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On Japanese and not-so-Japanese restaurants in Barcelona


About twenty years ago, Japanese restaurants in Barcelona were like those in any other major European city: thin on the ground and sky-high in price. I remember envying bankers, private dentists, property speculators and other objectively unlikeable professionals their access to establishments like the Yashima (still there on Avinguda Tarradellas) where they could gorge themselves on foods as mysterious as they were unobtainable.
About ten years ago, however, Japanese restaurants suddenly got so fashionable they almost became as two-a-penny as their ubiquitous Chinese counterparts. Not long after, what's more, a third wave of more modest-looking Japanese restaurants swept in, characterised by remarkably, even suspiciously low prices. Attracted by what looked like a bargain, when one opened near me I gave it a try.
The decoration was certainly Japanese, right down to a sushi conveyor belt. It wasn't until I took a closer look at the staff, however, chefs included, that I realised they were all as Chinese as Won-Ton soup, despite their kanji-covered uniforms. The owner had clearly decided to cash in on the fad for 'Japos', assuming that all us Westerners were fools who couldn't tell one slanty-eyed nation (as the Duke of Edinburgh might have put it) from another. Perhaps he had a point: to this day, enough Catalans are still being conned by these ersatz-Japanese restaurants – that serve thinly disguised Cantonese dishes together with the odd bit of raw fish - to make them going concerns.
Since then I have managed to find just one restaurant in Barcelona that is both genuinely Japanese and reasonably priced: the Hana Bishi, on Balmes 55. It has a friendly multilingual staff and great sushi and three brands of Japanese beer to choose from. And no belts attached.

- Textos i contingut: Matthew Tree - Disseny i programació: Nac -