Bar Nestor, San Sebastián-Donostia, Spain

I heard about this place from a friend who had recently passed through San Sebastián.  It had been a good twelve years since I’d been through the gorgeous Basque fishing town and its horseshoe bay.  But the food I remembered well.  Years ago I had my local spot where I would get a late breakfast of mussels and cava, before going to sleep for a bit out on the beach.  Sublime.

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Chuleta de buey

At Bar Nestor questions are kept to a blessed minimum, and the answer is always “sí!”  Do you want chuleta?  Of course.  Do you want tomatoes?  That’s not a real question.  Will you have peppers?  You’re no fool.  The only real question to ponder is what wine you will choose, and they do have a selection.  One thing to keep in mind for those inclined to order a bottle:  in English we might use the words “powerful” or “strong” to refer to a big-flavored or robust wine.  In the Spanish wine lingo of Spain, the word “fuerte” (i.e. strong or powerful) actually refers to the tannins.  A fuerte wine will have a lot of tannin.  I learned this the hard way by expecting a powerful and robust red to accompany my chuleta, but ending up with a wine so tannic that it felt like sucking on tree bark.  Please be advised.

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Perfection.

The first thing you will see is the most gorgeous hunk of meat you have ever laid eyes on.  Amazing, sea salt-coated slabs of chuleta de buey (a bone-in local grass-fed ribsteak), steaming and spitting on their flatiron grills.  They don’t ask you what temperature to cook it.  They already know what’s best:  sizzling medium rare, with an emphasis on the rare.  Whatever alchemy Nestor has wrought; the incantations you will never learn.  Just be happy he lets you enjoy the fruits of his magical labors.  The tomatoes come crudely sliced into uneven hunks, coated with olive oil, and generously heaped with more sea salt.  The peppers are fried and deliver only light heat every seventh pepper, or so the local grandmothers will tell you.

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Tomates!

Nestor won’t discuss opening another restaurant or expanding the one he has.  Believe me, I tried.  He laughed heartily at the suggestion that he open a spot in Washington or New York, waiving his finger and shaking his head all the while.  Whatever else you do while visiting San Sebastián, do yourself a huge favor and just go here.  The staff is magnificently friendly (particularly for Spanish speakers) and you will not be met with a bewildering array of choices:  just an amazing steak, cooked perfectly.  Get the tomatoes and, if you’re hungry enough, get the peppers.  You can thank me later.

Address: Bar Nestor, Pescadería no. 11, San Sebastián-Donostia, Spain

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