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Azurmendi starts to get recognition

He was in Thailand last October when we had a great meal there, and he'll be in Los Gatos, California sharing the stove with Chef Kinch at Manresa when we dine at Azurmendi in May. http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

I'm not really worried but it would be nice to actually meet the guy one of these days :)

about 5 hours ago
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

Thanks for the video, that looked really simple.

Matt probably felt he had to peel them to keep the unknowing from trying to eat the sheath, like those Americans who try to eat the corn husk on a tamale, which President Ford once did in Texas.

about 15 hours ago
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

L2O restaurant in Chicago offered them for a brief moment and after reading the chef's blog I wanted to try them, but when we've visited the restaurant they weren't available. I think I'll try a handful at Etxebarri if they're on the menu.

http://matthewkirkley.typepad.com/mat... ... I'm sure they won't peel them for me like Kirkley did :)

about 17 hours ago
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

Have any of you tried percebes, what is called "Goose barnacles" for 200€/kg on the ALC menu?

I've never had them (never seen them on a menu in the States) so I'm thinking this might be a chance to try a few ounces ... worth it?

2 days ago
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

I emailed them in my halting Spanish and they replied with PDFs of the tasting and the ALC menus for April 19, which I'll add here in case anyone else wonders about this at a later date and finds this with a search.

ALC menu:
TODAY WE OFFER…

Chorizo home made 22 €

Butter of goat 12 €
Anchovies salt cured 24 €
Terrine of goose liver 30 €

Vegetables with salt cod 24 €
Shrimps (kg.) 120€
Goose barnacles (kg.) 200€
Lobster (kg.) 72 €

Local blue crab 24 €
Oysters 27 €
Clams 35 €
Prawns of Palamos 33 €

Sea cucumber 40 €
Baby octopus 40 €
Green beans 30 €

Scrambled eggs of St. George’s mushrooms 28 €
St. George’s mushrooms sautéed 28 €
Throats of cod 27 €

Salt cod loin 27 €
Grouper 28 €
Red sea bream (kg.) 65 €
Beef chop (kg.) 65 €

(Prices V.A.T. not included)

Here's the tasting menu for April 19 (16 courses):

TASTING

Butter of goat’s milk with black salt
Mozzarella of buffalo
Salted anchovy with toasted bread

Chorizo elaborated from acorn-fed pork
Cracker
Oyster with spinach

Prawns from Palamos
Baby octopus caramelized onion and its ink
Scrambled eggs of St. George’s mushrooms

St. George’s mushrooms with asparagus broth
Green peas in their juice
Baby eels

Beef chop
Reduced milk ice cream with red fruit infusion
Soufflé of chocolate

Mignardise

125’00 € (V.A.T. not included)

Buen provecho!

2 days ago
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Mugaritz

>> "I saw "estufarian" recently ate at a number of basque places including Mugraitz (from the post about Azurmendi)."

I can think of at least six restaurants where he/she had a totally different experience than me, Azurmendi being the latest example (you loved it, I loved it, Hayler rated it # 1 in Spain, ET rated it # 7 in the world, but 'estufarian' doesn't like it ... I sense a pattern :). And his/her dislike for Andy Hayler seems a bit odd to me.

So I tend to discount his/her opinions when I come across them. If they liked Mugaritz then I'll cancel for sure :)

Apr 21, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

Thanks! Guess we'll go there after all.

Apr 20, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

À la carte at Asador Etxebarri?

Anyone know if you can order à la carte here in place of the tasting menu?

My wife says I'm scheduling too many big meals in a row and she's probably right, so after reading Phil's comment along the lines of he was 'too full to walk to the car' after dining here I figured I might cancel this one since we have Azurmendi and Mugaritz the days before/after. Or perhaps see if we could just get a starter, maybe the red prawns and a hunk of meat instead of the entire tasting menu.

Anyone know? I think I read of someone doing this in some long lost thread but things change ...

Apr 20, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Mugaritz

(Note: this thread was split from the UK board at: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/972994 -- The Chowhound Team)

Phil, I know you've been to Mugaritz, perhaps recently.

We have a reservation there in mid-May but after our tepid response to Fat Duck's molecular wizardry I'm thinking we should cancel it and go somewhere else with more of a 'producto' emphasis.

Would you describe Mugaritz as similar in style to Fat Duck, in that it's highly stylized and I guess the word is 'thematic' instead of emphasizing the ingredients? I thought I would like FD more since Alinea is our favorite restaurant and Azurmendi is also high on our list and both are sorta molecular in spots, but I felt detached from the Duck meal after a while.

What do you say, cancel Mugaritz or no? We would likely either pick up one of the three stars like MB or maybe Arzak (though none of the 3*s look all that appealing) or maybe search for something more slow-food oriented like Ibai (where we have reservations) or Elkano, or perhaps something in Donibane/Pasajes San Juan.

Apr 20, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

One tourist's impressions of Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone, Dinner by HB

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – we had two excellent dishes (Meat Fruit, Tipsy Cake), two good dishes (Turbot, Poached Rhubarb), and sadly two disappointing dishes (Rice & Flesh, a risotto with mediocre texture that was over-salted, and Hereford Ribeye, an OK cut of beef over-cooked to medium instead of medium rare).

The mains lacked the complex combinations of flavors and multiple ingredients that were a highlight of the Ledbury dishes (the turbot came on a bed of seaweed, for example, and the steak with fries).

I think we'll skip this one next trip. I can see the potential for excellence if there were more dishes like Tipsy Cake and Meat Fruit, but there are so many cooks, so many dishes and so many covers it's difficult to be consistently excellent. I read they employ 45 cooks, and even with just 3 courses there are 560 possible meal combinations. The dining hall seats more guests than Hedone, Ledbury and Fat Duck combined and they churn through several services daily seven days a week. This is often the sign of a Michelin one star because they can’t maintain the fine-dining consistency you expect at a two or three star restaurant.

I’m surprised Michelin rates this a 2* restaurant and astonished that the Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine voters judged this the best restaurant in England and # 7 in the world in 2013. We’ve dined at 19 Michelin starred restaurants the past 18 months and this meal would rate at or near the bottom.

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

One tourist's impressions of Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone, Dinner by HB

Hedone - We had 7 course tasting menus with the enhanced wine pairings (75 £ + 79 £). Highlights included an exceptional lamb dish (‘my best lamb dish ever’, said my wife), very sweet, fresh scallops lightly cooked (you could skip this and knock off 10 £), a really fresh oyster, an excellent single spear of asparagus and a top-notch dessert.

A squab dish I had in place of the lamb was a bit disappointing compared to the exceptional squab we've had at top restaurants in Spain, but in general this was a very enjoyable meal. These were the best wines we had this trip and well-chosen to match the dishes.

We will likely return to Hedone on future visits to London, but although we enjoyed the meal I felt it didn’t quite live up to our high expectations based on Andy Hayler’s reviews (he has been there 50 times and rates it equal to Ledbury). One Michelin star feels about right.

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

One tourist's impressions of Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone, Dinner by HB

Fat Duck - very enjoyable meal and dining experience. Wildly creative dishes with excellent service. Perhaps the food was overshadowed by the circus on a couple of plates. Every foodie who appreciates MG and whimsy should try it at least once.

We really liked dishes like ROAST FOIE GRAS and BOTRYTIS CINEREA but my wife and I disagreed amongst ourselves on the merits of classics like RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO (With Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream) and SNAIL PORRIDGE. Maybe we're not hip enough.

Wildly expensive (195 £ per tasting menu plus another 60 £ for travel), and the 'bargain' wine pairing (7 pours) was 139 £ for mostly young, cheap wines, though they did pair well with the food. This pairing cost almost as much as the combined Ledbury & Hedone pairings of 14 mostly better wines. Enhanced wine pairings were available for, IIRC, 240 £ and 460 £ (Ouch !!).

The duck dish was not cooked as well as we are used to seeing (perhaps too long in the sous vide and not enough of a sear at the end?), and the mackerel in "SOUND OF THE SEA" was not as flavorful as Ledbury's mackerel (actually we wouldn’t have known we were having mackerel, abalone and sea bass had the waiter not told us so after we ate them), so we have no second thoughts about ranking the Ledbury meal higher (at a bit more than half the price, with easier restaurant access and less hassle getting a reservation).

Honestly I thought we’d like Fat Duck more than we did since our favorite restaurants include those with a molecular flair like Alinea and Azurmendi. Here the molecular gimmicks overshadowed the ingredients rather than enhancing them, I felt.

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

One tourist's impressions of Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone, Dinner by HB

Ledbury - We had the 7 course tasting menu priced at 110£, more like 12 courses if you add up the amuse-bouches and other extras.

We loved the bold tastes with well-balanced flavors and textures. Good produce w/ white asparagus and artichokes, two good fresh mushroom dishes. Bacon/onion brioche was addictive, the best bread of the trip. Three protein courses -- grilled mackerel, sea bass, and Muntjac deer cooked three ways -- were all nicely done, more consistently excellent than at the other three restaurants.

Very good wine pairings for 70 £, youngish wines but well-chosen to match the food. Friendly, polished service.

We had a pleasant chat in the kitchen with Chef Graham afterwards, which was unexpected. A waiter had mentioned that Grant Achatz was dining at Ledbury in a few days and we mentioned we had been to Alinea four times, so I think this is why we got the offer.

Chef pulled himself off the line for several minutes to talk about other restaurants and to discuss London dining. Passionate, articulate guy and I'm glad we got a chance to meet him.

This was our best meal of the trip by far. A well-conceived menu skillfully executed at every step. Of the 15 Michelin starred USA restaurants we’ve visited the most similar in style is probably Manresa (Los Gatos), with the emphasis on seasonal ingredients and non-gimmicky style of cooking in a casually elegant setting. Per Se and French Laundry also have somewhat similar cuisines, though a bit more ‘formal French’ than Ledbury. I would rate our Ledbury meal slightly above the five meals we've had at those fine restaurants and among the best meals we’ve had anywhere.

I'm a bit surprised Ledbury lacks the third Michelin star based on this single meal as we would rank it above most of the Michelin 3 stars we’ve dined at in France, Spain, England and the USA. I’m not at all surprised to see it ranked #9 on the "Elite Traveler Magazine Top 100" (2014) and # 13 on the Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine list of the world's best restaurants (2013).

We are already planning another visit to London in the fall and a meal at Ledbury is a must.

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

One tourist's impressions of Ledbury, Fat Duck, Hedone, Dinner by HB

We dined at four highly regarded London area restaurants earlier this week, visiting from the US mainly because we scored Fat Duck reservations back in February. We loved Ledbury, liked Hedone and Fat Duck (though not as much as anticipated) and had a rather disappointing meal at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

Here are some quick impressions of the meals and restaurants. I’m aware of the danger of reading too much into a single meal but FWIW here goes. I'll put the 'reviews' on separate pages to make commenting easier (I think).

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Boiled Peanuts in Phoenix? (No, I'm serious.)

The original post is eight years old! LOL

Apr 19, 2014
willyum in Phoenix

Hedone April 2014

We just did a dry run on the tube via Chiswick Park and noted a sign warning of station closures for repairs at night starting Thursday, the day we visit. So we rode back from Gunnersbury station.

So maybe check availability on Sat night to be sure.

Apr 16, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Hedone April 2014

We are going Thursday ... I was under the impression he changes the menu almost daily, sometimes even during a single service as he runs out of limited-quantity items, so perhaps hard to make suggestions?

Apr 14, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Top 100 restaurants

Our food server at Manresa was OK but the wine lady was very impressive, an attractive young Scandinavian woman who had recently dined at Noma, Mugaritz and Azurmendi (a place you and I like a lot).

After chatting with her a bit about various restaurants and cuisines she predicted I would be disappointed at Mugaritz, which I thought was interesting. She is the third person to tell me that.

Manresa was I think # 48 and # 52 in the last two Pellegrino rankings so it surely could have been on this list, which seems really top-heavy with NYC restaurants in the top 20, but otherwise pretty solid.

Apr 07, 2014
willyum in General Topics

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal recommendations [London]

Wanted to bump this up because we're visiting this restaurant next week. Any other suggestions are welcomed.

Also, any dessert recommendations for someone allergic to gluten (my wife is celiac)? For her the Tipsy Cake, Brown Bread Ice Cream, British Cheese (has oat cakes) and Apple Tart are probably off limits, so any suggestions for the best of the rest?

Thanks! Should be a great week of gluttony for the willyums ... Dinner by HB on Monday, Ledbury on Tuesday, Fat Duck on Wednesday, Hedone on Thursday.

Apr 07, 2014
willyum in U.K./Ireland

Top 100 restaurants

Another way of asking the same thing is "Which restaurant that you've dined at would you put on the list (or at least 101 :)."

My vote goes to Manresa in Los Gatos, CA (Bay area). I'm certain the meal we had there earlier this year was better than at least four restaurants that are on the list which I've dined at.

But the chef relies heavily on seasonal products, so perhaps we just hit him at the right season?

Apr 07, 2014
willyum in General Topics

Azurmendi starts to get recognition

Spanish restaurants on the list:

# 6 Can Roca
# 7 Azurmendi

# 22 Mugaritz
# 31 Quique Dacosta

# 53 Martin Berasategui
# 63 Arzak
# 78 Sant Pau

Apr 05, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Top 100 restaurants

@ "... but how can 2 parts of a chain be in different spots on the list?"

Different chefs, different line cooks, different sources of ingredients? I wouldn't expect them to be the same.

Best example I can think of from the Top 100 list is Per Se vs. French Laundry. They are similar in many ways, down to the blue door entryway and the menu length, and both owned by Thomas Keller, but FL is in Napa valley and Per Se is in New York city across from Central Park.

We've dined at both places twice, in some cases with the same course, and we think French Laundry is a very good restaurant, but no longer a great one (think how great it was with Grant Achatz and Keller side-by-side in the kitchen!), while Per Se is clearly serving more consistent, flavorful food and deserving of a higher rating. Is it the chef? The staff? Dunno, but that's the way we saw it.

Apr 05, 2014
willyum in General Topics

Top 100 restaurants

@ "Has anyone dined at any of these?"

I've been to 8 of the top 11, some of them several times (Alinea 4x, Le Bernardin, EMP, Per Se 2x). Would have gone to Can Roca but there's an 11 month wait list and we got shut out on our Spain trip last fall. Also missing the Italian pair, but maybe in 2015 ...

There are two in the top 11 that I would disagree with but generally they got it right.

I had heard about Azurmendi last summer, before it blew up, and am glad I went there last October. Another trip scheduled this May. Pretty soon it will be a tough ticket as well.

Apr 05, 2014
willyum in General Topics

Azurmendi starts to get recognition

Azurmendi really took off last year, earning a third Michelin star and a series of rave reviews. I remember PhilD last September writing here on Chowhound "Go here as soon as you can – it is a real winner and will be impossible to get into when the word gets out."

We dined there shortly after Phil and also had an excellent meal and overall dining experience, and will be returning this May.

I was curious how well the restaurant would do on those "Top 100" lists for 2014, whether enough people had dined there yet to vote it onto the lists.

Well, the "Elite Traveler" list came out this week and I see Azurmendi debuts at # 7 in the world, which is pretty impressive.

I'm aware that these lists are somewhat controversial and in some cases not trustworthy (when a Michelin 3* Spanish chef calls the Pellegrino/Restaurant Magazine list a 'fraud' it gets your attention). I've dined at seven of the top nine on this year's list and I feel two of them are grossly overrated, based on our experiences there.

But if a restaurant you want to visit is high on one of these lists it's often a warning that you need to get an early reservation. I learned this the hard way when I missed out on Can Roca, which has been fully booked for the next eleven months for some time now.

Here's a link to the list: http://www.elitetraveler.com/category...

Apr 05, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Seeking Monday birthday dinner recs in Barcelona

LOL ... similar tastes. My first post here was something like "Which 2 of Akelarre, Arzak, Mugaritz, MB", and I was also keen for Can Roca but waited too late. Now I have two copies of their "all full for 11 months" kiss-off form letter.

Anyway, we'll be at Mugaritz on this trip, I think May 15. We went to MB's Barcelona restaurant Lasarte last October, and I would like to go to Akelarre but my wife has rebelled and said "NO" to a constant stream of long tasting menus.

So this trip we are mixing in some simpler places with a la carte or shorter tasting menus ... the current schedule is Mina, Etxanobe and Azurmendi in Bilbao, then the day we move to SS we'll have lunch at Asador Etxebarri on the way up, where the chef is famous for grilling everything.

Then Mugaritz in SS, then the anti-Mugaritz in Ibai (see Andy Hayler's review), then one final day that's still up for debate in the Willyum household (Elkano or Akelarre or Berastegui or a tapas crawl). So a mix of styles and cuisines.

@ ... "so feel free to share any other recommendations."

You've done the research and have a good list ... I would just add that Azurmendi was our favorite last October and it's at the top of our list this year too. You might read the articles on it and see if it sounds like your style. Unfortunately it's just outside Bilbao so about an hour's drive from SS.

If you're going to be in SS the same week as us let me know, maybe we can meet for a tapa. There's already one Chowhounder who will be at Ibai the day we're there.

Mar 25, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Seeking Monday birthday dinner recs in Barcelona

Happy birthday! We'll be there about a week after your trip (Barcelona, Bilbao, San Sebastian).

Mar 25, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Seeking Monday birthday dinner recs in Barcelona

Here's an article that mentions about a dozen restaurants open Monday. Scroll down about half way, past the Sunday openings.

http://www.cellartours.com/blog/spain...

There are also some Chowhound 'Sunday/Monday' threads here as well.

For our 'Monday' meal in BCN we debated between Hisop vs Alkimia and choose Alkimia. Not sure it fits your 'memorable setting' criteria though :)

Mar 25, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Bilbao Sunday lunch - Mina, Porrue, ?

Looking for a memorable Sunday lunch in Bilbao. Maybe one of the two listed in the title, but we are open to other suggestions. Prefer a place within walking distance of the Guggenheim (close to our hotel).

Mina is about as far as we'd want to walk, but if there's something really good outside town we could take a cab. I know Azurmendi is open Sunday but we are already going there on Tuesday.

I couldn't find much on either Mina or Porrue here on CH. Anyone familiar with either of these, or something similar you might recommend?

Mar 24, 2014
willyum in Spain/Portugal

Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants deserving of Time and Money?

Pretty much the same experiences at Alinea (four times and counting) and at Crenn, djquinnc. We seem to have similar tastes :)

We went to Manresa a couple months ago (winter, same trip as AC) and the meal was lifted by the scallops (in the 'Tidal Pool' dish) and a wonderful Japanese A5 wagyu dish, but for the vegetables I couldn't help but think it would likely be better later on, like you experienced. Trying to schedule another visit in maybe September or early October in search of more 'amazing'.

Mar 14, 2014
willyum in San Francisco Bay Area

Molecular Gastronomy Restaurants deserving of Time and Money?

If you're still keen on Atelier Crenn here's a write-up from a British food critic who has been to every Michelin 3* in the world. He rated his meal there a solid 2*, which is pretty good from him.

Looking at the photos I noticed we dined there at the same season a year apart yet only a couple of the dishes were repeated, which is generally a good sign to me that the chef keeps on innovating.

http://www.andyhayler.com/restaurant/...

Mar 14, 2014
willyum in San Francisco Bay Area