This restaurant has been closed every day. It was a tease to come to Zeruko and have the best pintxo ever and not be able to return. Two months have past I can not pass up the opportunity to eat here. Who knows when they will be open? It is surprising how quite it is in here.Why don’t more people don’t know about this place. The streets of San Sebastian are packed due to the “cloud free” weather for the first time this week. It takes just a second for me to walk up to the bar instead of having to “elbow my way” forward like a roller-derby.
Scanning the dusty chalkboard, I see Chipiron Mango Foie scratched into the matte black wall. The temperature is warm but only from the remnants of this morning. Mango seems appealing. It might be the idea that a refreshing flavor will be a good relief for “over sun baked skin”, but I think it is only a search for the socially accepted pleasure of flavor that I want. Sunburns are definitely a reminder of how sensitive we are to pain. It is funny how a little euphoric flavor can help bypass the “uncomfortableness.” So, I chose a glass of Txakoli (pronounced cha-ko-ly) to cool me off and provide a refreshing fizzle to my day. It is sometimes hard to catch what bottle they are pouring because they do it from so high and so fast that you don’t get a chance to read the label. Most people order varietals instead of producers anyways.
I ordered my food with the waiter using my newly acquired Spanish skills and he was completely surprised as he thought I was a tourist. Spanish never rolls of my tongue with the proper pronunciation so I was also shocked. There is no better feeling than being comfortable in a culturally different area and this is one of the times that I felt like a native of Spain. As I enjoy my apple and stone fruit flavored, slightly sparkling wine, I am looking forward to this culinary surprise. I cant help but gawk at he food of the British gentlemen next to me. I eye a sea urchin and some green cube atop a crustini that looks delicious. Next to their food arrives the biggest slice of warm goat cheese ravaged with more delicious foie. The increasingly loud moans emanating from the gentlemen is enough to tell me that the food here is a third world experience.
At this point my dish arrives and seems to be much larger than the pintxos to my left. Scattered on my plate are tinny squid sprinkled in pepper, an orange sphere atop a small cheese toast, and fried rice noodles in a mango puree. Unsure of the flavor combination about to unfold I took my first bite. I had an instant flash back to the first time I came through the doors and ordered the Hamburgesa de Chipiron. I don’t know where these things are stored in my brain but most memories seem to be activated by good food. To my surprise, there was not a large about of spices or herbs. The main ingredients were the stars of the dish, and were showcased in their ultimate beauty. The squid were tender and perfectly grilled. The sphere of mango was powerful but complimented the salty fuerte cheese crustini. The sauce surprisingly was the mildest flavor on the plate. There is nothing better than a perfectly prepared sauce especially when they take into consideration that a powerful flavor like mango could easily drowned out the squid. The dish reminded me that the need to eat is not solely just a need but a powerful passion.
This is where I confused the waiter again. I decided to break the first rule of Pintxos cruising and have more than one Pintxo and one drink per bar. With a confused look I think he settled with the idea that I was Portuguese which is fine with me. I ordered the Bacaloa Carpaccio thinking that gluttony is definitely not my strong suite, but today it was just my size. This time I caught the English gentlemen drooling over my food. The cod roe and green juice dances with olive oil and vinegar atop the lightly cured fish. I cant imagine a more pure and clean dish. It was even better than the last plate. The roe on the dish even has the fresh ocean breeze flavors. It is a perfect meal.
It is not every day you get to eat in your favorite restaurant but today I was lucky. This has now become one of my top places to eat in San Sebastian. Zeruko has a modern style with its traditional ideals still in tact. I am a big fan of this place mostly because it is undiscovered. It is hidden on the Calle de Pescados in the old town but it is only open until seven. Its almost like they don’t want you to have to much of a good thing. However, I will be eating here anytime I walk by and the doors are open.
For more information, please visit: www.barzeruko.com
About the Author: Brenden Darby is a culinary enthusiast who has an extreme passion for wine and adventure. He is the 2012 winner of the Basque Stage where he works at Three Michelin Star Restaurant Martin Berasategui in San Sebastian, Spain. When he is not in the kitchen he is exploring the surrounding area for the food, wine, and travel mischief it has to offer. You can follow his expedition at www.brendendarby.com
Photo 1: Goodiesfirst (Flickr)
Photos 2, 3 & 4: Brenden Darby