Chef Juan Mari Arzak & Chef Elena Arzak
# 21 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants
Visited: October 13th, 2016 – Dinner Service
When people ask me, what is the most memorable restaurant experience I had with my recent trip to Spain, undeniably it was at Restaurant Arzak. I believe it was the impeccable combination of exquisite food and stellar caliber of the best service I have ever experienced in a restaurant. Team Arzak effortlessly made me feel special, welcomed, and part of their family.
The restaurant is housed in a beautiful building that has been owned by the Arzak family since it was built in 1897. Chef Juan Mari Arzak along with his daughter, Chef Elena Arzak has defined and perfected the combination of research, modernity, and centuries of Basque tradition in their food. Chef Juan Mari is one of the few pioneers of “New Basque” cuisine that transformed and revolutionized the food not only in the Basque Country, but also throughout Spain.
Chef Elena Arzak, an amazing Chef in her own right has been awarded The World’s Best Female Chef of 2012 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Chef Elena now runs daily restaurant operations, with an oversight from her father, Chef Juan Mari of course. Restaurante Arzak received it’s 1* Michelin rating in 1974, and was elevated to 3* Michelin rating in 1989, a coveted rating that they have effortlessly kept for 27 years to this very day.
The Tour of the Kitchen
After dessert, our Host, Cesar, took us to the Kitchen for a personalized tour. I was a little disheartened to learn that Chef Elena Arzak was in Milan for a conference. Also, during the kitchen tour, I did not see Chef Juan Mari Arzak. I was really hoping to meet at least one of them in person.
And this happened, a Selfie with the legend himself!
As the husband and I were finishing our petit fours, our hosts, Cesar walked up to our table and invited us back to the kichen for a “surprise”. I really thought that we were going to tour the famous Arzak wine cellar, or the room full of the hundreds and thousands of different ingredients. As we stepped back into the kitchen, my heart literally dropped out of my chest when I saw Chef Juan Mari Arzak, sitting on the white marble Chef”s table. It was the very same table that Anthony Bourdain sat and ate on when I first saw Arzak in one of his episodes of Cook’s Tour when I was a teenager back in the early 2000s. Chef Juan Mari looked at us, inquisitively with his cool yellow frame glasses. He then stood up, and gave us a hug! This was the time when I was most thankful that I took four years of Spanish from my awesome Spanish Professor, Sra. Pflanz, as I was able to communicate with Chef Juan Mari Arzak.
I really have nothing but great things to say to Chef Juan Mari. I told him that not only his dishes were visually stunning like pieces of modern-art, but I found every dish to be delicious with outmost quality. Also, our whole experience at Arzak was phenomenal. The service was of the highest tenor I have ever experienced in a restaurant. Our host, Cesar was friendly and genuinely took care of us and through our conversations, he asked if we were in the food industry. I replied to him by saying, “We are not in the industry but we love really good food, and I am also a food blogger”. He then asked for my website and he said that he could not wait to see Arzak in my blog. So here you go Cesar, hope you get to read and enjoy this blog!
On our way out of the restaurant, Cesar handed me two things. The first one was an envelope containing the Arzak “media packet”. He said, “Since you are a blogger, you can use the files in here in your blog.” The second gift, he handed me a bag, and said, “And here is a gift, an Arzak wine bottle from Chef Juan Mari.” My heart dropped again, as I knew that this one of the best dinner experiences of my life.
I cannot wait to come back and eat at Arzak again, hopefully soon.
Av Alcalde Elósegui, 273, 20015 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain