Mirador de Ulia: Marvellous Modern Basque cuisine with views to match
As far as destination restaurants with a view go, it doesn’t get any better than Mirador de Ulia for me. The setting here which overlooks San Sebastian, the Basque coastline and surrounding hills gets me every single time. Perhaps I’m biased. After all, this is my favourite city in the whole wide world. But if there’s another dining room out there with a more serene, jaw-dropping panorama and world-class food to match, I’d love to know about it.
Chef Ruben Trincado and team’s Modern Basque cuisine here strikes that perfect balance of technical skill, innovation, beautiful presentation & harmony in flavours from start to finish. There’s a la Carte options aplenty if you prefer a shorter meal. However, if you aren’t in a rush, I would totally recommend taking in the views over their 10 to 12 course tasting menu (€120pp).
Dishes on longer format tasting menus so often fade from memory for me these days. Months on though, I can still remember every element of my favourite dishes here. I won’t go through them all, but below are some of the stand-outs for a taster of the full experience here.
Steak Tartare, one of their signature dishes, is always a delight. The presentation changes with the seasons. I especially loved the winter edition they served when I visited in December 2017. The beef fillet was finely chopped, wrapped in a layer of cured egg yolk jelly, then thinly sliced to mimick tataki! Classic flavours of mustard, spices & tomatoes came through the supporting garnishes beautifully.
What’s more epic than Carabineros? GOLD LEAF COVERED CARABINEROS that’s what! What a dish! The sweet, succulent prawn. The umami bomb of the roe. And of course, the crispy gold-leaf crusted prawn head. Ingenious and absolutely scrumptious.
Then there’s their Lobster Salad – another staple favourite on the tasting menu. Sweet, succulent lobster tails, cooked ever so precisely and served with crunchy endives, lettuce hearts and a refreshing tomato ice-cream. It’s a Rolls-Royce of a shellfish cocktail, on steroids!
I still have dreams about the Zizahori dish here. The Chanterelles of the Basque region, these were some of the meatiest and flavoursome mushrooms I’ve ever come across. Served on top of a slow-cooked egg wrapped in a lardo-like layer of Iberico pork, with crispy pork shavings on top, this was the local dish of sauteed mushrooms & egg yolk taken to a whole new level.
Textures of Artichoke from my most recent meal here in May 2019 was also a highlight. The different textures (puree’d, confit’d & deep-fried) ate beautifully both in their own right as well as together with the mussels, seaweed spheres & white bean garnishes.
Seared tuna belly served with a tartare cannelloni, fresh cherries, & egg emulsion was yet another stunner. The flavour in the Otoro was unreal – meaty, melt in the mouth & bursting with umami. The sweet onion, cherries and creamy egg emulsion paired with the tuna beautifully. The best fish course I’ve eaten in recent memory & the highlight of the lot of dishes from their 2018 Summer menu.
To cap things off, there’s their signature ‘Tocino de Cielo’ dessert – a tribute to the local Basque caramel custard. Wrapped in crispy rice paper and served with bitter-sweet cocoa crisps, white chocolate ice cream & a savoury citrus crumble, it’s a cracker of a dessert.
New to their 2019 menu and another fabulous end to our most recent meal was their Idiazabal Cheese Carpaccio – an air-light apple foam, silky smooth goats cheese ice cream, pine nuts & crispy bread pairing with it beautifully.
On reflection, I can’t think of a better meal in 1 Michelin star territory anywhere that I’ve enjoyed more than my three lunches here over the past 18 months. The sheer quality of the cooking, attentive service and gorgeous views you get for the price here make it top of my list of fine dining restaurants I’m likely to revisit when I’m next back in Donostia.
p.s. Heading out to San Sebastian soon? You may find some of the write-ups below useful for Pintxos crawling and 3-Michelin Star dining!