Normally, I loathe places that feel the need to include the name of their main activity in the title of their shop. It suggests a lack of imagination which may possibly contaminate the food. Would you go to one of those places that are simply called Café? Didn’t think so, it’s like naming your female child “girl”.
The shop front of Tempura – ya doesn’t do much to inspire me either.
But friends, they do the best value lunch menu I have encountered thus far in Barcelona.
€10 for the Tempura menu and €12 for the Udon menu*. Accompanying these dishes are 3 maki each, a salad, a miso soup and the choice between dessert or coffee.
The glass window framing the tempura frying station is best part of this traditional restaurant’s design. Two large copper pots of oil bubble away furiously and the guy at the station seems to trawl his fingers through the oil as he drags the battered shrimp back and forth in the oil before finally letting go. Just, you know – tra la la. Incredibly, his fingers seem to stay on afterwards, so that is a trick I am hoping I might learn, along with swallowing flaming swords.
The two shrimp tempura are spot on. The salad has a delicious pool of ginger dressing at the bottom. There is some dreamy rice which comes in a lacquered box (henceforth, I decree that all Japanese rice in Barcelona should come in a lacquered box).
The udon dish is generous with a large colony of Katsuobushi flakes undulating to some music that is only audible to them. The the noodles are chewy and salty (we are after all eating Japanese food, which is inherently salty, in Catalonia where they like their salt to the point that they allow it in their fizzy water – I mean you Vichy Catalan). So salty in fact, that I comment to my friend that in the perfect world (which exists in my head) I would cook another portion of udon noodles, mix it into this one and then the seasoning would be just right.
The service is odd. Not rude, exactly but off. Whenever we ask for something the answer seems to be “sure, when I finish what I’m doing”. (It gives me a glimpse of what my kids must feel like when they are pulling on my trouser leg to get my attention.)
Even accounting for that, the obvious name and the uninspired interior – the lunch menu is fantastic. Go there. Now.
Oh but reserve first because it seems that a lot of people are aware of the value.
*I’ve misplaced the receipts so I may be off by €1-€2.
See this and find more addresses on my Foodie in Barcelona Map
Tempura – Ya
Carrer de Muntaner, 153