See videos of my experience at Carlota Akaneya and more...
Mon – Fri; 7pm-11pm
Sat – Sun; 1:30pm-5:30pm, 7pm-11pm
Must try dish: A5 Kobe wagyu beef
Europe’s first Japanese sumibiyaki char-grill restaurant, and one of only four restaurants in Spain certified to sell Kobe wagyu beef, including the highest grade possible, ‘A5’!
Any true fan of steak will know that the highest quality meat in the world is the A5 Kobe wagyu beef. So, when I heard that a Japanese restaurant in the Raval area of Barcelona was serving exactly that, I had to make a reservation. I promptly booked a table for four, one of those four having lived in Japan for several years.
Carlota Akaneya is the brainchild of two friends from Barcelona, inspired by their travels around Kyoto, with the idea of creating the first Japanese char-grill restaurant in Europe.
The first restaurant in Barcelona to offer Kobe Beef
The concept of the restaurant is to recreate a Japanese sumibiyaki, hence part of the fun is cooking the food yourself on the BBQ tables in front of you. However, a couple of items from the menus don’t need to be grilled, like the chicken katsu or the pork gyozas for example, but pretty much everything else is done by you. With some expert guidance, of course.
There’s a choice of two tasting menus, the more expensive using the absolute premium ingredients. Both are about a 2-3hour long experience (although we actually stayed closer to 4 hours since we were really immersed in the culinary trip).
It’s not just the fact that they serve the best steak in the world that makes this such an enjoyable experience. For example, the duck soup was to die for. And the broth that you mix with the rice was so full of flavour we kept ordering more rice (which is free) until there was not a drop of broth left.
There aren’t many seafood options available, unlike at most Japanese restaurants in Barcelona, which heavily focus on sushi. This is primarily a place for meat eaters.
Each dish seems to be an improvement on the last, getting better every time, as if everything is leading up to the moment we get to try the pinnacle, the A5 Kobe beef. Our waiter first showed us a 3kg piece of the meat with the official blue stamp. If it hasn’t got the stamp, it’s not the real deal.
“the most melt-in-your-mouth delicious meat”
Then it’s time to cook and try our 100g worth. And wow, it really was the most melt-in-your-mouth delicious meat I’ve ever tried. I’ve done some travelling around Japan myself and it was a regret of mine that I hadn’t had the A5 while doing it, so it’s a relief to know that a 14-hour flight is not required to sample such an exquisite meat at one of only four restaurants in Spain certified to sell it.
On a sweeter note, creative and beautifully presented desserts arrived at the end of the meal, with as much care and attention going into them as everything else that had arrived beforehand.
What I loved about this restaurant was not only the desire for perfection in every item of food brought out, or the premium ingredients, but the little details as well. The red lantern at the front door for example, or the woman in full traditional dress who greets you at the door by shouting a welcoming phrase in Japanese, and then all the staff shout the same greeting back in unison.
Reasons to visit:
A trip to Carlota Akaneya is a truly unique experience. With the low lighting, simplistic decoration and soft background music that really did bring back memories for me of entering a traditional izakaya or sumibiyaki restaurant in Japan. Add to that the quality of the ingredients and the atmosphere, you definitely get what you pay for.
And my friend who’d lived in Japan? She said that it was the most authentic Japanese experience she’d had outside of Japan.