Tag Archives: eel

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

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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