Jun 2010

San Sebastian Pintxos Crawl: Bar Zeruko, A Fuego Negro, Gandarias Taberna

San Sebastian Pintxos Crawl

In Basque Country, tapas are referred to as pintxos, and the hours between lunch and dinner are dedicated to the sport. It’s customary to order a small bite and drink at each bar, consume them jollily on the premise, and then move on to the next joint. Grazing is the name of the game, and one should feel properly full and slightly tipsy by the end of the night.

Whereas the bars in Barcelona and Madrid kept their tapas behind glass cases along the bar, in San Sebastian, the pintxos were beautifully laid out for all to see, covet, and drool over. The Astronomer and I dedicated one evening to exploring the city’s pintxos scene. We had a list of buzzed-about places in hand, but in the end, we trusted our eyes and noses to lead us in the tastiest direction.

Bar Zeruko - San Sebastian

Our first stop on the San Sebastian pintxos crawl was Bar Zeruko. We hadn’t planned on dropping in here, but the extensive collection of colorful and unique pintxos on display proved impossible to resist. The Astronomer and I ordered two glasses of cava and tucked into a few choice morsels. We tried to limit ourselves to one dish apiece, but ended up greedily hoarding more.

Bar Zeruko - San Sebastian

Our first bite was an egg-on-egg extravaganza consisting of fluorescent caviar paired simply and successfully with a slice of hard-boiled egg.

Bar Zeruko - San Sebastian

Next, The Astronomer picked out an artful artichoke that the barman said required “reheating” in the kitchen. When the chef brought the artichoke back to its rightful position in front of us, we found that it had been stuffed with seared foie gras and sprinkled with hazelnuts. Swoon!

Bar Zeruko - San Sebastian

Seeking out another hit of fatty liver, I chose an intriguing creation comprised ofย  foie gras sandwiched between two slices of fried onions. The onion’s sweet and caramelized flavors went surprisingly well with the foie gras.

Bar Zeruko - San Sebastian

Finally, a savory bomb of bechamel, bacon, and mushrooms. The barman reheated it in the oven for a few hot minutes before serving up the immensely satisfying bite.

A Fuego Negro - San Sebastian

It was damn difficult pulling ourselves away from Bar Zeruko and its heavenly spread, but A Fuego Negro was calling our names. A Fuego Negro came highly recommended to us by Bruce Palling, a travel and food writer for the Wall Street Journal. The joint is owned by a trio of young restaurateurs who have worked in some of the best kitchens in town.

A Fuego Negro - San Sebastian

To start, The Astronomer grabbed some bites from the bar because the house special pintxos needed to be prepared to order. He picked out a ham sandwich on olive bread and a toothpick-speared bite consisting of a toasted baguette round, sun dried tomato, and a slice of luxurious local ham.

A Fuego Negro - San Sebastian

From the “glasses” portion of the menu, we chose a cod brandade with red pesto and basil. It was a bold-flavored concoction, but the mode of delivery didn’t do it for me; the liquid disappeared much too quickly from my tongue.

A Fuego Negro - San Sebastian

One of the neatest bites was the txitxarro, queso de oveja y menta en tosta de cereza. The chopped bits of fish were served on a pink cherry wafer and adorned with cubes of sheep’s milk cheese and fresh mint.

A Fuego Negro - San Sebastian

Our last bite was a shot of Basque white wine served with a gilda (lollipop) made of olive, anchovy, and Basque pepper. The potent hit of booze was tempered by the salty and spicy lollipop.

Gandarias Taberna - San Sebastian

Before calling it a night, we made one last stop at Gandarias Taberna. The bar was packed with locals doing what they do best—eating, drinking, and having a ball.

Gandarias Taberna - San Sebastian

While Bar Zeruko and A Fuego Negro specialized in modern pintxos, the Taberna played strictly along traditional lines. We picked out three bites including sardines with roasted red peppers, blood sausage atop toasted bread, and fried fish with shishito pepper. The warmly spiced blood sausage was my favorite, while The Astronomer liked the fried fish.

We stumbled back to our hotel room properly full and slightly tipsy. All was right with the world.

Bar Zeruko
Calle Pescaderia 10
San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain
Phone: 943423451

A Fuego Negro
31 de Agosto
San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain
Phone: 650135373

Gandarias Taberna
Calle 31 de agosto, 23
20004 San Sebastian – Donostia, Spain
Phone: 943 42 63 62

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24 thoughts on “San Sebastian Pintxos Crawl: Bar Zeruko, A Fuego Negro, Gandarias Taberna

  1. Cathy Your stories are great We will be in San Sebastian last
    weekend of August and I am wondering – Is anything open on Sunday nights? How about these tapas bars that you just wrote about? I know the restaurants do lunch on Sunday but it seems no dinners – but are the tapas bars open. Congratulations on your marriage – food is a great unifying interest. This is actually my wife’s 60 th
    birthday trip and yes, El Bulli, is included! Thanks

  2. You know I don’t like food crawls, but everything about this crawl is right. Booze, bacon bombs and a babe on your arm to enjoy every savory morsel with?

    Score one for the Gastronomer!

  3. You need good self-control to do a pintxos crawl! I’ve always struggled leaving a good place once i’ve found one…hehe…

  4. You definitely chose the “Capital of the Pintxo” in Spain! I’m mouthwatering and thinking how much I miss those pintxos!
    -From a Spaniard

  5. John – Can’t believe you guys scored El Bulli reservations! I am soooooo *jealous*! In regards to Sunday night dinner options, I am uncertain because we were only in the city during the week. However, if worse comes to worse, you can definitely grab a bite to eat at one of the many doner kebab places in town.

  6. Bar Zeruko + Fuego Negro are of high interest, to me. Around what time at lunch and dinner should I go there if I want to avoid the peak busy hours and get a chance to sit and enjoy their tasting menu?

  7. Another great over view. I remember Gandarias being one of our favorites. Bar Zeruko looks great and I think I something there. As I remember it was the pintxos place which had the most modern inspired items. I had a piece of white fish that you smoked over a piece of coal that they served you in a little dish. After smoking each side for 30 seconds you ate it with a little side item. Unfortunately, that was also the day I had the heaviest meal ever in Pamplona and wasn’t hungry for anything else.

  8. What hotels would you recommend staying at? We want to be central to all the restaurants as much as possible (Arzak, Mugaritz, Extaberri etc)

  9. Danmy – There isn’t a hotel that’s close to all these places. It’s best to stay somewhere in town and cab it to your meals. SS is a small town, so it won’t be too expensive.

  10. Hi,

    Really enjoying San Sebastian but obviously the weather is very mixed & it’s more or less rained all the time here (April). Pintxos are lovely & Zeruko is z good spot. However, ordering from the blackboard menu offers up much more than the cold or re heated tapas on display. It also seems bar staff are outdoing eachother with rudeness although most don’t speak any English at all. Having a local explain the menus which are in basque would help hugely. The wines are generally amazing but the cider is a little bitter but worth trying.

    We went to Akelare & the atmosphere & experience is amazing. However, we weren’t blown away by the food. One of the tasting menus is a good deal better than the other (the one with lamb, the pastry & coconut option is better) & by the time you eat & drink it’s guts of โ‚ฌ450…lovely experience & takes 4 hours but very very dear….

    We stayed in hotel niza & I can’t recommend it enough.. 3 star but it’s superb & on waterfront playa de la concha..

    The sea wind combs are worth a trip & all in this is a great town with a clean beach & pristine waters…. I’d advise you to come in may when it’s warmer…

  11. Very nice pictures. I see a tour mainly focused on modern bars (not Gandarias, really :P). Take a look next time to bar Hidalgo 56. Not in the Old Town, but not far. Also curious Viento Sur.

  12. We’re in San Sebastian right now. Everyone’s pretty friendly and helpful, but sometimes they get busy. What we’ve found incredibly helpful is Google Translate on our phones (Android, I assume the iOS one works as well) – yep, it does Basque as well as Spanish.

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