Tara Stevens reviews SOMODÓ, a Japanese restaurant that is sure to pleasantly suprise.
I don’t know how chef Shojiro does it. Not only does he make all this marvellous food, but he also manages to serve most of it personally. Does he have culinary super powers? I have no idea—he’s Japanese so it’s possible—what I do know is that this is one of the best lunch or dinner deals in Barcelona and he deserves to be so busy it should be almost impossible to get in.
For now, securing a table is fairly easy providing you book a bit in advance, and Somodó is a lovely place to spend a couple of hours, be it daytime or evening. So many places in Barcelona these days skip that cosseting, relaxed atmosphere in favour of something that looks starkly cool on the pages of a magazine. Not Somodó. Here, the old textile shop combines neat navy walls with exposed brick to create a soothing backdrop to dining tables—some square, some round—clad in thick white linens and comfortable chairs accented with the soft twinkling of a large chandelier. Service, whether by Shojiro himself or by just one waiter or waitress, is pleasant, informative and unfussy.
Just as importantly the food is great, at times sensational, offering a different menu for lunch and dinner, and one that changes frequently. He seems to have stopped doing an a la carte menu, but trust me—or rather trust Shojiro—you don’t need one. This evening kicks off with a bright little amuse bouche of lettuce gazpacho cradling a single plump mussel topped with zingy lemon foam. One clever mouthful to get those taste buds racing, a bridge if you like, signalling the end of summer and the start of autumn. Shojiro is clever like that. The next dish was a delicate, seeded cracker that served as a plate for a lozenge of sweet potato paté and four or five tiny rovellon mushrooms that must have been among the first out of the ground this year; so fresh and new they’d barely seen the side of a pan. A jaunty disc of fried sweet potato to give crunch resulted in what was really a very ‘meaty’ veggie snack. Smart.
We then journeyed from Catalunya to Japan and back again with a trio of autumnal dishes. A mound of bitter leaves scattered with shaved radishes and hazelnuts concealed a generous portion of lightly smoked, buttery mackerel chopped into tartar and accompanied by a quenelle of ajo blanco (almond and garlic) sorbet, a smear of almond cream and three or four dabs of romesco sauce, which finished this rif on the regions famed ‘xato’ salad (escarole, tuna and romesco), a treat. Japan emerged in the shape of a slab of beautifully grilled sea bream that seemed to levitate on top of a frothy miso soup (don’t ask me how he did that), and lest the flavours appear too delicate, a slick of salty miso paste on the rim of the dish to gave a deep savouriness that made the fish itself positively sing. Back in the autumn woodlands of Catalunya the pinkly tender breast and thighs of a wood pigeon perched on a lightly caramelized chunk of duck foie (liver). Up until this point we’d been drinking a bottle of German Riesling, the richness of which had worked well with each dish but with the gamey nuances of the pigeon, in future, I’d ask for a glass of a light red, before moving onto the cheese.
Tonight, a creamy goat’s from the Pyrenees packed into a pretty Japanese terracotta jar and flaked with the tiniest pinch of cinnamon proved an inspired combination that went brilliantly with a side of apple compote and toasted fruit and nut bread, and came together like a very sophisticated, do-it-yourself cheesecake. To finish, chocolate in three textures—cake, mousse and sauce—was pretty and elegant, but arguably a tad too heavy after rather a lot of food. It was followed by a layered shot of mato (Catalan fresh cheese), green tea mousse and a squirt of refreshing lime foam that left me feeling pleasantly zingy rather than defeated.
All in all, Somodó’s great appeal lays in offering staunchly seasonal food that showcases the best of Catalunya, cleverly combined with techniques and ingredients from Shojiro’s homeland Japan. He seems to delight in the journey, and that makes it all the more exciting for the diner. Especially when his prices are such that you’ll keep coming back for more.
Somodó, Calle Ros de Olano 11, Gracìa. 93 415 6548, www.somodo.es. Open Tue-Sat 1.30pm-4pm, 8.30pm-11pm. Lunch menu, three-courses €18.50. Evening tasting menu, eight-courses €25 incl. glass of cava. House wine €12.50. Best for: mid-week treat.