After years of nothing but sushi, a wider Japanese cuisine is finally gaining ground in Barcelona, particularly the appearance of izakaya—the Japanese pub and cornerstone of a convivial Japanese food culture. Like tapas, these come by the small plateful and tend to be washed down with copious amounts of beer. If the concept here hasn’t yet quite achieved the cult status it has in the US—sushi is so Nineties, don’t you know—it’s definitely making in-roads.
At 2pm, Bouzu is packed to the gills with folks here to get stuck into a good value lunch, though the 100-strong menu of little dishes is intriguing: nose-wateringly hot takowasa (raw octopus marinated in wasabi), gyoza senbei (crisp little fried dumplings stuffed with meat and vegetables), and karaage (Japanese-style fried chicken) as well as several versions of donburi, a bowl of rice topped with goodies like raw salmon and sesame seeds, raw tuna marinated in soy or a rich and gooey pancetta stew.
The midday menu changes often, with five to choose from, including a bowl of hot miso soup generously packed with tofu, seaweed and shredded vegetables, a tapa, a salad and a more substantial dish. We tried the summer special, hiyashi chuka, a neat pile of cold soba noodles topped with shredded omelette, refreshing mooli (a long white and mild radish) and sweet ham; kakiage udon, slippery noodle soup topped with tempura vegetables and Japanese prawns, and yaki soba buta, aromatic fried noodles with pork. All healthy and satisfying, but next time I want the wildly popular Osaka street food—okonomiyaki—a savoury stuffed pancake, described as pizza in this instance, that comes laden with buta (pork) or kaisen (seafood), shredded veg and a cosmic sounding dressing of mustard, mayo, Worcestershire sauce, soy and dashi.
In the tradition of true izakaya then, Bouzu isn’t out to get awards for its gastronomic prowess—though in Japan, they are increasingly the seat of culinary innovation—it’s about honest food, pure and simple.
Ronda Sant Antoni 26. Menu €10.50-€14.50. Tapas €3.90-€9.50. Open Mon-Sun 1pm-4pm, 8.30pm-midnight. Closed Wed.