Galerna : San Sebastian, Spain
Sometimes, it takes me a really long time to try a new restaurant in town. Like, an inexplicably long eternity. This post is about one of those times, and it’s also about a restaurant driven by the passion of a culinary couple, maintained day in and day out.
Thankfully for me, Galerna Jan Edan Jatetxea is playing the long game. Jorge Asenjo y Rebeca Barainca opened the restaurant in the summer of 2016, fueled not with the quick-money backing of an investor but with a view of beginning a marathon run towards their dream business. I’ve seen it evolve from the outside over the last three years and finally gave it a try recently.
And wow, was it good. The intimate dining space and the excellent attention by staff, including Rebeca herself, made the perfect setting for a cuisine that is both ambitious, playfully surprising, and delicious. Take these starters, for example, which give you a sort of fun culinary tour across Spain.
Pictured at the top of the post, crujiente de paella—literally, crunchy paella thing. Major cuteness factor here, and the baby shrimp are nestled happily on their crystallized socarrat (wudup Valencia!) between dots of aioli and plankton mayo.
And above, crujiente de ortiguillas— literally, crunch sea anemone thing. This one gets its textural contrast with a puree of carrots in vinaigrette. Both of these components are a nod to the south of Spain. con zanahoria aliñado
And the glorious appetizer parade ended with the croqueta fluída de pulpo (fluid octopus croquette) below. Galicia was never so creamy.
Galerna specializes in taking Basque Country’s finest products and making sly winks at cuisine across the peninsula. The kitchen also plays with the contrasts of textures, temperatures, and monochrome palettes to great effect, mostly because they never let the deliciousness factor slip.
The “pintxo” pictured above is award-winning: trucha arco iris de los pirineos—rainbow trout from the nearby embalse de Yesa, smoked in house and served with an escabeche emulsion, eggs, and olive oil-tomato ice cream. All perched on a humble (ehem) chlorella cracker.
And then, what was one of my favorites because, as you know I am partial to veggies and cheese over easy, glamorous meat: salmorejo de avellanas tostadas. This take on the cold tomato, bread and nut soup is made with hazelnuts (instead of almonds) and comes with a perfect scoop of goat cheese ice cream.
There exists this phenomenon of haute dining exhaustion, where when you eat too much starry food in the same 100-mile radius, it all starts to blend together and you can’t tell a carrillera from a cheese ice cream. Perhaps this was what I most enjoyed about Galerna—its ability to break that mold with a finesse and attention to product that felt fun and fresh.
This plate was probably one of the more ambitious, reminding me of the carta di musica that I lusted over in my more Italian-leaning days: Cured organic egg yolk, cauliflower emulsion, a beet crystal, cured steak, sturgeon caviar and summer truffle. A lot going on.
The mains, meanwhile, tended to be a bit more filling and simpler. That is not a complaint—I think a big psychological key to satisfying Basques at the table is the ratio of plain meat to plate to garnish. (I just made that theory up but I am actually going to go forward with it, as it sounds pretty legit). We tried the pulpo asado, octopus, luscious and smoky, accompanied by tubers.
Our other main was the pluma ibérica con patatas y piquillo. This meaty cut of pork was just delicious. Like a txuleta, but with that porky, loin-y taste that I personally love even more than beef. Cooked, as you can see, to perfection and accompanied by a whole roasted piquillo pepper, one of the great joys in life.
We finished our meal with a brownie made with carob instead of chocolate, served with strawberry gel and yogurt ice cream.
I’ll be back soon, when it’s time to celebrate another mini-occasion or we just want a nice dinner, accompanied by really interesting natural wines, right in our own neighborhood. Galerna took a semi-cursed, below-ground location and made it a home, one that I hope they continue to warm the stoves of for years to come.
Galerna Jan Edan Jatetxea
Kolon Pasealekua, 46 20002 GROS
+34 943 27 88 39
Fri-Mon, 1:30pm-3:30pm and 8:30-11pm