Sorry for the lack of pictures here....we were so focused on the amazing meal we had at Akelarre two weeks ago that we took no photos, choosing instead to savor every bite of our amazing meals.
Overall, I must begin by saying, this was one amazing meal. I have never eaten at Mugaritz, or Arzak, or Etxebarri, or El Bullí, so this isn't really about recommending one place over the other. All I can say, with every fiber of my food-loving and food-breathing and food-working body is this was worth every penny. The food was exquisite, perfectly timed, perfectly cooked, of incredible quality, and, of course, fascinating.
So let me get down to the details:
The meal started with an amuse bouche: a little box with 4 "candies". The first we were instructed to take all at once, and it turned out to be an oyster encased in a "shell" (get used to the parenthesis...this meal is filled with things that appear to be something other than they are) of black, sandy, crunchy, salty something. Next came a roll of black pudding and crispy wafer. Then a bite-size piece of tuna rolled in crunchy nuts. And finally a powdery "polvorón" of almond and artichoke.
We each got our own tasting menu, sharing the plates. For the first course, B. had the Cold and Hot Crab Salad and its Coral, sitting in what looked a little forest, with a tiny cucumber, she claims an eggplant, and a little "carrot" that was sort of gelatinous and filled with carrot essence, or puree. This crab was the best I've ever tasted, sort of stringy but in the best way that word can be used... I had Little Pearls and Porous of Foie-Gras, Toasted Peanut Bread. A strange translation (from poroso de foie gras) but I don't have a better one; it was a plate of foie gras beads with an airy foie mousse and a thick piece of crispy peanut bread with silky peanut butter.
For the second course, B. had Prawns and French Beans cooked in Orujo Fire, which they brought to the table in a little cauldron and set on fire, infusing these beautiful shrimp with orujo, a liquor made from the pomace of grapes left after wine pressing. These we were instructed to suck the heads of and then dip the bodies in both the green bean puree (again, super silky) and this "soil" of crushed rice and shrimp shells. Amazing. I had Mollusks in the Net of the Fisherman, a challenging dish for someone who barely likes most seafood. However, even I could tell that the razor clams, mussels, shrimp, clams, squidy squids and whatever else was on there (!) were perfect. On top sat a little puffed rice "net" with the cutest little dried shrimp and delicious blobs of dried seaweed.
For the third course, B. had the Wild Mushrooms and Egg Pasta, a slab of impeccable wild mushrooms (enoki, shitake, some other white enoki cousin) with yellow and white "noodles" made by steaming egg whites and egg yolks in noodley shapes. On the side was a dab of deeply flavored mushroom aioli. I had Vegetable Ravioli, four lovely assorted discs of thinly sliced vegetables filled with the cream of each respective veggie: beets, turnips, carrot, and another....and in the center was a little "ravioli" of Iberian ham fat-whoot whoot!
For the fourth course, B. had Red Tuna with Onion Threads and Roasted Peppers. The tuna was gloriously simple, and the red pepper puree that accompanied it was thick and luxurious. There were also "rocks" made of red pepper meringue and a marinated guindilla pepper. I had the Integral Red Mullet with Sauce Fusili. The mullet was crusted with ground up fish bones (yum, for real!) and, as with all the proteins, impeccable. On the side were six little corkscrew shapes of green, white, and brown. They were soy sauce, parsley juice/puree, and garlic juice/puree, fashioned using nitrous something into the shape of corkscrews. Amazing.
The fifth course had B. eating the Roasted Baby Pig with Tomato Bolao and Iberian Emulsion. The pig had the crispiest skin, and it was uber decadent to drag it through its own fat straight to my mouth. My Loin of Lamb Roasted in Live Coal was incredible, as were the black (squid ink) tempura fried veggies alongside.
Next, dessert course one. B. had the most interesting dish: Milk and Grape, Cheese and Wine in parallel Evolution. It was a slab with five little components, starting with a bland looking domino that was basically gelatinous milk and a light grape gelee sort of thing. The flavors got more concentrated and intense the further down the slab we got...a crumbly, powder tart cheese with grapes, a creamy, sweet cheese with ginger jelly and something red, a strong cheese with something encased in a sherry shell, and a gorgonzola ice cream with wafers. Sorry for the ambiguity on that one...we were freaking out over it. The other was Xaxu and Coconut Iced Mousse, a feathery frozen coconut cream with airy frozen creams of goat and cow's milk.
Dessert course two was the Peach in Syrup for me, a lovely white chocolate shaped "peach" that, when cracked open" oozed cold essence of peach, accompanied by a little piece of french toast and a distilled mint water that had the most amazing body in the mouth. B. had Another Apple Tart, which came covered in a piece of edible silver paper with Akelarre written on it. The paper was apple flavored, the writing chocolate. Underneath was a delicious wafer and cream apple flavored dessert.
Finally, there was a little treat box, covered in another piece of edible paper, with chocolates, a candied hazelnut, and who the heck knows what else because we were pretty euphoric by the time this meal was over, two and a half hours after we sat down.
So, a long post that does not do justice to that which it describes. Sorry if I bore any of my usual readers, but I know this will steer someone towards having the same amazing experience I did...so it's worth it.