According to TripAdvisor, there are 260 Japanese restaurants in Barcelona, and I’m pretty sure you could find more. Japanese food is wildly popular here, but I were to say that the food sold in the vast majority of these is pretty different from what you’d find in Japan, I’m sure no-one would disagree. Fusion can be great – see Doble Zer00 and Kibuka for restaurants which have built a successful name for themselves on their own brand of sushi fusion. But sometimes you want to try the real thing, too.
Bouzu (which seems to mean “priest” in Japanese) is about as real as you can get without taking a trip to Osaka. Right opposite the new Sant Antoni market (Ronda de Sant Antoni, 26), it’s one of those venues that doesn’t look like much from the outside. This area in general falls just outside the radius that encompasses the main tourist traps, making this a convenient place to get to from Barcelona centre, but better value.
The inside is also understated, featuring a minimalist décor with red and black accents throughout that give the place a cosy, oriental feel. It’s not huge – so make sure you book if you come on peak times – but not tiny, either: there’s space to breathe.
Bouzu: authentic Japanese “tapas”
The really interesting thing about Bouzu, however, is not the façade or the decoration but the food, which sells itself as “Japanese tapas”. This is much more adventurous than the typical sushi we’re used to in Barcelona, although you will see some makis on the menu. The best way to make the most of the menu is to order a selection of small dishes to share, in order to try the greatest variety.
We ordered rice wrapped in fried tofu, noodles with pork, gyozas, vegetable tempura and a Japanese “pizza” with pork. I’m told that rice in tofu (aka “Inarizushi”) is actually really common in Japan – one of the commonest types of sushi, in fact. It isn’t as well adapted to Western tastes as California rolls, for example, so you don’t tend to see much of it over here. I had expected it to be a little bland, but was actually really wrong – especially when combined with the delicious sauce it was accompanied with.
Noodles, gyozas and tempura were as you’d find in most Japanese restaurants in Barcelona (with the exception, perhaps, of the piquant gyoza sauce, which I hadn’t seen before. But the Japanese “pizza”, or “Okonomiyaki”) was something I’d never seen before. This pancake-like delicacy is made with flour, eggs, shredded cabbage and sauce on top. Despite sometimes being referred to as an equivalent of pizza, it actually has very little in common apart from being flat and round. We ordered the pork version. The really curious thing about this dish was that it came with fish flakes on top, which “breathed” up and down as the dish swelled and contracted with heat. Sounds a bit gross, maybe, but it was surprisingly tasty – I can see why this is seen as comfort food in Japan. It’s certainly something you won’t find in many other restaurants in Barcelona.
Bouzu also sells a selection of Japanese beers, local wine, and some unusual types of tea you might not have come across – we tried toasted barley tea, which tasted a bit like breakfast cereal.
In terms of price, all this (plus a glass of wine and a beer) came to 40€ between two people, and we left feeling very full (it was actually quite difficult to finish). So it might not be the cheapest restaurant in Barcelona, but when you think that the “All you can eat”-style Japanese buffets charge around 14€ plus drinks (which are often expensive), the difference in price isn’t necessarily that different, and the quality is clearly far better in Bouzu. Overall, the food here isn’t necessarily fine cuisine, but more a very decent version of what I imagine everyday Japanese food is like. I imagine there’s certain things they’ve had to import, so I think the price is definitely justified, although you might not come here if you’re after something cheap.
I seem to be having good luck in the restaurants I visit recently: the waiting staff were absolutely charming.
Overall, it’s really refreshing to see restaurants like Bouzu, which genuinely embrace a different style of cuisine, having so much success in Barcelona. It’s a great choice for Japanophiles, or even just if you fancy expanding your horizons and trying something a little different. It might not be the cheapest restaurant in Barcelona, but it’s not the most expensive either, and as such it gets a strong recommendation from me, and a must if you’re interested in exploring this type of cuisine or culture further.
Bouzu is open from 1.30pm – 4pm and 8.30 – 11.30pm and (Fri. and Sat.) 1.30pm – 4pm and 8.00 – 12.00pm. Call 934 43 32 26 to book.
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