In the Catalan capital you’ll find decades-old izakaya side-by-side with brave new fusion eateries, where the best traditional Japanese recipes meet the locally sourced ingredients that give the Mediterranean its very essence.
Called home by a budding Japanese population, cosmopolitan Barcelona has become a hotspot for Nippon-inspired cuisine. These ten highlights combine the best of cosy backstreet izakaya (small, local taverns serving food and alcohol), Tokyo-style fine dining choices, and innovative eateries serving modern nikkei fusions.
Sato I Tanaka
Sato I Tanaka opened its doors in 2017, offering only 15 diners at a time the chance to experience the art form that is sushi. Watch as the itamae (sushi chefs) Aki Tanaka and Ryuta Sato raise their perfectly sharpened knives to effortlessly slice through glistening slabs of raw fish on sleek marble chopping boards. Here the speciality is nigiri: choose from various cuts of tuna (including the prized toro cut), bonito, mackerel, squid, white prawn, eel, turbot and more, served on neatly arranged beds of rice. An intimate experience with impeccable service and various options to suit a range of budgets. Reservations should be made around two months in advance.
Carrer del Bruc, 79
This quaint noodle joint in Eixample is considered by many to serve the best ramen in town. You’ll spot it by the queues that form at its door around half an hour before opening time. The mouth-watering stock is gently simmered overnight for fifteen hours and is the staple ingredient of their speciality dish. The miso ramen is the most popular choice on the menu, yet interesting variations include hiyashi-chuka ramen with vegetarian and vegan options and tsukemen ramen served with cold stock on the side and a squeeze of refreshing lime. For dessert, the matcha coulant is simply delicious.
Carrer de Girona, 164
The quaint Can Kenji is one of the cosiest Japanese restaurants in Barcelona. And with room for only a dozen diners, the atmosphere is intimate and welcoming. Its small menu combines the best of Spanish and Catalan cuisine with home-cooked Japanese dishes. Think fresh tuna tataki topped with the Cordoba speciality that is salmorejo, or grilled monkfish served alongside sautéed shitake mushrooms and seasonal vegetables, drizzled with a citrusy ponzu sauce. To finish, the green tea tiramisu with Baileys is a firm favourite.
Carrer del Rosselló, 325
Una Mica de Japó
Mica (or Mika) is both the name of the owner of this charming family-run diner in Barcelona’s Eixample district and the Catalan word for “a little piece”. Serving Japanese food with the vibe of an authentic, backstreet Tokyo joint, here you’ll find set lunch menus – with meat, fish and, sometimes, vegetarian options – served in lacquered bento boxes alongside pickled vegetables and rice sprinkled with black sesame seeds. Homemade tapas whipped up by the chef in the open kitchen include the popular yakitori skewers and freshly fried gyoza dumplings. An authentic slice of Japan in the heart of the city.
Calle Aragón, 104
Yoi Yoi Gion
The centrally located Yoi Yoi Gion is a hip, open space with street-food vibes, often hosting Japanese flea markets to complement their small selection of second-hand books and vinyls. Here Japanese comfort food takes centre stage. Think rich katsu curry, deliciously crispy takoyaki (balls of octopus-filled batter) and the house speciality, udon noodles: here it’s served in deep ceramic bowls almost overflowing with stock and finished with the toppings of your choice. There’s also Asahi beer on tap.
Avinguda Diagonal, 383
According to chef Atsushi Takata, Uribou isn’t a Japanese restaurant; rather it’s simply a place to enjoy good food accompanied, of course, by good wine (or good sake). Born in Hiroshima, he has called Spain home for over two decades, and his Mediterranean influences seep into every dish he prepares. There’s a set taster menu that changes every few weeks to offer diners the best seasonal, locally sourced products. Past highlights include fresh eel sourced from the nearby Delta del Ebro, squid sashimi served in its own ink, roasted sardine on a bed of ginger and shiso rice, and chicken sous vide in a rich sesame sauce. Diners are greeted by name by front-of-house Kana-san and every dish is presented and explained by Takata-san himself.
Carrer de Regàs, 35
One of the newer additions to the Japanese scene in Barcelona, Daijiro Soba prides itself on being the only restaurant in Spain serving hand-pulled buckwheat soba noodles. The space is minimally decorated with blank walls and straight lines, and in the kitchen there’s a special focus on ingredients from Spanish producers, with the naturally gluten-free grain for their star dish sourced from the northern city of Valladolid. The set lunch menu changes regularly, but promises specials such as kinoko soba with seasonal wild mushrooms and atatakai tempura soba served warm and topped with lightly battered prawns. There’s also a very reasonably priced five-course taster menu including both hot and cold noodle options.
Carrer de Francisco Giner, 6
Tucked away down a backstreet of the coastal town of Badalona, just across the river from Barcelona city, you’ll find Fujitaka Teppan. Here the speciality is okonomiyaki. Although it’s often translated on menus as Japanese omelette or pizza, it’s really neither. The dish rose to fame in Hiroshima after WWII and the resulting food shortages as an inexpensive, hearty meal. Here, as is customary, the thick egg and flour batter is combined with a selection of shredded cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, pork, prawns, and soba noodles, and then grilled on a flat teppan barbecue. Don’t be fooled by the restaurant’s rather ordinary exterior: inside the colourful wall art by local artist Yoshihito Suzuki sets the scene perfectly.
Carrer de Santa Teresa, 25, Badalona
A slightly more budget-friendly alternative to its Michelin-starred sister restaurant Koy Shunka, Majide is an extension of chef’s Hideki Matsuhisa’s izakaya vision, just off Barcelona’s bustling Las Ramblas. Like its counterparts, here you’ll find top-notch seafood with a nod towards the Mediterranean. It almost goes without saying, but grab a seat at the bar so you can take in the sights and smells from the open kitchen. For the full experience, the taster menu is excellent value, in both quality and quantity, and includes dishes such as the melt-in-the-mouth maguro tuna and some of the best oysters in the city. Choose from a wide selection of green teas or a pricey Japanese whiskey to wash it all down.
Carrer de Tallers, 48
Tasca Japonesa Wakasa
Dubbed “the best Japanese restaurant in Barcelona by far,” the quaint Wakasa lives up to this title in every way. A modest eatery and a far cry from the popular fusion restaurants popping up in Barcelona left, right and centre, here you’re guaranteed authentic cuisine in a space steeped in the spirit of Nippon. On the corkboard menu expect to find market-bought fish lightly grilled with a blowtorch and served on a bed of white rice. For the more adventurous, there’s renkon – lotus root stir fried in homemade soy sauce and sugar – and fresh sea urchin tartar. With only Taka-san in the kitchen and his wife Natsu-san working front of house, service can be a little slow, but with room for less than a dozen diners, you can expect intimate, detail-oriented service.
Carrer de Nàpols, 287