Forget world tours and coast-to-coast quests. Food obsessives on a mission to meet as many Michelin stars as possible need visit only one particularly decorated destination: San Sebastián.
Surrounded by sprawling beaches and panoramic mountain ranges, the coastal Spanish Basque town is home to 10 restaurants holding a combined 17 Michelin stars, making it one of the world’s most star-packed cities per square mile. What makes the food there so special is the fact that restaurants take the region’s amazing seafood and produce and deploy them in both traditional and modern fare alike for dishes that are playful and delicious.
Start with a titan of the region: Arzak. In 1897, chef Juan Mari Arzak’s grandparents built the house that would eventually be converted into a tavern and wine shop. When the chef took the helm in 1966 he began turning it into a culinary power-house of a restaurant. Today he shares the kitchen with his daughter, Elena, and together they continue to offer diners traditional Basque cooking with an elevated twist.
Just 10 minutes from town is Akelarre, the three-star dining destination from chef Pedro Subijana that opened its doors in 1970. Take in Bay of Biscay views in between bites of whimsy-packed plates, such as roasted pigeon with mole and cocoa, or the “broken jar of yogurt,” complete with shards of violet sugar candy and seasonal berries.
Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz and his team have spent 20 years delivering experimental, multisensory experiences for their diners at Mugaritz, a Michelin two-star restaurant, with the goal of feeding the mind as much as the stomach. Case in point: Courses like the Noble Rot, an apple with fungi, were created as a tribute to the beauty (despite the taboos) of foods gone bad.