There used to be a restaurant called Nanit off the Passeig de Gracia on Balmes. It was a loud semi-basement space with a woman who made dumplings in the window facing the street. It wasn’t cheap but it was Chinese food just off the Passeig de Gracia with excellent dumplings. It closed suddenly with no forwarding address.
More than a year passed before it re-opened under the name Chi-Nanit Chinese, on one of those quiet streets in Gràcia. The space could not be more different. If it weren’t for the tables demarcating the space as a restaurant – it could be a minimalist aesthetic salon. Where they suck stuff out or freeze your face into an expression of fixed serenity.
There is a long bar as you walk in, with a wall filled with all manner of teapots. This turns out to be relevant later. We order the Jasmine tea which is served with little handless tea cups, slightly bigger than a thimble. We ask for water until the tea itself is no more than coloured hot water. And then for a fresh pot. It’s good enough that Marwa asks where she can buy it.
“It’s probably from China. She brings everything from China. All the plates, she brought.” Sarah who has eaten here on numerous occasions tells us
The waiter inquiries for us and sure enough, it can not be found in Barcelona.
Ju Mai makes the dumplings to order. The rest of the dishes are made by Quim.
We have a lot of dumplings. Shrimp shaomai (5.75€), vegetable shaomai (4.75€) and Xiaolongbao. There is a dish of noodles with a meat sauce and potatoes (I love a bit of starch on starch) that tastes like a Chinese beef bolognese with a generous dash of vinegar (Campesina 7.25€). We have the Chi Nanit fried rice (9.95€). I insist on the dish of tofu and am glad I insisted. Instead of the usual soy, it’s the vinegar that seems to accent most of the dishes, particularly the tofu.
The food has a homemade taste about it. Not that I’ve ever had a Chinese person invite me over for dinner. But I imagine that this is what it would taste like.
Chi Nanit Chinese
C/ de Martinez de la Rosa, 42