Tag Archives: fresh

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

Advertisements

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

Nakashita

4 Oct

Place: Nakashita

Address: Rec Comtal, 15

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: I decided to dine at Nakashita after reading a raving review from a fellow blogger. The restaurant had largely remained off my radar until this point, mainly because it was not on any of my ‘must try’ lists from friends from home and only had one review (albeit a good one) on TripAdvisor. I made a reservation, which is recommended, and sat down for a Tuesday night dinner.

Setting: The location of Nakashita is rather odd, as it is not in any of the neighborhoods known for a prominent restaurant scene in Barcelona. It is located right near the Arc de Triomf, and only a couple minutes walk from the Arc’s subway stop, tucked away on a small side street. The decor is, as I have noticed in all the sushi restaurants I have eaten at so far in Barcelona, rather simple. There were a couple of features, however, that attracted me to the restaurant. The inside is intimate, only containing around 6 tables inside, in addition to a sushi bar. Furthermore, there was outdoor seating available on the quiet sidewalk under umbrellas. Most of the tables were full, and the restaurant had a quaint and cozy feeling.

Food/Price: Feeling very hungry and eager to sample the extensive sushi selections, my companion and I each ordered a full plate of sushi. We started with the Nakashita Salad (6 euros, picture on left), which was an exotic and delightful mix of different types of seaweed, tofu, sprouts, and lettuce. For our entrees, we went with the Tabla Nakashita (20 euros, far platter in picture on right), which contained nine pieces of sushi and sashimi and one roll, and the Mecca of all sushi platters, the Chef’s Choice, Omakase (35 euros, close platter in picture on right). The Omakase contained a total of 21 pieces of sushi and sashimi, with a roll mixed in as well. Often known as the most inventive and varied dish of sushi, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of cuts of different fish: there were two pieces each of salmon, tuna, whitefish, and yellowtail, and multiple doubles of types of sashimi. Nevertheless, the quality made up for the relative lack of variety. A couple of the pieces had a discrete yet tastable garnish on the top of the fish, which suited the taste well. The cuts of both sushi and sashimi were generous, and the fish was very fresh. While I do not normally enjoy crab, the roll containing alternating pieces of tuna and salmon mixed with avocado and crab was equally tasty. Additional rolls that were ordered were the Spicy Maguro and Hot Philadelphia. The former was served hot and contained a mix of spicy tuna and avocado, and the latter can best be described as… fried glory. Apart from being deep fried on the outside, it contained primarily shrimp and cream cheese. Not the authentic sushi I usually crave, but a guilty and very tasty pleasure.

Bottom Line: Nakashita is one of those restaurants that one has to actively seek in order to come across, and seek I did. I highly recommend it for sushi lovers looking for a relaxed and authentic Japanese meal. The sushi chefs are also enjoyable to talk to, as they were immersed in deep conversation with those sitting at the bar.

Ratings:

Food: 8

Ambiance: 7.75

Cost: 35 euros

Shunka

21 Sep

I had several doubts about the quality of the sushi in my hometown for the next few months, Barcelona, Spain. Having grown up in New York City, I have been privileged (and spoiled) to have experienced some of the freshest (and priciest) sushi in the world. In my first few weeks here, I have been rather surprised at the high quality of some of the restaurants I have visited for sushi. Most of my visits were the result of recommendations from friends, the popular website TripAdvisor, and further research on the internet. The first place I will write about in Barcelona is Shunka.

Place: Shunka

Address: Carrer Sagristans, 5

Meal Eaten: Weekend Lunch

Background: I chose to dine at Shunka based on its number one rating for sushi restaurants in Barcelona on TripAdvisor.com. People commended the freshness of the fish and commented that the restaurant was always crowded, good indicators of the restaurant´s quality.

Setting: Shunka is located on a sidestreet behind the Cathedral, and does not grab the attention of pedestrians. The entrance is non-descript, and the inside is decorated with the traditional sushi bar and several wooden tables, located in a few different rooms. Nothing fancy about the place, but it was pretty full on an off-peak hour for lunch and the reservation book was already full for that night.

Food/Price: I wanted to try a wide variety of sushi, so my friend and I ordered two different sushi options to share: the Chef´s Choice (21 euros) and the Assortment of Sushi (19 euros). The latter option consisted of a traditional spread of sushi pieces: tuna, salmon, shrimp, whitefish, and eel with a split salmon and tuna roll. The Chef´s Choice (see picture) confirmed the reviews that I had read about the restaurant´s authenticity: there were several different types of shrimp, including a cooked shrimp head, as well as a few pieces considered to be of a high value: scallop, salmon roe, and fatty tuna. This dish is not for the sushi amateur – the taste of the fish was undoubtedly fresh and authentic, but only for the experienced palate. The various tastes melted gently in the mouth, and the ratio of fish to rice on each piece was perfect. The portions were also rather small (5 pieces of sushi and a few roll pieces). As a sidenote, the non-sushi dishes that we ordered, most notably the Udon Soup, were equally delicious.

Bottom Line:  Shunka is a must-try authentic restaurant for sushi-lovers, with a well-deserved reputation of having some of the freshest fish in Barcelona. Based on the quality and price of the fish, it will best suit those craving a small yet delectable meal, and not those hoping to come out feeling stuffed.

Additional Note: Shunka recently opened a sister restaurant, Koy Shunka, which has also received excellent reviews. This establishment focuses on a wider variety of Japanese non-sushi dishes, and the ambiance is slightly more upscale. There is a set menu available, though it is quite pricey (72 euros).

Ratings (Out of 10):

Food: 8.5

Ambiance: 7.25

Cost of Meal for One Person: 35 euros