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May 20, 2008 02:59 AM

Decent sushi in Barcelona

Does it even exist? After a long love affair with the city, I've moved from the Bay Area -- a sushi paradise -- to Barcelona. It seems like a sushi desert. I've seen some restaurants, but they don't look promising...the only one that looked half decent was hawking a tekka roll for 18 euros!!!!!! Please help.

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  1. While you won't find much that is comparable to Bay Area standards, Shunka is quite good, and so is Yamadori.

    11 Replies
    1. re: SillyDisciple

      I've heard good things about Yamadori but I have never tried. I'm putting it on my list. Do you know if they serve local fish? Many of the sushi places seem to serve only the usual standards (salmon, tuna, yellowtail) which is a shame because Barcelona has such great a great variety of locally caught seafood!

      1. re: mielimato

        Thanks for the recommendations! I similarly don't get why a city with such exquisite seafood doesn't have more sushi restaurants and more variety. Guess it hasn't caught on here like it has in the States.

        1. re: mielimato

          Yes, Yamadori has a decent selection of fish, not just the usual suspects.

        2. re: SillyDisciple

          I read a bad review about Shunka which links to this place:

          Very non user friendly website...anybody been there?

          1. re: shiromaguro

            I've been to the one on Verdi street a couple years ago. The place is cute but I would not go for the food. More style than substance. They had small plates of noodles and various vegetable dishes that we decent. The sushi, I found to be rather over priced and not memorable, especially if you are used to West Coast sushi. It is very popular with the 20-something crowd, however.

            If you want really excellent sushi, I'd go to the fish market, stock up on good locally caught fish and make it at home. That's what I have resorted to doing. The Mediterranean tuna here is amazing and pretty cheap if you consider that it was probably caught and killed only hours ago. We bought tuna collar for about 4euros for a half kilo at the Boqueria! Tuna steak is more expensive but still very reasonable (they don’t charge you more for tuna belly!). Mackeral is excellent and cheap to make shimesaba. There is bonito and sea bream. My fishmonger lady in the Garcia market basically gives me monkfish liver for free! The fishmonger will fillet anything for you so you can save yourself that extra step.

            There is a Chinese supermarket on Balmes (called Dong Fang, I think) where you can stock up on all sorts of Asian products including seaweed and rice from Japan. I would avoid the Chinese market near Arc de Triumph (poorly run, sketchy place with lots of food items of questionably quality shipped in from mainland China; I bought a bag of rice noodles that looked like it had been opened and taped shut).

            So yes, the sushi scene in Barcelona sucks. But you have options!

            1. re: mielimato

              Yes I agree, the sushi scene in Barca sucks. Shunka is a nice enough atmosphere and not bad cooked food but the sushi is poor. Chinese owned and run. There's a place with two branches both in Gracia, I forget the name, I went to the one on Calle Verdi, not bad sushi rolls but again meh nigiri. There's also a modern Japanese place in Les Corts called Icho, I did some kind of tasting menu IIRC and the sushi there was better than the other 2 places but still not great.

              I agree that DIY sushi is the way forward, in addition to the items that mielimato mentions, you can get excellent fatty tuna (o-toro) for very good prices in La Boqueria and other markets. And you can get very good tuna tartar in the seafood tapas bars like Cal Pep.

              For an altogether different flavour of Japan, don't miss the superb wasabi ice cream from Delishop on Calle Mallorca.

              1. re: oonth

                Maybe you're mistaking the place, but Shunka is definitely not Chinese owned and run. I've met Hideki Matsuhisa, chef and owner , and he's Japanese through and through

                1. re: SillyDisciple

                  In which case I've been misinformed and I stand corrected. I really wanted to like the food at Shunka as there are lots of aspects about the place I like but it just didn't do it for me.

              2. re: mielimato

                I'm a little afraid to make my own sushi with raw fish from the market...afraid I'm going to poison myself or something! Honestly I know not what the difference is between the raw fish found at a market and the one found at a sushi bar in terms of quality/safety.

                Thanks for the tip on the Chinese supermarket. If I get up the guts I'll try it.

                1. re: shiromaguro

                  I know what you mean. I am not an expert myself and have reservations as well. I believe to do it properly, raw fish first needs to be frozen (for three days) before eating to kill the parasites (aka Anisakis). But to be honest, the risks are low so I do it because I ain’t giving up sushi for no microscopic worm!

                  What I do at home is to sear my fish to at least kill whatever is on the outside and leave the rest very rare. I do this with tuna and bonito. For mackerel, I marinate in vinegar so it “cooks” in acid. It is not exactly traditional but it tastes the same and gives me piece of mind.

                  It also pays to get to know your local market and to differential between the different shops. For example, my local market in Gracia has several different fish shops but only one of them gets fresh Mediterranean fish on a daily basis. It comes in blue boxes directly from the auction house at about 6:30pm. Displayed on ice are the fish that were left over from the previous day. In the blue boxes are the fish that just came off the boat, probably only a couple hours old (at most)! Few sushi bars even in the West Coast can get fish as fresh as that! Anyways, find the fish shop that you like the best and try to build a relationship with him/her. Once they know you and see that you are a consistent customer, you’ll get better service; they’ll give you advice on what is good/what is not so good; they’ll probably start giving you free stuff or discounted stuff (liver, fish bones for stock, give you small discounts). I’ve found that shopping at markets in Spain can be tricky—I’ve been scammed a few times (especially at the Boqueria where they get a lot of tourists) but once they see that you are a local and a regular customer, things change.

                  Let us know if you end making sushi or sushi-like things at home. I'm always looking for new ideas!

                  1. re: shiromaguro

                    ask for Gaña in the boqueria. just fresh fish and the best tuna in town. i know about cirkus and shunka bacause of them because bouth buy their fish there. So no worries about the quality or any other thing.

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                1. There is no good sushi in Barcelona like there is on the West Coast of the US. Too few trained chefs and too small a Japanese community. One of the many indications this city is extremely overrated.

                  1. I think everyone is agreed that better sushi can be found in the Bay Area and back home in Japan, but the question was: What can be found in Barcelona? The three establishments that come to mind, because I eat in all three from time to time, are:

                    Shunka (Pl. de la Catedral) - Ferran Adrià's favourite sushi restaurant in town (OK, you can say that Ferran is no sushi expert, but he is the world's #1 ranked chef so it would be hard to deny that he has a good palate)

                    Ikibana (Passeig De Picasso) - more modern, contemporary sushi, very chic and trendy (it's where the yuppie Catalans go for their sushi fix)

                    Kaitensushi (C/ Villarroel) - very traditional conveyor-belt sushi, not particularly well done, but very good value for money as it is significantly cheaper than the other two (they also do classic Japanese and Chinese dishes as a buffet).

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Aidan Brooks

                      Went to shunka. Although from San Fran, I am not a sushi expert whatsoever. I thought shunka was pretty good. House roll was nice, sashimi quality (for me) seemed good. IMHO, it was overpriced (was there for dinner, I hear their menu del dia is a better deal) 20 euros for 5 pieces of sashimi two pieces of house roll.