Tag Archives: Barcelona

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!

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Wakasa

13 Dec

Place: Wakasa

Address: C/ Nàpols, 347

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: I ended my last post hinting that I would soon divulge the location of the best sushi I ate during my time in Barcelona. I had always wanted to eat at Wakasa after reading highly positive reviews on TripAdvisor, reviews that were confirmed by my recent gem-of-a-finding “The Sushi Barcelona Bible“. This informative guide highlights the best 13 sushi restaurants in the city, calling Wakasa a ‘diamond in the rough’ and mentioning its classification as Barcelona’s #1 sushi restaurant according to the prestigious Time Out magazine series. After calling many times over the past month for a reservation (a must-do considering the restaurant consists of 5 tables), I was lucky enough to be granted an early seating this past Saturday.

Setting: As mentioned, Wakasa only has around 5 tables, all booked well in advance and throughout the evening. It is located in the Northern part of Gracia in a relatively quiet neighborhood and is truly a diamond in the rough: the exterior is nondescript and strikes passer-bys as a tavern or wood cabin, while the interior is cramped and exceedingly casual. The restaurant is family owned and operated, with a man working the sushi bar and his wife functioning as the restaurant’s only waitress.

Food/Price: If the decor of the restaurant is not exactly eye candy, then how am I claiming it to be the best sushi in Barcelona you ask? Simple answer: the food. Upon arrival, diners are presented with a menu containing various sushi options as well as two white boards listing the day’s special appetizer and non-sushi options, mostly served tapas style. I was sure to order from both, selecting the assortment of nigiri and maki roll (33 euros; you are allowed to choose the cuts of fish you want in this dish which is a nice plus) as well as the cold kimchi udon noodles (around 7 euros) and tuna avocado sashimi (around 6 euros). I also ordered what was supposed to be a house special, the Wakasa Maki roll (13.50 euros), which consisted of eel and avocado, drizzled in a thick semi-sweet sauce. The sashimi dish was the first indication that the meal was going to be a special one: the tuna was the freshest I had in Barcelona, mixed equal parts with ample amounts of avocado and topped with nori and sesame seeds. The kimchi udon noodles contained just the right amount of kimchi taste (a spicy pickled cabbage common in Korean cooking) and the noodles themselves were full of flavor, unlike other noodle dishes I had at Japanese restaurants in Barcelona that appeared to be frozen or packaged. Finally, the assortment of sushi rivaled some of the top sushi places I have eaten at in my hometown of New York City: the toro practically melted in my mouth, and the eel was smooth and flavorful. Additionally, the two seared pieces of fish I ordered, also a house specialty, provided a nice contrast to the slabs of Barcelona’s freshest raw fish. The salmon maki was as good as any I have ever had, and while the Wakasa Maki roll may have been the meal’s only disappointment, the superb quality of the other items undoubtedly affected my judgment.

Bottom Line: Wakasa is an absolute must for sushi affectionados spending time in Barcelona. Its low-key, tiny setting and personable service serve to make it a classic ‘sleeper’ pick, but the word is out and reservations are hard to come by!

Ratings:

Food: 9

Ambiance: 6

Price: 45 euros

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.

Temaki-ya

3 Dec

Place: Temaki-ya

Address: C/ Gignàs, 28

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: Temaki-ya was recommended to me by multiple friends, who all spoke highly about the freshness of the fish and the uniqueness of the restaurant. They mentioned that the place is perfect for a bite between classes or when in a hurry, and recommended any of the hand roll options.

Setting: Temaki-ya is located on a side road off the main street of Via Laietana, across from the American abroad student favorite, Milk. Temaki-ya markets itself as ‘Spain’s only temakeria,’ with only hand rolls, cut rolls, and a couple very basic appetizers (edamame, miso soup, etc.) on its menu. It only has four or five tiny round tables with long stools, encouraging a take-out approach – a sort of ‘Japanese fast food’ – quite rare by sushi standards. Diners place their orders at the counter, and the sushi chef immediately begins stuffing fish and other ingredients into sheets of seaweed.

Food/Price: The Temaki-ya menu is fairly easy to follow, as there are around five basic fish options (tuna, salmon, shrimp, fresh crab, gilthead) that are offered in the same type of rolls: plain, spicy, and with a couple of different and rather basic flavorful ingredients. Each option is available in a hand or cut roll. There are also a couple of set menu options, which feature something like a couple of hand rolls plus an appetizer and drink. I chose to order à la carte, going with a spicy tuna hand roll, spicy salmon hand roll, and a second salmon hand roll that included chive and purple lettuce, both ingredients that Temaki-ya appears to love including in their rolls. Each roll was priced between 5 and 7 euros, relatively cheap for sushi in Barcelona, though one must account for the absence of table seating and rushed atmosphere. The rolls were indeed fresh, stacked with ample amounts of sliced fish and seaweed, which provided a nice fresh crunch. The flavor of the fish was masked slightly by abundant amounts of spicy mayo, but I had expected it to be used for the spicy rolls and the two fused together nicely for an explosion of flavor.

Another unique feature of the restaurant was the three large canisters found on the table, which held soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and soy sauce mixed with wasabi; the first time that I had noticed the last option pre-mixed. It was mixed well proportionally, adding a good amount of salty-spiciness to the hand rolls. My girlfriend described the vegetable-only hand roll that she ordered as fresh and flavorful.

Bottom Line: While not a gourmet sushi restaurant, Temaki-ya offers a welcome alternative as a stop-in for a quick sushi fix. The hand rolls are fresh and filling, and diners won’t be disappointed with their meal or wallets. Recommended for a casual snack or take-out lunch or dinner.

Ratings:

Food: 7.25

Ambiance: 5

Price: 18 euros

Icho

21 Nov

Place: Icho

Address: Carrer Déu I Mata, 65 – 92

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: As is often the case, I spent way too much time consulting reviews of sushi restaurants on TripAdvisor in hopes of finding my new favorite spot. My research, coupled with finding some extra euros lying around my apartment, led me to Icho, touted as a fusion of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine in an upscale setting. Additionally, the reliable website ComerJapones had a lengthy positive write-up about the restaurant, albeit in Spanish. I headed to the restaurant with high expectations and a rather empty stomach, which turned out to be a bad idea.

Setting: Icho is located in a part of the city I had rarely visited, with relatively quiet streets and much open space. These characteristics surprisingly turned out to describe the restaurant itself. Icho takes up a huge space on its street – it is sprawled across several apartment-sized buildings. Once inside, I noticed that the space is used oddly: there is a well-lit main dining room with much room between tables, as well as various nooks of the restaurant which stretch deeper, but do not appear to be in use. Couple all that with a sushi bar and kitchen partially visible to diners, and the result is a rather weird combination of sorts.

Food/Price: Upon receiving a menu, I experienced a bit of sticker shock. The prices were astonishingly high for appetizers and main courses alike, which I had somewhat expected. The pricing of set plates of sushi, however, was much more of a surprise. In my experience, even when a la carte sushi selections are pricey, the set plates are meant to provide a small relief to the diner, offering a moderately priced and modestly portioned assortment of pieces. This was not the case at Icho as my choice of five pieces of nigiri cost 25 euros. Five euros per piece of a la carte sushi is fairly standard at very high-end establishments, but even those restaurants will have some sort of set plate, usually around 25 euros but offering more than your run-of-the-mill five piece assortment. The tuna, whitefish, shrimp, and salmon roe pieces, while above average quality, were nothing close to good value and left me feeling just as hungry as before I

began my meal. Thinking I had found a relative bargain on the menu, I ordered a roll for around 7 euros, only to find that at Icho, this item consists of three pieces. Wow. Granted, there were a couple of set menu options that offered what seemed like a relatively diverse variety of food for around 60 euros, but none of these options contained sushi and from the looks of the food on the table next to me, featured similarly comically small portions. An order of tuna tartare (around 16 euros) was tasty and well-seasoned, but at that point, the meal experience had taken a turn for the worst on me.

Bottom Line: Icho does well at combining aspects of Japanese and Mediterranean cuisine, a trend that I have noticed growing in diverse metropolitan areas. The space is, if nothing else, is interesting, and the menu offers diners of all preferences sure to find something intricate and enjoyable. The relation of this food to its price, however, is another story. There are better options for quality sushi in the city, and just about all of them will not burn as deep a hole in your wallet. Until the restaurant can reform their menu, my advice would be to stay away.

Ratings:

Food: 7.25 (taking into account the price tag).

Setting: 8

Cost: 55 euros

ON Sushi

1 Nov

Place: ON Sushi

Address: Carrer Rosselló, 154

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: Even though it is harder to research restaurants online being in Europe than in my hometown of New York, I always do some background research of places on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, which is currently trying to expand its resources outside of the United States. Last weekend, however, I chose to dine at ON Sushi based largely on its convenient and walkable location to my apartment in Barcelona, after only briefly making sure that the few reviews it did have were somewhat positive. I called in advance to make sure a table would be available, which is recommended, and walked over with cautiously optimistic expectations.

Setting: ON Sushi is located on a quiet strip of Carrer Rosselló, and its small entrance is easily missed. While its nondescript entranceway matches the ominous sort of neighborhood in which is it placed, the interior is entirely different. The main corridor contains the sushi bar, which was completely full when we arrived. As a backdrop, the bar features all sorts of differently colored lights, complete with large paintings of women’s heads behind the sushi chefs as they work. The eight or so tables are located up a small set of stairs at the back of the restaurant, completing its ultra-‘hip’ decor. 

Food/Price: The menu listed dishes fairly typical of sushi restaurants, with a modest selection of soups, salads, assorted Japanese appetizers and small dishes, and set sushi and sashimi plates. One defining feature of ON Sushi’s menu was the vast choice of special rolls it had. I chose to order two of these to split with my companion, the Spicy Tuna Maki (around 14 euros) and the Red Maki, a mix of tuna, salmon, avocado, and tobiko on the outside (around 15 euros). In addition, I ordered the 9 varieties of sushi plate for myself (around 22 euros). Simply put, the rolls were among the best (and definitely the tastiest) I have eaten in my time at Barcelona. I preface that by stating that they were not the most authentic selections of sushi – large quantities of spicy mayonnaise were used in both. The freshness of the fish mixed with the sauce combined to produce an exceedingly tasty delicacy, and the tobiko on the outside of the Red Maki roll provided a crunchy finish. The 9 varieties of sushi, while sticking to fairly standard offerings like tuna, salmon, bonito, whitefish, and not containing any particular surprises, was equally fresh and delectable. While the rolls were on the pricy side (as is often the case for ‘special rolls’ in Barcelona), the set sushi plate was priced along the lines of what I have come to expect from quality sushi joints in the city, and I definitely emerged from the meal full. 

Bottom Line: I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the fish at ON Sushi, and would use the word ‘tasty’ if I had to sum up my experience. Their roll combinations were superb, and the freshness of the fish was evident. The lighting and space in the restaurant provided a nice ambiance, and there were also a couple of specialty cocktails on the menu that looked good. I would highly recommend this place to fish lovers who savor a little more flavor in their sushi than normal.

Ratings:

Food: 8.25

Ambiance: 8.25

Cost: 40 euros

Koy Shunka

17 Oct

Place: Koy Shunka

Address: Carrer Copons, 7

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: As I briefly mentioned in my post reviewing the sushi restaurant Shunka, the owners of the establishment recently opened the chic restaurant Koy Shunka on a nearby parallel street. I had spent the past couple of months reading praising reviews, as I listened to critics from TripAdvisor all the way to The New York Times talk about its standing as one of the top Japanese restaurants in all of Europe. Finally, blessed with the apparently unbeatable and very lucky combination of my girlfriend’s 21st birthday and her mother being in town to celebrate, I got my long-awaited chance to try it out for myself. Be advised to book a table in advance, as the restaurant reaches capacity virtually every night.

Setting: Much like its sister restaurant, Koy Shunka is situated on an tiny, quiet side street near the Cathedral of Barcelona. The entrance is unassuming, with several miniature sushi sculptures surrounding the menu outside its front door. The sushi bar and tables in front allow consumers a view of the kitchen, a feature becoming more and more popular in today’s restaurant world. The seating in the main portion of the restaurant in the back, where we sat, is very quiet.

Food/Price: Knowing that I had been waiting for this meal for quite awhile (and having starved myself all day), I leapt at the chance to order one of the two set daily menus (72 euros) offered by the restaurant. The menu featured both sushi and non-sushi Japanese specialties, including eel nigiri with a shiso leaf garnish (picture bottom left), several different cuts of tuna sashimi (bottom right), a mushroom based cold soup, Wagyu beef, tempura, and an assortment of sushi. See the pictures taken below for mouthwatering details. My girlfriend ordered the sushi combination plate (21 euros), which included seven pieces of sushi and two roll pieces (bottom center). Each of my seven courses were exquisite and truly delicious. The fatty tuna cuts from the tuna sashimi plate melted in my mouth, while I used the sheet of nori seaweed to scoop up the tuna tartare also included in the dish. The Wagyu beef was soft and marinated to perfection, and the final plate, the assortment of sushi, provided somewhat of a twist, as each piece was slightly seared to give off a bit of a smoky flavor to the fish (see following picture). 

Bottom Line: Koy Shunka is pricey. Very pricey. The a la carte portions are small, and, starting at 72 euros, the set menus are not exactly a bargain. The restaurant is critically acclaimed for good reason, however. Several times during the course of my set menu (which was more than enough food, by the way), I had the feeling that I was nibbling at art rather than consuming food. The dishes were meticulously prepared, often pairing a salty flavor with a sweet one, or offering several of the same type of fish in a radically different method, yielding various flavors. Koy Shunka lived up to my expectations as a top-notch inventive restaurant that I would be lucky enough to visit once.

Ratings:

Food: 9

Ambiance: 8

Cost: Depending on a la carte/set menu one/set menu two: 45 euros/80 euros/115 euros