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Final Barcelona Post

14 Dec

After over three months of writing both reviews of Barcelona’s top sushi restaurants and about the concepts of Journalism 2.0, I am headed back to my hometown of New York City. In the next few weeks, I hope to continue writing reviews of sushi restaurants in New York, in a similar fashion to the way I covered the different spots in Barcelona.

Overall, I would classify the sushi quality in Barcelona as often good but rarely great. A lot of restaurants that I had the privilege of visiting during my time here served adequate and fresh sushi that I would categorize as good quality. My main critiques would be the limited selection of fish available at most places (granted, Barcelona’s location on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea promotes local fishermen’s catches, which overlap greatly) and the lack of Japanese-run upscale sushi restaurants (again, this is most likely a biased opinion because of my upbringing in New York City). I leave Barcelona with a quick list recap of the best sushi restaurants I discovered during my time here, linked to my detailed reviews of them:

1. Wakasa

2. Koy Shunka

3. Shunka

4. ON Sushi

5. Nomo

Nakashita finishes in a close 6th place and Yamadori remains the one place I would have liked to try but never found time while in Barcelona. Looking forward to hearing feedback from any of you who try out my personal favorites!

Spotlight on Shunka: Toro and Uni Dish

12 Dec

Way back in September, I wrote about Shunka, arguably recognized as the best sushi restaurant in Barcelona. The restaurant is Japanese-run, and sushi and non-sushi dishes alike are served fresh and with authentic flavor. As my time studying in Barcelona nears its end, I felt compelled to write about what undoubtedly was my favorite dish at any restaurant during my four month stay: the toro and uni combination dish at Shunka.

Shunka’s toro and uni dish combines two exquisite Japanese delicacies, namely, the belly of tuna with the eggs of sea urchin. Both items are considered to be among the tastiest and highest quality offered at Japanese restaurants, with their prices reflecting this sentiment. Shunka offers a plate of around 8 healthy cuts of toro, topped with generous amounts of uni and garnished with seaweed and sesame seeds. A sweetish soy sauce accompanies the dish. I just about fell in love with this dish as soon as I tried it – the large portions of toro melted in my mouth and were full of flavor, and the freshness of the uni provided the perfect smooth contrast. Having spent many summers diving for sea urchins in my native country of Greece and enjoying their contents mere minutes later, I am well aware of the taste of the freshest of sea urchins, and Shunka’s offerings are top notch. The color of the eggs are the exact shade of orange that I became accustomed to during my diving in the neighboring Mediterranean Sea.

At 19.60 euros, the toro and uni dish is priced comparably to other entrées at Shunka. While other options may offer more variety and quantity, I would suggest asking for a bowl of white rice to accompany this delicious combination and add more substance. I highly recommend trying this dish at Shunka (it can be found as one of the ‘special’ menu choices listed on the first page of the menu) and letting me know your thoughts!

 

Here’s a cliffhanger: In the next day, I will write about the sushi meal that I enjoyed last night, which I would call the best sushi I have eaten in Barcelona.

Ways to Identify Bad Sushi Restaurants

27 Nov

By virtue of the mass amounts of information circulating in today’s world of ever-growing technology and social media, it is almost impossible to be taken completely by surprise by a restaurant’s quality. Namely, people don’t go to 5-star restaurants expecting to eat fast food, and people don’t eat $1 pizza expecting a slice of Italy. So it goes without saying that people tend to roughly know the quality of the fish they are about to eat when they dine at a sushi restaurant. Just in case, however, I have decided to include a couple of pointers aimed at identifying sushi places that could potentially be worse than you think when you walk in. I have chosen not to include such obvious signs as buying sushi in odd places such as pharmacies, the cleanliness of the restaurant, etc.

1. A roll piece is bigger than the ‘ok’ sign – Make the ‘ok’ sign by connecting your thumb and index finger. Roll pieces in the best of Japanese restaurants will be around half that size. Anything as big or bigger than the sign and you’re dealing with poor quality sushi and a lot of rice.

2. The ginger is very rose/dark in color – Not always an accurate measure of the sushi’s quality, but a good rough estimate. Better sushi restaurants tend to serve fresh ginger, which is white in color rather than straight from the package ginger, which is rose or darker in color.

3. Buffet/all-you-can-eat sushi – Need I say more? There’s a reason you are getting a ‘bargain’ for $12.95.

4. Several rolls feature interesting names/ingredients – Sure, I enjoy a guilty pleasure now and then and order some exotic roll containing cream cheese, asparagus, mango, and/or filet mignon, but you’re not going to find any top quality sushi restaurants serving ‘Spicy Mexican’ or ‘Crazy Dragon’ rolls. Not sure if an ingredient is unorthodox? It probably is.

5. The sushi bar chef is not Japanese – Of course there are exceptions to every rule, and I’m sure there are many places not owned by people of Japanese origin, but at the end of the day sushi is a truly exquisite Japanese treat, and just like any ethnic cuisine, the best sushi will be found in Japanese-run restaurants.

6. Artificial crab is used – You cannot expect much quality from any place that stuffs crab stick into rolls or serves pieces of artificial crab as nigiri pieces.

7. Pieces of nigiri or sashimi are paper thin/too much rice is used – It is hard to explain the exact colors that certain cuts of fish should be, even though this is the best way of telling the quality. An easier way of surmising its quality before consumption is noticing how thick it is cut – poor quality places will often include a large amount of rice with the thin cut of fish. All-you-can-eat sushi joints often use this trick with vinegar-ized rice to fill you up quicker.

Common Sushi Eating Mistakes

25 Oct

Upon watching my girlfriend drown an innocent chunk of yellowtail in a pool of soy sauce, I decided to quickly share a few of sushi-related eating errors I have noticed over the years:

1. Too Much Soy Sauce – You ordered sushi because you like the delicate and different tastes of raw fish, right? Submerging a piece of sushi in soy sauce kills the very taste of the fish that you have ordered, and in essence, renders the differences between restaurants moot. While we’re on the subject, I have been told by Japanese friends that it is customary and polite to fill the small soy sauce dish up only partially, and re-fill if needed, rather than filling it to the brim at first.

2. Eating Sushi with Fingers – Those wooden sticks that you probably think are impossible to use? Yeah, those are for eating the fish that you order. A friend recently told me that he thought it was polite in Japanese culture to eat sushi with your fingers. Wrong wrong wrong. Try eating with your fingers at the next five-star restaurant that you go to and see the looks that you get. Same principle.

3. Putting Ginger on Top of Pieces – The pickled ginger that is provided with virtually every sushi dish is to cleanse the palate between different cuts of fish. It provides a refreshing and strong flavor between bites, contrasting the fish that accompanies it. Heaping it on top of a slab of fresh tuna or yellowtail makes it impossible to taste the actual fish (see mistake #1).

4. Eating a Piece in Multiple Bites – This is a common mistake that I have been guilty of myself. Often, a piece of sushi will be too large for one bite, or I will want to savor a piece and divide it into two bites. Not only can breaking up a piece of sushi cause a great mess, but it is considered proper to eat each piece in one big bite. This belief stems from the principle that good sushi will be small enough to do this. (This is where you realize that the ‘cooked fish roll’ you picked up from Duane Reade yesterday sadly cannot be considered ‘good sushi.’)

5. Ordering only Rolls – Beginner sushi eaters will often order solely rolls, which they consider a safe bet. There is a reason for this – experienced sushi eaters like sushi for the distinct and various tastes of each type of fish, and not for disproportionate amounts of rice and seaweed, not to mention amateur desires like, GASP, spicy mayonnaise, masking the fish’s taste.

6. Saving Hand Rolls for the End – This is without a doubt the most nit-picky ‘mistake’ on the list, and serves more as a piece of advice than a request to change etiquette. Hand rolls are generally constructed by wrapping a large sheet of nori seaweed around the fish and rice, as if enclosing the ingredients in a blanket. This seaweed is often crisp, and should be eaten first to ensure that the seaweed does not become soggy, ensuring maximum freshness.

7. Eating Sushi on Sundays – In general, sushi served on Sunday will have actually been caught several days earlier. Japanese restaurants do not get fish delivered on Sundays (and sometimes not even on Saturdays), and this is a reason that many notable sushi places are also closed on Mondays.

8. Freshwater Fish as Sashimi? – I will leave this last topic open to debate. A handful of Japanese friends have informed me that it is not custom to eat fish from rivers, i.e. freshwater fish such as salmon, raw. More to follow as there have been various publications and websites musing about the topic now for quite awhile.

So there you have it. I tried not to mention any obvious errors of a sushi-eaters, such as ordering rolls named after American states (think: California, Philadelphia), going to All-U-Can-Eat establishments, or dunking your sushi in spicy mayo (may have briefly mentioned that one…). I will try to post common mistakes made by sushi restaurants as well.

Also, thoroughly enjoyed a meal at Shibui tonight. Look for a review in the coming days!

About the Blog

14 Sep

Welcome.

This blog will seek to provide readers with some of my personal experiences with sushi restaurants in Barcelona, Spain. I have been a sushi enthusiast all my life, and consider myself to possess a good deal of knowledge in finding and reviewing quality sushi establishments. My posts will pertain to places in Barcelona, where I am studying abroad for almost four months. I will draw on my extensive experiences at sushi restaurants in my hometown of New York, as well as my college city of Nashville, Tennessee, and other locations around the globe. I will seek to provide readers with a clear idea of the food quality, ambiance, and service for each of my reviewed restaurants, as well as pricing information and any additional details. I hope to raise awareness for some of the city´s best sushi spots, as well as hidden neighborhood gems, and, in rare cases, places to avoid. It is my hope that my reviews can function as a sort of travel guide for sushi for Barcelona. I will review approximately one restaurant per week, as well as post once per week about topics related to a class I am enrolled in while abroad, Journalism 2.0.

Enjoy!