Tag Archives: sushi

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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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

Nomo

9 Nov

Place: Nomo

Address: Gran de Gracia, 13

Meal Eaten: Dinner

Background: As I was scouring for my next sushi restaurant conquest in Barcelona, I came accross an article on the website Secrets of Barcelona touting the up-and-coming trendy Japanese restaurant Nomo. The article praised the restaurant´s stylish decor and mentioned that it has become especially popular with young people in the city. I had to investigate.

Setting: Nomo is located in a busy section of the city, right by Passeig de Gracia. The large all-glass door allows bypassers to view the (usually full) modern interior, with a sushi bar in front and around 15 colorful tables scattered throughout the large space. The menu was an indication that this place is truly hip: the menu is accompanied by a magnetic board, with small squares containing numbers that correspond to each food item. Diners place little magnets inside each the squares of the dishes they wish to order. Cool.

Food/Price: I have always surmised that people tend to order more food at restaurants where they do not order verbally with the waiter. My hypothesis was supported by a meal that saw me order edamame with white truffle oil (6 euros), sushi moriawase (23 euros), my personal favorite, and two special rolls to split with my friend. Special recognition to the restaurant for having my personal favorite, wasabi tobiko nigiri, of which I ordered one piece. The edamame was so delectable we almost ordered another, as the white truffle oil provided just the right hint of flavor to differentiate it from the mundane appetizer it has become known as. The wasabi tobiko made my eyes water from the intense spiciness – the eggs were proportioned well to the amount of rice and extremely fresh. The two rolls, spicy tuna and a salmon/papaya combination with salmon roe provided an abundance of flavor, not quite the most authentic of sushi rolls, but enjoyable nonetheless. The sushi moriawase plate, which totaled 15 pieces of sushi, contained several varieties of sushi, including eel and tuna gunkan, and impressively contained no doubles. It also included a nice variation of roll pieces, instead of one single roll. Always a good sign. We definitely overate, but the quality and variety of fish caused us to finish every bite.

Bottom Line: Nomo reminded me of ON Sushi in many respects. The decor is modern and the intricate roll combinations burst with taste. Nomo evens goes a step further, offering combinations such as brie and walnut nigiri, drizzled with honey (which we noticed after ordering, and essentially had for dessert). While not necessarily for the stick-to-the-book sushi enthusiast, Nomo offers a vast menu with several ingredients not normally associated with raw fish. A definite must-go for those craving a fun atmosphere and some creativity with their sushi.

Ratings:

Food: 8.25

Ambiance: 8.5

Cost: 40 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

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!

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