San Sebastián has always been on my “must go to” list. Besides being a pretty beach town, it is known for having the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita in the world. I have heard so many good things about these restaurants, which I had the opportunity to try some of, but I have also heard about the legendary Pinxtos bars. Pintxo is a Basque-ified take on the Spanish word “pincho”, which means to pinch. Pinxtos are traditionally pierced with a cocktail stick, to attach it to a piece of bread. Well, my journey to San Sebastián had finally come …
The food here is quite simply the reason I chose to visit in and of itself. I could spend a week here sampling the food and not get bored. However, I only had four days and I had to figure out how to pace myself. The pinxtos culture of grazing as one walks from bar to bar, lends itself perfectly for this. Every bar produces a mesmerising display of its own original creations. There is also hot pinxtos served at these establishments as well. From veal cheeks in red wine sauce, to wafer thin crepes enclosing prawns and pork. Tuna tacos or cylinders of beef cheeks, to miniature steak with caramelized onions, or grilled octopus or stuffed peppers. The variety is astounding. There is even a place called La Vina that serves a legendary cheesecake that is the best I have ever had. There are no bounds to this eating adventure. As you point to the plates that appeal to you, waiters will hand you your choice and pour you a txakoli, the local white wine, where they hold the bottle three feet above the glass.
In most establishments, you eat standing up, and you may have to jostle for a place at the bar. It pays to be persistent and patient as you will be rewarded with exquisitely prepared dishes. Some of my favourite places were Nestor, Zeruko, Gandarias, Ganbarra, Beti-Jai Berria and the above mentioned, La Vina.
Our hotel, The Maria Cristina puts out a wonderful map, pinpointing all their favourite bars. Make sure to ask your hotel if they do something similar. There are also gourmet food tours through the area as well.