This past summer, there was a much-talked about (at least in the social circles I run in) article in the New York Times that hinted at a shift in the gastronomic epicenter of Basque Country, from San Sebastián to Hondarribia:
With its abundant variety of local produce, a daily influx of fresh seafood, and what has become a critical mass of new talent, the tiny town of Hondarribia has emerged as one of the best places to experience the region’s ambitious cuisine, and without the parading crowds of San Sebastián, just 13 miles away.
On my last visit to Hondarribia, I didn't have the chance to do my obligatory research. So it was with great pleasure, and an empty stomach, that I returned a few weeks ago to look into the state of things.
And I was impressed.
Much like Donosti-San Sebastián, this ancient fishing village has an oversize gastronomic presence. We only sampled a few of the pintxo bars, but what we found was both modern and traditional, and always of incredible quality. Bixente Muñoz, chef behind Gran Sol, says on his website: "We don't renounce anything, but we base our offerings on traditional cuisine." Hence the puff pastry (above) filled with cheese and laced with ham and balsamic.
And then there was the jaizkibel from Gran Sol: a mushroom filled with cheese mousse and topped with ham and copious aioli, which actually seemed closer to mayonnaise to me (often the terms are exchanged loosely here) and both fluffier and lighter than either. If I said stupid stuff in this blog, I'd probably say something like it was a taste explosion in my mouth. But I don't. So there.
From Gran Sol, you can keep walking down San Pedro and hit numerous quality bars.
Definitely make a stop, however, for Vinoteka Ardoka. It sticks out, noticeably chic and modern amongst the more traditional offerings on San Pedro. But trust. They have an extensive wine list, and an intriguing pintxo menu. Impeccable flavors, none of them too experimental, but perfectly married. They draw from tradition (nothing new about pairing cheese with cooked fruit compote and balsamic), but the presentation is modern/beautiful and the execution flawless (see burnished top of said goat cheese).