can kenji

I had hoped to have all the reviews from last month’s trip abroad done and dusted prior to hitting Spain this week, but alas, it was not to be. With an opportune rare evening of light eating (in preparation of our double assault on Etxebarri and Arzak tomorrow) I figured I may as well get a head start on the Spain write-ups, even if it awkwardly breaks up the San Francisco posts, in the interest of preventing my blog backlog from spiralling out of control. Far from ideal, but I promise to return to the US coverage soon.

We flew into Barcelona the day after the Royal Wedding, touching down just after noon. After grabbing our bags off the belt we immediately jumped in the car and headed straight to lunch at Japanese tapas bar Can Kenji. Fashioned upon a traditional izakaya, chef Kenji uses local ingredients in familiar Japanese dishes, with a Spanish twist thrown in here and there.

Prawn, Pork and Vegetable Wontons in a pool of rich consommé looked and tasted definitively Asian, except they were accompanied by an anchovy and garlic oil. I tasted the pungent dip separately and although I was sure it would be great with some rustic chunks of bread, I was less certain it would be a good match for the dumplings. How wrong I was. The garlicky salty paste complemented the silky parcels brilliantly, giving them a depth that alone they did not have.

Tataki of Bonito with Salmorejo (a Córdoban cold tomato and bread soup, not too dissimilar to gazpacho) was another clever fusion creation – the freshness of the meaty slabs of seared bonito accentuated by the smooth soup and crisp garnish of raw onion shavings and nutty fried garlic chips.

Steamed Razor Clams and Vegetables in Dashi was less inventive but equally accomplished – the carefully prepared sweet crunchy veg and zingy shredded ginger, a perfect foil to the briny shellfish and broth.

Sardine Tempura was feather-light and served with a sultry Aubergine, Miso and Anchovy Purée. My only complaint was that the battered fish at the bottom of the pile were a little soggy.

A tataki of Tuna came topped with grated ginger and snipped chives, and a side bowl of chunky Guacamole. Not quite as popular as the Bonito dish, but the clean zesty flavours still elicited favourable responses from all.

The winner for me was the succulent Grilled Iberico Pork Skewers; the juicy fat-laced meat cut through perfectly by the lightly pickled baby leeks piled on top.

Probably the least successful was the Grilled Porcini Risotto Onigiri that was heavy and claggy, with little mushroom aroma to them. Not everyone was agreed on this though – one diner raved about the crispy parmesan shell on the rice balls.

Sea Urchin Maki was good but not mind-blowing. I prefer the golden creamier uni to the deep orange version in these particular sushi rolls.

Another so-so offering was the Monkfish with stir-fried Shitake and Vegetables in a Ponzu sauce. Although the fish was well-executed, the vegetables were soft and over-cooked and it was all kind of pedestrian.

The Hamburger “Can Kenji” with Seared Foie Gras and a Soft Egg was a whole different story. Well-seasoned fluffy pink beef patty, runny egg, velvety liver resting on silky smooth mash and drizzled with a rich onion gravy. All those elements on one plate would seem to scream overkill, but in reality the dish was surprisingly light and insanely delicious.

That burger did ultimately defeat me though, and I opted for a pot of sencha in place of dessert. A couple at our table braved it, trying the green tea ice cream and chai custard, both of which were well-received.

Minor hiccups aside, it was a fantastic meal with some brilliantly conceived dishes. The restaurant itself is quite charming as well, and if it weren’t for the Spanish-speaking waiters (who were all Oriental) you’d feel like you were dining somewhere in Asia. If you’re looking to try something different or need a breather from jamon and paella while in Barcelona, this would be an excellent choice. I myself certainly will be back next time I’m in Barcelona.

Can Kenji
Calle Rosselló 325
Barcelona, Spain

t. 93 476 1823

~ by gourmettraveller on May 4, 2011.

10 Responses to “can kenji”

  1. They may not have all been a success but they definitely look delicious. Was it expensive?

  2. Looks amazing! I too am wondering how much the meal cost…

  3. DOUBLE HIT of Etxebarri and Arzak? Oh word. Respect. After Etxebarri I could hardly move. But then I ate double servings of the smoked butter… We’re heading back in two weeks. Can’t wait to hear how it was for you!

  4. At thirty euros each including wine I would say that is pretty good value. The food, hiccups aside looks inventive and interesting, even if not always brilliant to taste. Somewhere I will be sure to look up next time I’m in Barcelona.

  5. Wow this place looks incredible – I could eat that tuna in salmorejo right now :-) I’m off to barcelona in June and have been compiling a list of places to go – this is definitely going on there. And 30 euros pp is amazing.

  6. It is fusion but more authentic in a way compared to typical Japanese restaurant in the US. I want to eat Katsuo Tataki…Looks so good! By the way, I came here from foodbuzz. Very nice post, and I wish I can be a gourmet traveller! :-)

  7. […] first heard of Can Kenji over on gourmet traveller and immediately looked into it; to my surprise and to Blai’s also, it was situated only about […]

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