As part of Andy’s birthday celebrations we had booked a table at Koy Shunka, a Michelin Star Japanese restaurant in Barcelona. To say we were excited was a slight understatement, as we’re both huge fans of Japanese cuisine and had had this date in the diary for quite some time.
The menus at Koy Shunka are all tasting menus, with a few different options to suit different palettes and budgets. After some careful decisions (and a lot of thought before we arrived!) we opted for the Koy menu with the wagyu beef option.
The restaurant itself is very open, with most guests sitting right at the edge of the kitchen, watching the chefs prepare and plate up the beautiful dishes. We both loved the wooden decor and the oriental feel of the restaurant; a vibe that we had from the moment we entered the restaurant.
The restaurant is run by Hideki Matsushia, a Japanese born chef who learnt the art of Japanese cuisine at his father’s restaurant in Tokyo from the age of 19. After arriving in Barcelona in 1997, he opened Shunka (which means seasonal flavour in Japanese) and then opened Koy Shukna (intense seasonal flavour) in 2008 as a more refined version of Shunka. In 2013 Koy Shunka was awarded its first Michelin star.
There’s something so artful about watching chefs at work; and it always reminds me why I love restaurants like this – the food isn’t just something to eat to nourish your body, but they’re experiences to savour, enjoy and remember. Not only that, but these chefs were so friendly and willing to explain, in word perfect English, anything that we asked them. It was the little details, like making sure that we were always served by a waitress and looked after by a chef who spoke English that made me realise how special Koy Shunka is.
Since we had started the celebrations at OneOcean Port Vell and said our birthday toasts there, we ordered a bottle of crisp white wine to enjoy with our meal.
The Koy menu starts with a series of appetisers, which included sushi rice and seaweed crackers…
Squid served in a light, citrus based sauce with pickled cucumber…
White fish bites, served with a yuzu dressing…
And the best miso soup I’ve ever had. Each appetiser was served separately, explained in detail to us and felt more like mini dishes than many traditional appetisers.
The first dish we were served was white asparagus, with a yuzu dressing and sesame. I loved watching the chef plate this up, making sure that each piece of asparagus was in the perfect place. I have to say I’d never had white asparagus before but I loved the soft yet still slightly crisp texture, especially when paired with yuzu, a flavour which I love.
It was impeccably presented with some fresh, vibrant flavours that we both loved.
Birthdays, for me, are all about true celebrations and indulging in what you might not ordinarily do. I love treating those around me and celebrating their achievements and birthdays – especially with good food! That was one of the main reasons I’d chosen Koy Shunka for Andy’s birthday meal, as against anywhere in London, and why I made sure that we ordered the menu with both lobster and wagyu beef.
The chefs brought both lobster and wagyu to those who were enjoying the Koy menu and explained that the wagyu has been flown in fresh from Japan.
Our next course was red snapper mullet, exchanged for the usual green peas course. I adore fish, especially at Japanese restaurants, for the fresh, light flavours. But this was something else. Marinaded in a heavenly sauce, there was a slightly dark flavour which complimented the light fish perfectly and made the dish one of our favourites of the evening.
As we arranged plans for our next day in Barcelona, our waiters brought us the loto and baby shrimps. Perhaps the only course I didn’t love, they were slightly less crisp than I would have preferred and not as flavourful as the other courses.
I know there are lots of people who prefer their food to be served just on a white plate, but I really enjoy dishes that are served on beautiful plates, wooden boards and so I really enjoyed how each course was served on a different serving platter.
This grilled sea cucumber with Japanese brown rice and demi-glace of wagyu beef was one such dish. It was also our first taste of the wagyu beef to come and we both loved the dark, fragrant flavours which contrasted perfectly with the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture of the beef. It was a small portion, but as it was quite richly flavoured I didn’t think I could have managed a lot more! That and there were still plenty of courses to come…
Next was the lobster tataki, a bright dish packed with meaty chunks of delicious lobster and served over ice to make sure the dish is as cool as it needs to be.
Possibly my favourite dish of the night, apart from that incredible wagyu!
Talking of unusual plates, our next course was more of a spectacle than I’ve ever had at a restaurant. I love high-quality sashimi and so was very excited to taste the offering at Koy Shunka. We watched the chef plate the dish with incredible precision, making sure that every slice of sashimi was exactly where it was meant to be… So much so that I didn’t notice the plate it was being served on…
Fresh wasabi was grated and plated…
And then we both saw it – the plate was actually a map of Japan! Soy sauce served in the north, wasabi in the south and thick, delicious sashimi in the centre. Tuna, salmon, yellow fin tuna, scallop… All of it perfect.
It was going to take a lot to top the serving of this dish!
Served on a bed of salt, we then had grilled shrimps, full of tender fish, it was a course that we both enjoyed – once Andy had managed to get into his shrimp!
After everything, I was starting to get a little full… But we still had two savoury courses to go: the wagyu and the sushi.
The sushi, served on a leaf, included eel, tuna and salmon roe.
I was a little hesitant about eel sushi as I don’t remember having it before, but I really enjoyed the depth of flavour in the fish, especially the slight glaze on the top.
I couldn’t quite capture the beauty of the salmon roe sushi bowl, served with crispy seaweed, but it was the best sushi of the dish. I think I’m slightly biased though as I love salmon roe, but it really was incredible.
Safe to say Koy Shunka had saved one of, if not the, best for last. Beautiful, melting wagyu beef, served on a simple slate dish and plated with green asparagus.
If you’ve not had wagyu before, the only way I can describe it is as the most tender, light beef you’ve ever had. And yet, it still manages to have a delicious depth of flavour, especially when served with a slightly crisp edge.
We were both in wagyu heaven, as our chef looked over and smiled and simply nodded to say he understood just what we felt.
Our first dessert was a light palette cleanser of sorbet and jelly, which was a lovely way to remove the savoury taste from our mouths before indulging in a slightly more substantial dessert.
It was the perfect place for a special birthday celebration for two foodies. If you’re in Barcelona and you’re a Japanese cuisine fan, I’d highly recommend Koy Shunka. And to be honest, for the amount of high quality food in a Michelin Star restaurant I think the prices are very reasonable.
Someone somewhere had ordered extra sushi, and I couldn’t resist a snap of how beautiful it was! Just look at that salmon roe…
Finally, we were served a chocolate brownie with white chocolate ganache. A dark chocolate brownie was the most indulgent way to end what has been one of the most fantastic meals we’ve ever had.
You know the feeling of complete satisfaction at knowing you made the best cho
Just as we were leaving, these beautiful miniature sushi plates outside the restaurant caught my eye, and I couldn’t help but notice just how sweet they are!
Happy Birthday, Andy!