Takatak : San Sebastián, Basque Country

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This is the tale of a most unexpected landing in San Sebastián. Not too long ago, I wrote about a trend of Latino eateries opening up in town. This trend could potentially mark a change in the air in a city that's been fairly insular when it comes to, well, a lot...and especially cuisine.

The place is Takatak: and the food is a fusion of Basque produce, Russian tradition, and Japanese sensibility and love of raw seafood. File it under the category of Places To Go When You're Tired of Basque Food.  Takatak shares the best ingredient for a good restaurant with the city's best ethnic eateries: an obsessive, patriotic chef-owner.

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Not that the dishes are all Russian. We started with a bloody mary style aperitif, and the rest of the meal danced across continents, showing a preference for an Eastern treatment of seafood and homey Russian tastes, but with a definite twist toward the globally en vogue, like these anchovies marinated in house.

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The restaurant is located in the Hotel Trip Orly, a real catch for this hotel in the Meliá portfolio. The dining room is all glass walls with the kitchen exposed, putting the very professional staff on view for all to see. The side room of the restaurant is a cozy bar area, and the owners, Alina and Dmitri Modestov have partnered with one of Spain's brightest cocktail stars for the menu. Manel Vehí, who spent formative years in many of the Adriá restaurants and now takes home many of Spain's top mixology prizes, engineered the list of drinks.

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Next came a salmon carpaccio with soy sauce and onion.

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We weren't served the Russian salad during this meal, but it is a must order at the restaurant. It's like an ensaladilla rusa on delicious quail-packed steroids. We were served a Takatak version of a taco, braised pancetta with queso fresco; call it what you want (anything besides taco, really), it was delicious.

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The main dishes are quite likable, running the gamut from pasta to rice to hearty slabs of meat. A rigatoni with artichoke and bottarga, for example.

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A lot of Takatak's dishes will be familiar to international foodies, but here in San Sebastián they are filled with firsts...you're hard pressed here to find bottarga, pickles, barley, exotic pastas (yes, rigatoni qualifies) and other ingredients listed on Takatak's menu.

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One of the pillars of the restaurant is its fancy wine cellar. The owner, Dmitri, pulled out his favorite funky organic wines to pair with the food. It's a rare treasure here to find a  place that doesn't resort to the same old Rioja classics (as perfect as they can be).

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Risotto with cockles (at this point we are getting full, if you haven't noticed the amount of food so far in the post).

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Sea bass, served over a cauliflower puree mixed with green mojo...a favorite of our group.

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This gruesome looking collection of body parts actually won my heart over: mallard duck. And to finish the banquet, some nice, tender ribs.

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Should I visit Takatak, you may ask? For locals, my answer is an unqualified yes, as something different, made with top product.  Although the prices for certain things (vermouth, for one) can make your check inflate at a rapid pace, and the service can be off-putting at times, overall it is worth a visit. For tourists in San Sebastián, it's a great option on a night that you don't feel like doing pintxos or splashing out for Michelin...maybe you've been eating weird European food for weeks on end and want something more familiar.

The first dessert is one that locals have raved over: the nube de felicidad, with coco and mint granita over a bed of passion fruit.  

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And I was so happy to finish with one of my favorite desserts in the WHOLE CITY: the Russian honey cake. If you visit Takatak, please, please save room for dessert!  

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Zaragoza Plaza 4 (CENTRO)
San Sebastián
+34 660 44 26 30
Closed Monday and Tuesday