘FIRST KISS’, celebrating their 25th anniversary with a nod to traditional Basque flavours. Crafted as a cider-gel skin, reminiscent of a funeral mask, it’s accompanied by a chorizo cream and pimentón-laced bread, inviting diners to engage in a playful, almost childlike experience of peeling off the skin and soaking it in the sauce.
The concept of the dish, initially puzzling, gradually reveals its intent. The gel skin is remarkably thin and stretchy, with a subtle tanginess, contrasting with the stronger, tasty chorizo cream. In fact, this is made of the same stretchy psyllium from the Plantago plant that was used in their 2021 ‘GAME’ dish. The idea for this dish had been there since 2021, but it would take a bit longer to refine it into its current form. Described by the staff as ‘our skin’, it serves as a metaphor for the face of Basque cuisine – cider, chorizo, and bread. Cider was central to the development of the Basque economy in the 14th and 15th century, and many traditional Basque farmhouses, caserío or baserri, were designed with a press at the centre of the dwelling1 Mugaritz being located in and old caserío and apple cider mill, this dish plays into their beloved self-referential philosophy. Despite some reservations about the depth of flavour in the gel, the overall experience was intriguing, compelling one to ponder the deeper connections between food, memory, and culture.
The theme of the sea came back in About the head which focuses on the octopus head. The second part of title in Spanish is pulpo a flor de piel, which is quite hard to translate. Perhaps octopus on the edge could work as the translation, in the conceptual sense at least. We have learnt so far that in Mugaritz, the message can be sometimes transmitted in the simplest way using a concise language. And so it is in this case. The dish thrived on simplicity: just the octopus head lightly seasoned with bay leaf oil. This meant using not the entire head, but the skin of the octopus head. The octopus’ head is usually an under-looked part of the animal and nearly never used in the kitchen. Why can’t we apply the nose to tail philosophy to this animal? Head to tentacles? Why is our perception of the octopus limited to its eight feet? What if the way we eat was not so influenced by our language?
Strangely, in this case, the dish was served with a spoon. Mugaritz loves pushing the boundaries and keeping the diners out of their comfort zone. Was the slimy texture of the octopus too bizarre even for them to bite off from your hands? The head was cooked sous vide at low temperature for a long time, yielding a unique texture, nearly QQ-like. It was soft, but springy, and gelatinous. In terms of taste, it was very pure, just accentuated with a light herbal note of the bay leaf. A Basque delight.
The octopus was accompanied by another excellent pairing, a great example of the effort put into finding flavour profiles that harmonise with the food. Here, the use of bay leaf oil on the octopus created a perfect link to the chosen wine: the 2019 Dominio do Bibei ‘Vis a Vis’ No 15. The blend of 70% Mouraton and 30% Garnacha Tintorera delivered a distinctive cool climate black fruit crunch. However, it was its alluring and precise notes of bay leaf and thyme that truly connected well with the dish.
The theme of Basqueness continued in the next pair of the dishes: Latxa Sheep: Black ‘mamia’, never dies and Saffron-flavored ‘mamia’. ‘Mamia’ is a traditional Basque dessert (known as cuajada in Castille) akin to set custard or curd, and is typically made from sheep’s milk. The milk from Latxa sheep, native to the Basque country and usually used for Idiazábal cheese, is the key ingredient here.
The ‘black mamia’ was made with Latxa’s milk simmered and concentrated in the oven for 16 hours. This process caramelised the milk’s sugars, yielding a deep brown custard with a nutty aroma, subtly sweet yet savoury. Its umami character was intensified by a rich lamb glaze which was itself reduced for over six days. A garnish of pimpinella leaves brought a hint of hazelnut.
The second version of the dish was lighter, prepared with fresh Latxa’s milk infused with saffron and topped with pistachios, olive oil, and dahlia flowers. It was delicate and slightly sweet, although it didn’t seem to have any added sugars. Instead, the dish’s sweetness was naturally derived from the the sheep’s milk, saffron, and pistachios.
Perhaps the juxtaposition of the two mamias was a bit confusing. Were they supposed to be understood through their similarities or their differences? Black and white? Yin and yang? Although they embody distinct energies, both of them were actually sweet and savoury but in different ways… In any case, worry not, for here we had the luxury of indulging in them with a spoon.
Carrying the title of the 2023 season theme, Memories of the future: sweet vigor sought to bridge the past and the future. The dish featured a blackened bread inspired by the hearty fare of vineyard workers, who traditionally consumed bread soaked in wine and sugar for a quick energy boost2. In this reinterpretation, white bread was caramelized for an extended period of time in an OCOO cooker, a Korean appliance that has gained popularity in the Spanish avant-garde since 2017. We have also seen it being used in Enigma and Disfrutar in our last visits. The white bread was submerged in a molasses-like sauce – produced by treating bread with amylase, which causes an enzymatic breakdown of its starches – and cooked until blackened. The result was accompanied by a sauce made with the lees of Port wine.
In our experience, the OCOO tends to give very similar results in both flavour and texture across a wide range of ingredients. This is particularly noticeable with sweet ingredients, where the deep caramelisation and toasting yield flavours akin to quince paste and dried figs. In the case of our caramelised bread, we also felt notes of chocolate and a smoky bitter touch. This made it work exceptionally well with the sauce of lees of Port, which were sweet and syrupy and carried a distinctive aroma of vanilla, an addition we believe was intentional.
Similarly, the texture consistency produced with this cooking method is equally remarkable. Foods become incredibly soft, collapsing effortlessly under the gentlest finger pressure, akin to the tenderness of roasted fruit or soaked bread.
As we have explained in our last visit to Mugaritz, the menu is designed to take you through moments of confusion, surprise, challenge, but also pleasure. All these elements are carefully timed, to create a rhythm of tension and resolution. While the meat courses already delivered some of that pleasure, Serenity: fishing for flavour was another break meant for pure indulgence. The Galician mero negro, or black grouper, a fish known for its rich, flaky texture did not disappoint. Pleasure can still be creative, and thus the fish was served with a praliné made from its own bones and almonds and some grilled piparras. The praliné, salty yet reminiscent of traditional sweet pralinés, added an unexpected crunch and depth to the dish. A very clever example of how to balance flavours and textures. The use of the bones in the praliné was intriguing, as they were completely integrated and undetectable. The fish’s texture was exceptionally soft and flaky, forming a distinct contrast with the sticky, peanut-butter-like praliné. A classic dish with Galician fish necessitated a Galician pairing, an Albariño from Eduardo Camiña, an ex-sommelier of Mugaritz. Beautiful vertical structure and intense salinity.
The subsequent serving was much more disconcerting. Over a prism of room temperature gelatinised fideuà (similar to paella but made with noodles) lay a room temperature langoustine. The idea was to blend the delicate flavour of the tail with the hearty, earthy taste of the fideuà made with its head. Thus the title From nose to tail. However, the dish had some issues. The fideuà, which should have been a highlight, was overly intense, with an unpleasant burnt and metallic taste. On a brighter note, the langoustine was cooked perfectly, with a mildly sweet flavour and a pleasingly tender texture.
We shifted our focus back to meat, for a more challenging course with Dehesa: shape and substance. Shape and substance are indeed analysed here within the distinct framework of Mugaritz. Its R&D team is fascinated by how our perceptions can be altered by the food we eat. They ponder why people are unbothered by candy in the shapes of animals or body parts, yet might find the idea of a child eating an eye unsettling. This curiosity led them to experiment: How would you feel about eating candy shaped like a small pig’s face and made from pork skin? How about a pork sirloin stamped with a cartoon pig? Mugaritz succeeds in creating dishes that are also thought-provoking experiences, blurring the lines between the culinary and the conceptual.
On the plate, there was a slice of pork sirloin. This pork was cooked sous vide and cured in miso, along with a variety of spices, primarily featuring pimentón. The meat, served once more lukewarm, maintained a delicate balance of flavours. Beside it, a whimsical pig’s smiley face, fashioned from pork skin and chorizo-infused milk, mirrors the texture of bean curd puffs used in hot pot or soups and blends the tastes of milk and paprika. Kristell Monot paired this with a 2018 Pinot Noir from Costers del Segre by Castell d’Encus, a winery run by Raül Bobet. We were surprised by the very Californian character it showed, with notes of ripe and sunny cool climate red currants, cranberry and pine resin.
At Mugaritz, the menu traditionally ends with a special dish named Ritual. For instance, in 2021, the finale was a selection of unsweetened chocolate bars from various origins. Since desserts were eliminated from the menu in 2017, sweet dishes could, in theory, appear at any point during the meal. Perhaps the OCOOed bread was the only true sweet elaboration in 2023. This time, this ‘ritual’ appeared in the form of a Piña colada, or rather an interpretation of it. The presentation is à la russe, with a waiter bringing a koji-covered pineapple to the table. The pineapple had been inoculated with the spores of koji and left to develop for 48 hours at 30-35°C. During that time, the pineapple developed a thin layer of white film coating all the surfaces of the fruit. The waiter then serves each guest a slice of this pineapple, topped with a mix of cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, and allspice. As a pairing, we were served Guatemalan rum from Zacapa Gran Reserva Especial XO Solera, an assemblage of different barrels aged between 6 to 25 years.
Much like the opening dish of oysters and champagne, the rum was an essential component to the dish. The pineapple was notably ripe, exuding deep, exotic, and floral tones. Meanwhile, the layer of koji introduced a balance of salinity and umami, offsetting the pineapple’s inherent sweetness and turning every bite very addictive. The spices worked very well, especially when paired with a sip of the rum. The rum itself brought out spiced notes and aromas of dried pineapple leaves, demonstrating a clear, symbiotic interplay with the pineapple.
Along with the pineapple, we were presented with Candy: gluten ball, a ball of wool thread, designed to evoke childhood memories of playfully fiddling with simple objects. Inside lay a candy made with molasses extracted from rye bread using amylase to break down starches. It was wrapped in an edible film called obulato, made from potato starch, a typical wrapping method in Japan for various candies3. The texture of the candy was similar to fudge, but offering toasted and nutty aromas. Interestingly, this technique of employing enzymes to alter starches in bread or vegetables was pioneered at Mugaritz. It has now been adopted by others, such as El Celler de Can Roca in their 2022 dessert of chocolate mousse and bread honey.
The standard of creativity remains as high as in 2021, offering a menu that is a true roller-coaster, oscillating between surprising or confusing elements, thought-provoking challenges, and sheer culinary indulgence. Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, the restaurant’s most conceptual work remains unparalleled globally. To truly appreciate this unique style of cuisine, a visit to Errentería is indispensable.
The 2023 menu’s theme, ‘Memories of the Future’, melded very different concepts within a unified framework. On one hand, it attempted to evoke childhood experiences that are usually forgotten, ranging from breastfeeding to the joy found in simple objects, like a ball of wool. On the other hand, some dishes, such as ‘Face to face’, drew on flavours that are deeply embedded in the Basque psyche, in a new avant-garde form. A significant number of dishes followed their well-trodden line of research of fermentations – a technique they regard as an essential technique for the future of gastronomy.
Like last time, we thoroughly enjoyed the carefully crafted wine pairings that would impress even Alain Senderens. The ‘Vis a Vis’ concept works very well and in the future, we will certainly consider choosing between this option and the more premium offering featuring rare bottles.