Mugaritz is a 2 Michelin star restaurant ranked No. 3 on Restaurant Magazine’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list. This was our second time eating at Mugaritz (the first being in May 2011) and our appreciation has only grown with every visit. Words cannot fully describe the brilliance of the food or the beauty of the surroundings, and no matter how much we try to describe this place, we will never bring it justice. Each time we arrive at Mugaritz we feel as if our cab driver has just dropped us in the middle of nowhere. Green surrounds all of the restaurant and sheep are grazing just across the street. It’s a very beautiful setting.
After being seated in the restaurant, a front of house staff will always ask guests if they have a couple of minutes to spare (umh…of course!). Guests are then brought to the kitchen to meet with the head chef and get a couple of details about the place. Our visit into the kitchen this September also gave us our (second) first bite of Mugaritz. The dish was being prepared as we entered, and to my (C) delight, they looked like chocolate macaroons. Initially I thought “yay! macaroons” but knowing Mugaritz I knew something was up. After getting the go ahead from Head Chef Julieta Caruso, a server handed us our napkins and macaroons. It looked and tasted exactly as a macaroon should except at the end, we noticed a little bit of an irony flavour. We eventually found out that it was made of blood! That’s right folks, the “macaroon” was completely made of blood. No egg whites, no almonds, just blood. They used blood as they found that it had very similar properties to egg whites. After that, we were pumped. We knew it was going to be a solid afternoon full of Mugaritz’s wonders packed in bites of goodies.
This year’s menu consisted of 23 courses (last year’s was 19). Both last year’s and this year’s tasting menu were not overwhelmingly heavy but extremely hearty. We did prefer this year’s considerably more though as it played a lot more on textures.
One aspect that we really enjoy about Mugaritz is how they like to trick guests a little bit into thinking a certain dish is one thing but completely made of something else, such as the macaroon. Last year, our first appetizer looked like stones (pictured below, left), but it turned out to be potatoes. This year, when one of the first dishes came out, it looked like fish on toast (pictured below, right). It was whiteish in colour and even had the marks on it like a fish. After the first bite, we were fooled. It was the heavenly goodness known as bone marrow. A whole lump of bone marrow that we didn’t even have to dig through the bone with a tiny fork for…could life be any better???
Another great attribute of Mugaritz is their use of offal (and we LOVE offal). We find Mugaritz to use offal more than most places and this year’s menu alone included blood, marrow (pictured above, right), tendon (pictured below, left are peas with iberian broth and veal tendons) and pig tails (pictured below to the right).
Additional menu highlights from this year included sea anemones in a crispy woodwind (I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have sea anemones!), a mojito packed in a single mint, crushing our own sesame seeds with the entire dining room to prep for a fish course they called “bonding…” and having our dessert napkins form from a couple of “Tums” tablets (video below).
Mugaritz is very avant-garde and non-traditional not only in its cooking, but also through its service and overall restaurant experience. Upon anyone’s first visit to Mugaritz, the staff will explain that they do not serve women their plates first and instead prefer to serve all guest meals at the same time. They also provide WiFi to all the guests and are one of the most active restaurants I have seen in the social media space (Mugaritz Twitter and Facebook). They are one of the few restaurants of this caliber (that I know of at least) that employ someone specifically for social media.
Our first visit to Mugaritz gave us a good idea of what Mugaritz is about, but the second visit (and surely subsequent visits to come) allowed us to see the evolution of the restaurant in a short period of time. Mugaritz is a very special place and is absolutely brilliant at changing and creating. Out of the 23 courses served there was not even one appetizer repeated from last year. Chef Caruso said they have about 35 dishes in their repertoire to accommodate any guest’s food preference. Thirty-five dishes that are unique, flavourful and playful in their own rights. That is impressive.
To view pictures of our meal in its entirety, click through the photo set below. If you are using a mobile device, please click here for compatibility.
Thanks for reading,
C & S