August 23, 2011
L’Abeille

Chef Philippe Labbe, formerly of La Chevre d’Or in Eze in the south of France, once had 2 Michelin stars and was a prospect to get 3. He now moved to Paris to open the high-end restaurant of the newly opened Shangri-La hotel. And he wants 3 stars. NOW. The food was great, but not 3 stars worthy. A solid 2 stars, yeah, but nothing more. No emotion, except for the pork dish maybe, like you’re meant to expect to come out from a 3 Michelin star kitchen. And with the competition around him, especially in all the palaces, it’s going to be tough. But he is definitely aiming to get them soon. We’ll see what the Michelin man gives him next March. 2 for sure. 3? Maybe…

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August 23, 2011
Rino

I was excited to try Rino, and had high expectations due to all the praise the chef, who used to work at La Gazzetta, has been getting in the past months. The food, because it was lunch and July, was very simple, great but not what I was looking for for my last lunch in Europe for a long time. When you work in the area, it’s amazing to have such a place close by. But when it’s a destination, like it was for me, it’s a bit disappointing. I will go back soon, this time for dinner, and I’m sure I’ll be amazed by this young chef’s superb Italian cuisine.

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August 23, 2011
L’Ami Jean (again)

Stephane Jego is a great chef. He cooks amazing basque food with a modern twist. But that night I wanted his classics. The simpler, bigger dishes that will never leave L’Ami Jean’s menu. It’s too much food, too heavy, too rich but it’s just so damn good. If you haven’t been, get there now for most decadent charcuterie plate, cote de boeuf and rice pudding in town, if not the world.

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August 23, 2011
Le Dauphin

This is the second restaurant of Le Chateaubriand’s duo, Inaki and Fred. It’s a more simple version, but the creativity of Inaki and Laurent Cabut, his sous-chef definitely shines. It was a mixed crowd of locals and pilgrims, and everybody was happy to eat a full meal for 27 euros per head, when you can’t even buy a dessert for that price in some Michelin star places. I will go back for dinner though, as the food is a bit more sophisticated I heard.

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August 23, 2011
Vivant

I couldn’t wait to go there. I was really looking forward to meeting Pierre Jancou, the godfather of natural wines. The wine was good, the food as well. He is famous to be very product-driven, which is true, but the duck dish showed more than just a good duck, it was cooked to perfection and overall just a great dish. I also had the best burrata I ever tried in France. This restaurant - it is not a cave a manger like his former Racines or La Cremerie - is definitely a must go if you like natural wine and food.

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August 23, 2011
Frenchie wine bar + Frenchie (part 2)

Just landed back in Paris, and what better place to go than straight to Frenchie. We had a booking at 9:30 but wanted to check out their new wine bar, which wasn’t open last time I went. We basically had 2 dinners, and a LOT of wine. Food is always good there, always different and interesting combinations, and the atmosphere is great. One of my favourite Paris places, where I go every time I’m in town.

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August 12, 2011
Elkano

A short drive from San Sebastian, in Getaria, this place is absolutely amazing. It’s easy, you order the kokotxas, which are some kind of fish offal, it’s hake “throat”, followed by a whole char-grilled turbot. This fish is the best I ever had. The difference of texture and taste between each part, with its salty and smoky bits, is just pure goodness. It feels like you’re eating roasted suckling pig, it’s the same balance between “fat” and crisp. And finish with the cheese ice-cream, a simple dessert but which might be the best I had in Spain. A good and cheap wine list on top of that makes it a must go if you’re ever in the region (the other one in town, Kaia-Kaipe is meant to be great as well, with an even better wine list).

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August 2, 2011
Akelarre

This was a great lunch. Amazing food, great service. And what a view! Very modern food, but not too molecular, just the right amount of twists and technique. And very tasty, which is what matters most. It wasn’t as mind blowing as Mugaritz, which has really become a benchmark for me, but the whole package was great and it’s definitely a place to check out if you want superb food AND the rest to be close to perfect. Get ready for the longest dish descriptions ever!

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July 26, 2011
Asador Etxebarri

This was my most anticipated meal of the trip. And I was maybe expecting too much. I loved it, don’t get me wrong, but after being moved the night before at Mugaritz, I was looking forward to get the same feeling and I simply did not. It’s amazing, the produce is obviously as good as it gets, but this kind of simple just did not get to me. I had in mind for this lunch to be amazed by the purity of each produce, a bit like at the best sushi places in Tokyo. That prawn for example, which has become one of Victor’s signature dish, is beautiful but I can’t say it’s a great dish. Even if it’s the most amazing prawn cooked to perfection. I will definitely go back though, as I know the fabulous meal I had the night before clouded my judgement and made me way more demanding, when it truly was a superb lunch.

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July 21, 2011
Mugaritz

Perfection. It truly was. From the atmosphere to the service to the food, it was absolutely amazing. A life changing meal. It makes you rethink what a Michelin starred restaurant should be in 2011. It was my first dinner in one of the top 8 restaurants in the world, and there will really a before and an after Mugaritz for me. No stiffness, just the perfect amount of casual and at the same time not one single mistake, spotless from the wine service to the space between tables. And the food, well a lot of people say it’s sometimes too out there and complex, but we enjoyed every course, and there were a few that were out of this world. All I want to do now is go back, as soon as possible, and be mesmerized by Andoni’s cooking once again.

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