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Food review: Nagai Ibiza, Santa Eulalia

Japanese food heaven.

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Why go? It's the best Japanese restaurant in Europe - with awards

What kind of food is it? Japanese and Japanese Fusion

What diets does it cater for? It caters for allergies and all food is organic where possible and there are some plant-based items

Ibiza Spotlight tip. Try a platter of sashimi or sushi to stun the senses


The venue

If you have ever passed Nagai Ibiza, it's highly likely to have turned your head on passing it. Huge, visually captivating murals of Japanese geishas on the outside walls strike you immediately. If you needed a clue about what kind of food this eatery offers, it is Japanese and Japanese fusion with touches of the Mediterranean, Italy in particular and also Thailand.

Entering the restaurant is a surprise: you simply are not expecting to see a thing of such beauty. Nagai supports its community, it's pro-eco, doing lots to stop single-use plastic with its suppliers, it uses local and organic food, it has its own garden, organic and biodynamic wines are served. Importantly it embraces all cultures and seeks to contribute. In short, it is the very essence of modern Ibiza.

Nagai's approach to cuisine mirrors that of all the owners Eleonora, head chef and co-owner Reina and Melchior. Eleonora and Reina have been working together since Reina joined Eleanor's first restaurant venture in Thailand. Two further restaurants in Rome followed until the eventual opening of Nagai, Reina's last name by the way.

In this incarnation, it was decided to create a kind of Japanese oasis on Ibiza, one that would bring the approach of taste, texture, temperature, shape and form that Reina brought from Japan as well as the food influences garnered on her world travels. Combining this with Eleonora's vision energy and endless supply of creativity in the restaurant world, the bright and open personality Melchior and you have the jewel that is Nagai.

The ambience

This restaurant really is a hidden treasure, that puts you at ease as soon as you walk in. It's feels so incredibly relaxed, you know that this is going to be one enchanted evening. From the beautiful abstract mosaic of a tiled floor, to the lanterns, to the olive tree off centre to the beautiful simplicity of the tables and chairs, this is a restaurant that feels like a design classic.

As dusk falls, the lights get soft, never bright and the open nature of this mainly al fresco restaurant becomes the refuge of romantics. Music, of which there is an act daily, is soft and acoustic, never rising above the level of conversation. We loved how even the bar blends itself well into the restaurant floor, everything seems to mix perfectly well together with nothing seeming intrusive and that includes the discretion of the waiting staff. All is in perfect harmony.

The food

Off hunting oysters and the oyster bar

With an oyster bar just before you enter the restaurant, it would be rude not to have some of this aphrodisiacal molluscs and so we did. Three different types are on offer with a suggestion to drink them with Champagne, or a minerally white wine, essentially anything that will complement the oysters. They were indeed a delicious way to get a meal started. Many come just for this experience, so take note when you are passing.

Excellence on a plate: the mixed sushi

Moving to our first plates, one sees why this restaurant has won awards for its food, one for being the best European Japanese restaurant, and another acclaim as the best Japanese fusion restaurant in Europe. Not only was the red mullet with walnut and lemon rice a sparkling aperçu of things to come, its presentation was pure artistry. Crisp skin, beautifully cooked and topped with its bones fried. The rice was exquisite too.

A perfect rectangle of prawn carpaccio

Next a platter of sushi came and was perhaps the prettiest one I've ever seen, with everything from salmon to sea bream to sea bass. Not only were these parcels delicious, glistening with dewy freshness and magnificent to behold; importantly, the mix of delicate flavours mixed with punchiness, shocked the senses. The vegetable centrepiece was so pretty, it almost belonged in a display case. A prawn carpaccio followed and we mused on the time it might take to get these shellfish so flat: a lot of work had clearly gone into making this plate ready, coming as the prawns did in a perfect rectangle. Its delicious spicy pesto was out of this world. The whole plate was actually.

Negithoro studded with fish eggs

Next, a Negithoro roll and wait until you have tried Nagai's version. Tuna and Hamachi yellowtail fish, surrounded by rice and studded with fish eggs. Another centrepiece that looked almost too beautiful to eat. Eat we did and how spectacular the taste was. Our fish selection had been Nagai at its finest, and chosen for us by the chef. How glad we were to have been in her hands.

Chicken tonight: the karaage

Of course, not only fish is on Nagai's creative menu: there is meat, so you can have a good mix of items. We were offered some crispy chicken “Karaage”, yummy nuggets of chicken pieces served atop thin sticks of bamboo. Strips of Wagyu “Tataki” beef, our final dish was served with a delicious black sesame sauce, painted in a stripe over the centre of its serving plate. Seared on the outside, cut into strips showing off a ruby red centre, this was the apogee of beef.

Ruby red Wagyu beef

Whilst meat lovers need not miss out, clearly this restaurant's menu's mainstay is fish and with that foodstuff being so important in Japan, you simply have to try it here. It will amaze, surprise and delight you.

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