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Food Review: Nagai's pan-Asian wonders delight the Spotlight team

Oriental flavours and Ibizan flair combined to produce something magical.

Housed in a little finca on the road to San Juan, Nagai Ibiza is a peaceful haven, with a character like no other restaurant on Ibiza. Arriving for the first time can be a revelation for the inquisitive traveller who may have been lured by the enticing geisha street-art that adorns the exterior walls. 

Open for most of the year, it is in summer, the venue truly comes to life in the colourful walled courtyard. The beautiful decoration creates a relaxed and informal atmosphere beneath the stars.

So much so, you may soon find yourself interacting with people on adjacent tables, whilst enjoying the eye-catching plates of food, the musical entertainment or passing fashion catwalk from the restaurant's boutique.

A big smile is the first thing you always receive at Nagai, when greeted at the door.

The cheerfulness continues on inside, where children and pets are equally welcome in enjoying a feast for the senses. Owner Reina Nagai (whose name means queen in Spanish) really is the monarch of all she surveys at Nagai.

On this occasion, it was lovely to see her relaxed and smiling, while circulating the tables to ensure everyone was satisfied.

While you are soaking up the ambience, the cocktail waiters are working overtime to perfect a consistently high standard of tasty beverages. It is fair to say that the Espresso Martinis we enjoyed as an aperitif were possibly the best to be found anywhere in Ibiza.  

Nagai's extensive menu mixes influences from all around the Asian continent, fusing traditional Japanese, Korean and South East Asian cuisine, with occasional European flourishes. The result is a unique and varied spectacle, with something to please any adventurous palate. 

A perfect example of ethos was demonstrated by our first dish, an Ensalada Payesa (country salad) Nagai Style.

In this normally simple local staple, Ibizan red potatoes, tomatoes, red onion, sea bass and bluefin tuna combine in a unique take on a very traditional dish. The result was exceptional and worthy of earning the restaurant its Sabors d'Eivissa (flavours of Ibiza) accreditation from the island's government.

Naturally, fish, seafood and sushi feature heavily in the Nagai repertoire. Prawns especially play a starring role and one of the restaurant's most popular dishes are the legendary dragon rolls. On this occasion though, we were treated to two more interpretations of the delicious marine crustaceans. 

The impressive tempura prawns were gigantic, almost the size of langoustines. Crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside, they are a guilty pleasure that everyone could enjoy, yet equally matched by the scrumptious accompanying fried courgettes.


An entirely different option were the marinated Aka Ebi prawns. Regarded as the sweetest prawns in world, they are served with a Korean fermented condiment gochujang sauce and yuzu peel.

These succulent, juicy prawns, deal a hearty chilli kick as a pleasant surprise for the unsuspecting diner.

The award for the most delicate dish of the night definitely goes to the shiny Iburi Shimesaba.
Usually quite powerful in flavour, this marinated mackerel, served with caramelised ginger, radish and lime peel, was the epitome of raw fish delicacy. 

Many customers return time and again for the outstanding sushi at Nagai, where the chefs have always tried to push the boundaries of innovation in this Japanese art. The sushi rolls are extremely popular and always presented with panache. 

Tonight we were presented the crème de la crème - soft shell crab rolls. Not only were they a very rare and delicious treat in Ibiza, they were also stunning to behold.

Following on, a smoke-filled glass cloche was theatrically removed to reveal double salmon rolls with crunchy fennel inside and topped with the salty pop of salmon roe on the outside. 

The heartiest dish was the kamameshi rice with eringhi mushrooms, artichokes, edamame & dashi sauce. The massively meaty mushrooms formed the centrepiece of what was a true vegan feast. 

The biggest surprise of the night was saved to last.

Soon to be added to the menu, we were lucky enough to have a sneak preview of the chef's latest dessert concoction - a new semi-freddo with puffed mijo seeds (millet) that was pleasantly unsweet, with earthy, almost hay-like, cereal flavours.

Very typically Japanese in subverting one's sugary European expectations, yet no less delicious.

Nagai is a restaurant that strikes the perfect balance between comfortable familiarity and artistic creativity, offering tried-and-trusted comfort food alongside culinary innovation. The name means longevity in Japanese and it seems very appropriate in the context of this gem of a restaurant. 

The Nagai team has worked together for over ten years. As a result, it functions like a well-oiled machine.

Everyone, from Reina, to Melisssa on the door and Melchior on the floor, to the resident DJ, the guest musicians, the boutique hostess, and the cocktail waiters are all pulling in the same direction to deliver a top-quality experience

This consistency hasn't escaped the jury of the Repsol Guide, who have awarded the restaurant its prestigious Sun prize for the past two years running. We also love the experience every time we enter the world of Reina Nagai and will keep coming back each year.

We hope you will too.


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