Kokotxa – San Sebastian – Michelin Cat Nip

Dani López is the chef owner behind Kokotxa, and he’s given me one of the main reasons as to why I would return the San Sebastian. The name of the restaurant comes from those endlessly delectable nuggets of gelatinous flesh under the jaw found on typically cod fish. They truly are one of the main selling points of coming to San Sebastian, I can understand why you’d name your restaurant after them. More on them in a bit. Although it’s a starchy white table clothed room, the vibe is really casual – inside it’s very St John-esque, white walls, dark wood window frames with black and white art work is what you see. They’re based in the Old Town, right by the church on the cusp of the pintxos action. Of course Kokotxa has a Michelin Star that it’s held for a number of years now and it’s famed for it’s championing of locally sourced produce, cooked with Basque sensibilities and Asian influences.

I went for the tasting menu, based on the “latest creations”. 

The bread is stunning, the same goes for the plonk, in spite of it’s desert wine honey-hued colour, it’s light and crisp.

The tomato and watermelon gazpacho gave a lot more than what I was expecting, not just because it was a combination that I’ve not tried, but it was intensely flavourful. The tangerine coloured brioche thing with baby prawns had a ripe kick of umami and wow for the palate.    

The mackerel tartare on the menu had ran out, the alternative was sweetest most delicate tuna with tomato sorbet, the bite of crispy rice giving it’s riveting crunch, teeth popping salmon roe with swirls and gels of deeply flavoured things.  

The most grammed thing I saw was the “Carabinero”. A dish named after the main ingredient, but it’s much more than that. The sangria red prawn that hails from the Mediterranean Sea is famed for his relentlessly sweet flesh, but the most prized bit is the head, it’s designed for sucking. They’ve taken the jacket off so you don’t have to bother with the admin. And it’s served on a dish that looks like a pebble on a bed of rice beets and seaweed. The deep flavour trumps your average prawn by a million miles, go searching for the head tomalley like how we did. It is a plate of happiness.  

You can’t help but to marvel at the grilled cod kokotxa with parsley juice. The kokotxa’s deserves adulation and praise, it was silken and had fetish amounts of umami. The crumb gave it’s texture and the siphoned blob of fish broth tasted like a prime example of extracting every ounce of flavour from the ingredients its cooked with.  If you like fish, let this be your calling.

Fish of the day was a swoon worthy roasted cod with lime, sesame and oyster sauce. The the lightly browned fish was “just” cooked giving it a translucent centre in the tightly packed flesh.  

Jeff went for the roasted ox fillet with crunchy ashes and red pepper sauce. The outcome was beautiful and certainly a dish to remember.  

Pigeon from Bresse, corn French toast and black sesame was cooked so well that the inherent livery flavour of the bird just sang. It was hands down one of the best pigeon dishes I’ve ever had. 

Nicely browned exterior and pink interior. 

First up on the deserts was a plate cleansing tomato-raspberry with tonka bean and curd ice cream. I love the way the chef combines tomato with other fruits as the result is mouth coating gloriousness. 

Next up was the brittle and deeply flavoured liquorice meringue, mango sorbet with rich chocolate crumble. There was a mouth puckering passion fruit mousse and lime gel to edge things into place. This was a total riot of texture, taste and flavour. 

Petit fours of little cakes, chocolates and the most silkiest chocolate mousse with chocolate crumb. 

The verdict:

When did I go? September 2017
The damage: Expect to pay €130 per head with wine
The good: I completely trust in Chef Dani López’s vision as what he gave us was not only an exciting meal but a stand out experience with lots of drool-worthy moments. It’s a very, very tidy example of the Michelin breed.
The bad: Although the overall meal was sublime, the service was clunky at times. Let me explain, at this kind of level you don’t expect to get confused as to which water your guests are having. Our waitress albeit lovely, couldn’t remember if we were drinking still or sparkling multiple times. Also, the maitre’d had no clue if oyster sauce contained shellfish! It was more comedic than calamitous. She also stumbled a few times too when asked what ingredients and techniques the chefs used. (She scurried off to the kitchen each time red faced). Granted, she may not interrogated about the ingredients before, but bit of preparation won’t go amiss to avoid red faced moments.
Rating: 4.5/5
Would I go again? Yes
Address: Calle del Campanario, 11, 20003 Donostia San Sebastián, Guipúzcoa, 20003 San Sebastián
Phone: +34 943 42 19 04

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