Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ni Neu | San Sebastian

On our last night in San Sebastian we decided to check out Restaurante Ni Neu, located at the edge of the Gros District just beside Zurriola Beach. Previous research indicated the restaurant, which means I Myself in Basque, offered a reasonably priced tasting menu highlighting adventurous modern cuisine. The New York Times article 36 Hours in San Sebastian noted it as the stage upon which the stylish set gathers to dine. Enticed by these sentiments, the sleek and contemporary Ni Neu managed to coerce us away from another night of txikiteo. (The Basque term for a pinxto bar-crawl.)
We did not have a reservation and hesitated once we entered the bustling space where it was apparent the International Film Festival crowd filled nearly all the tables. We were greeted by a friendly hostess who lead us to a separate dining room, where we breathed a sigh of relief at the sight of empty tables. We're in! The restaurant is also adjacent to the Kursaal, an Auditorium and Convention Center where the zinemaldia (cinema!) is located. In the above photo, Ni Neu is the glowing space on the first floor. In all my San Sebastian posts, I have somehow neglected to mention that we were in town during the film fest! It's a pretty big event as International Film Festivals tend to go; the streets radiating with that movie premiere fanfare was an infectious scene that Adam and I relished. It felt like an added bonus to our time here. What also felt like an added bonus was everything included in our meal at Ni Neu. We chose the Xortak tasting menu, which in addition to six courses included a cocktail aperitif, a bottle of Rioja, bottled water and coffee all for 38 euros. That's an outstanding deal. The courses were well paced, thoughtfully prepared plates of creative food. For the aperitifs, a Cherry Martini for her (though I guess our definition of martinis vary - no worries, it was delicious with hints of Campari) and a Tequila Sunrise for him (now that's a martini!) The Salade d'Anchois was the least impressive course overall, but not a complete disappointment. Under a bed of slightly wilted lettuce and tomato confit hid the ample portion of fresh anchovies over an emulsion of praline seeds. Anchovies are a staple in Basque cuisine, so I was savoring their fishy, briny essence every chance I got. Pairing them with a slightly fruity and nutty sauce was unique and I enjoyed the contrast. I only wished the greens freshness matched that of the fish! Next, the Cuttlefish is simply radiant with its glistening black ink complexities over a bed of creamy chickpea puree. The bold umami flavors are persistent yet elegant and there is something to be said for eating jet black food. (It's exciting!) The Grilled Hake was the recipient of a super sleek presentation (how fantastic is that plate?) over a black olive cream with sun dried tomatoes and roast aubergine. The piece of hake was nicely grilled with a light flakiness to it and the cohesive flavors of the Mediterranean were a splendid pairing. The Boneless Roast Lamb was salty enough without the addition of coarse sea salt sprinkled on top. It permeated every corner of the tender meat and I didn't fully enjoy the lamb because of it. I did appreciate the flavorful butternut squash puree and stroke of coffee and cardamom. Never a brushstroke out of place, the three main plates nailed the aesthetics; embodying an elegant and artful simplicity. A duo of desserts were exemplary, beginning with a Pain Perdu which had been prepared in the traditional style, soaked in egg yolk and fresh cream and caramelized in a pan. This breakfast turned dessert was topped with a green lemon juice compote that nicely balanced the sticky sweetness with bright acidic notes. A scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side was perfect. Finally, a whimsical bowl of lemon gnocchi in pineapple juice with coconut ice cream is probably my favorite course. Plump little dessert dumplings mingling in a pina colada pool strike a perfect balance of fluffy to chewy. This is an inventive ending point that certainly leaves a lasting impression. Thanks Ni Neu for making our last night in San Sebastian a memorable one! And thanks to the random gal on the Zurriola Bridge who handed us tickets to the premiere of Le Skylab. The Zinemalda experience (where the movie was in French, the subtitles were in Spanish and the sub-sub titles were in English) was the icing on the cake. P.S. This meal was photographed using my Canon Powershot (point and shoot)

P.P.S Happy Valentine's Day!

14 comments:

Fun and Fearless in Beantown said...

The food does look sexy and sleek! What a great meal...and great photos!

Jaime @ La vie...J'aime said...

the presentation is really chic. i think too daring foods for me to try though lol.

happy vday!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I love that you are still able to relive this trip months later! The lemon gnocchi looks really incredible!

Emily @ A Cambridge Story said...

I love that you are still able to relive this trip months later! The lemon gnocchi looks really incredible!

In and Around Town said...

That cuttlefish dish looks so different and fun!

Megan said...

What a swanky space and awesome presentation of the food!

Shannon said...

wow, what a deal! those lemon gnocchi do sound quite delicious :)

Amber said...

I love the taste of Anchovies too. I never understand folks who dont relish their salty flavor.

Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

Happy Valentine's Day! When I was little I refused to eat black cuttlefish/squid (it's one of my family's specialty dishes back home) but now I love it.

Elizabeth said...

Those desserts sound awwwesome. I love the "36 Hours in..." pieces. Always good suggestions.

Jen said...

Oh, I am all about those desserts. Wow. I'd have no shame in eating those right now at 10am.

I can see why this was such an awesome trip for you guys!

kfenton917 said...

Sexy jet black food, then lemon, pineapple, & coconut dessert, what a wonderful start & refreshing finish! San Sebastian does it again.

Michelle Collins said...

That IS an outstanding deal! Such an economical meal. ;)

Brooke Gonzales said...

How did you like San Sebastian? When did you go to Europe and when did you get back? We are headed over there this summer and are looking for recommendations.