* Restaurant Arzak, San Sebastián: Juan Marí and Elena Arzak go into the laboratory at least 1 day a week to literally cook up something you have never tasted before. The restaurant has been a leader in avant-garde Basque cuisine for more than 4 decades.
* José María Restaurante, Segovia: Segovianos are fanatics about roast suckling pig. This restaurant is where aficionados of cochinillo take their families for the crispest crackling skin and the juiciest succulent meat.
* Lasarte, Barcelona: Basque chef Martín Berasategui calls San Sebastián home, but this exquisite fine dining restaurant in the foodie mecca of Barcelona reinterprets some of his greatest dishes along with innovations by his brilliant chef de cuisine.
* Dani García Restaurante, Marbella: A fixture on the Costa del Sol, star chef Dani García has a new venue where he recapitulates some of his classics such as lobster salad with “popcorn” olives (exploded with liquid nitrogen) and suckling pig with pumpkin and orange.
* El Cellar de Can Roca, Girona: Roca brothers Joan (head chef), Jordi (head pastry chef), and Josep (sommelier) belie the trope about broth and too many cooks. This is Catalan home cooking with surreal twists, as if Salvador Dalí’s ghost were in the kitchen.
* Coque, Madrid: Representing a new wave of staggeringly sophisticated restaurants, the Sandoval brothers take diners on an avant-garde gastronomic tour, serving scientifically created dishes in several locations within their Chamberí restaurant.
* Viridiana, Madrid: Chef Abraham García blogs about food online for El Mundo and is such a film buff that he named the restaurant after the 1961 Luis Buñuel film. Wit and wonderment abound on his menu, and many of Spain’s top chefs apprenticed here.
* La Pepica, Valencia: The Picassos of paella are the cooks in La Pepica's sprawling kitchens. This is the temple of paella Valenciana—and dozens of variations.
* Casa Marcial, Arriondas: Nacho Mendez made his mark in London, but his family restaurant is where he concocts outrageous and delicious dishes such as cucumber soup over green pepper sorbet or roast woodcock with oysters and river eels.
* Solla, Pontevedra: Pepe Solla is self-taught, so he lacks the preconceptions of a classically trained chef. He thinks nothing of pairing sea bass, for example, with braised turnip greens, Galician cabbage, and an orange-lemon sauce.
* La Despensa del Etxanobe, Bilbao: Fernando Canales parades his genius in two adjacent restaurants: L’Atelier, the place to celebrate a business deal, and La Despensa, which oozes class in its décor, service, and carefully crafted cuisine. His pipeline to foragers and fishermen ensures he has the very best products of the season.
* Etxanobe, Bilbao: Fernando Canales looks like a rock star and cooks like a genius. Always inventing new riffs on Basque cuisine, he cultivates a direct pipeline to foragers and fishermen to ensure he has the very best products of the season.
The Best Tapas Dining
* Bergara Bar, San Sebastián: San Sebastián is well stocked with good tapas bars, but the bright lights of the Bergara shine down on a counter simply groaning with “pintxos creatives.” It’s considered a national treasure by gastronomes and Spanish chefs.
* Bodeguita Casablanca, Sevilla: This busy corner bar near Puerta de Jerez is acclaimed for its deft riffs on traditional dishes. Try the trademark tortilla al whisky, cooked carefully to preserve the alcohol and topped with cloves of roast garlic.
* Casa Bigote, Sanlúcar de Barrameda: Grab a barrel-top table at this riverside taberna for a plate of rock salt-sprinkled prawns and a cold glass of the town’s manzanilla sherry. Watch the ferry go back and forth to the Doñana across the Guadalquivir delta.
* Casa Dani, Madrid: With a stall inside the beautiful Mercado de la Paz food market, Casa Dani prides itself on making the finest tortilla española (Spanish omelet). A huge, gooey slice costs just 2.80€.
* Casa Juan, Torremolinos: Mainly a seafood restaurant, Casa Juan serves tapas between meals (i.e., between 5–9pm). It’s the perfect spot for a freidura of mixed tiny seafood—often called “fried foam”—fried in olive oil. Eat it skin, bones, and all.
* KGB, Málaga: Málaga foodies flock here to have fun, and a stream of guest chefs contributes a never-ending variety of novel small plates. The “top secret” tapas are just a joke on the initials for Kuartel Gastronomic Bar.
* Nou Manolín, Alicante: Famous chefs from all over Spain (and even France) come on eating holidays to Alicante to treat themselves to Nou Manolín’s great fish tapas. See p. ###.
* Tragatá, Ronda: At this offshoot of Benito Gómez’s exquisite Bardal restaurant, the tapas are little more than a bite, but the Spanish classics and fusion fish dishes are so well-made you might try the whole selection.
* Tapas 24, Barcelona: With tapas for breakfast (broken eggs over fried potatoes), lunch (grilled ham and cheese with black truffle), or dinner (hamburger with foie gras), chef Carles Abellean pays homage to the tapas lifestyle.
* Taberna Bar Cuervo, León: Michelin-starred chefs throughout Spain have begun to feature the air-dried beef of León on their menus. This taberna has had the best for decades, along with classic León sausages. See p. ###.
* Taberna Casa Manteca, Cádiz: Founded by a retired matador in the 1950s, this shrine to the bullfight and flamenco serves chicharrones (thinly sliced pork belly) and the local payoyo cheese on waxed paper with a glass of sherry.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.