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Ibai

Guetaria 15, San Sebastian, Spain

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This was my second visit to Ibai, a remarkable little restaurant in the basement of a tapas bar. It is open only on weekday lunches, and with just half a dozen or so tables is notoriously difficult to book; the help of a local to make a reservation is highly recommended. 

The wine prices are, as often in Spain, very fair indeed. There is now a short printed list, but vintages are not noted. As before, bottles are lined up along one wall for you to choose from. Alion 2009 was €60 compared to a retail price of €69, and even the Vega Sicilia Unico was €200, which is way below its retail price whatever vintage it was (the fairly recent 2008 had a current market price of €368 for example).

The meal began with a little sliced chorizo, excellent as it was previously, a world apart from the stringy version that so often appears on London plates. The first proper dish was lobster served simply with a citrus dressing. The quality of shellfish was superb, very lightly cooked, the flavour glorious, the dressing adding a little acidity to balance the flavor of the lobster (18/20). Next was a plate of grilled mixed wild mushrooms. This may not sound very exciting but the flavour of them was remarkable; a lot of effort had gone into selecting these mushrooms, and their cooking was again accurate (18/20).

Hake cheeks in salsa verde was another revelatory dish. I confess to not usually being a fan of this local speciality, as usually there is a gelatinous texture that does not appeal to me. These were the best I have tried, the texture in this case excellent, the salsa verde lifting the flavour (18/20). Squid in its ink was another very impressive dish, the flesh remarkably tender, of the quality level that you encounter in high end restaurants in Japan (18/20). A whole Dover sole, as at my previous meal, was outstanding, perfectly cooked and with terrific flavour, as good as I have encountered anywhere (19/20).

To finish there were just some ice creams, which were fine but not of the revelatory level of the savoury courses (14/20). Service was friendly despite the language barrier. With plenty of excellent wine, including Alion 2009, the bill came to just €98 (£77), which seemed almost ridiculously food value for such stunning food. This meal confirms my earlier impression that Ibai is a superb restaurant.  

Further reviews: 05th Oct 2012

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