A food trip with our dear friends Babsi&Jan – sounds great and so it was 🙂 When they first told me to visit a Japanese/Peruvian restaurant in Barcelona I didn’t feel any need to go there. Sounds like a weird idea, but finally we all ended up in Pakta. Thanks god!
Pakta is a project by Ferran Adriá, mastermind of El Bulli. The story behind it’s cuisine is fascinating: Peru was the first country in Latin America to accept Japanese immigration. Immigrants brought also their cooking with them, but had to improvise when it came down to ingredients. The result was Nikkei kitchen – a blend of Peruvian and Japanese kitchen and food culture.
Pakta is a very plain restaurant, very minimalistic inside and outside. As often in Spain – even though you are in a high-end restaurant, it feels very modest and „normal“, a nice place for eating and chatting with friends. We were welcomed and brought to our places.
The offer two different menues, we went for the big one (logically called the „Machu-Picchu Menu“). The waitress told us the drill: The menue is a series of many, many small dishes, served in a certain rhythm. If you want to pause (e.g. for toilet) you should tell the personnel a bit in advance. Sounds weird, but worked quite well in fact. They have a wide variety of drinks, also some really nice sake-based cocktails and of course also special sake-pairings. Since none of us really loves sake from the bottom of his heart, we sticked to the excellent cocktails, which were a great pairing for the food.
We started the menu with a „Honzen Ryori“, a traditional way of serving Japanese food on a specially arranged platter.
The Honzen Ryori came with an amazing roll of toro (tuna belly) filled with spicy cream. Simple perfection here, the best tuna I’ve ever tasted. Then there was a very fresh razor clam with tamarind sauce and nori: extremely clean taste, with a nice balance of sweet and umami notes. The avocado tofu with yuzu and wasabi and some fish roe on top was beautiful, like a light, vegetal yogurt. The corn tuile was just ok (well….corn) but the cherry with kimchi was amazing. The chilled cherry exploded in your mouth and intensified the fruity and hot kimchi. Just great.
Up next we were served white asparagus with a special sauce. The dish reminded me a lot of the traditional asparagus with sauce hollandaise 🙂
A real star, since you hardly find so small Gillardeau oysters outside of France. Those were 4/5 – so really just one small bit. But just amazing, very concentrated and tender, extremely fresh with their characteristic nutty aftertaste. The iced apple was just too cold for me but added in combination with the wasabi a nice freshness to the relatively fat oysters.
Looks like fritters….and were fritters. Made of the palm tree they had a very nice texture (kind of like those peanut-snips). After all one my least favorite servings.
There we go. The nikkei cuisine has a very special and characteristic sauces: This dish came with „leche de tigre“. Raw sea bass, squid, razor clams and percebes/goose barnacles were served with this finger-licking good sauce. The fish was of AMAZING quality, I have never tasted so fresh and clean fish ever in my life. The sauce was great: fruity, spicy and very complex. Like a orange fruit of glass exploding on your palate. Not a single drop was left on the plate!
Nigiris! Yes! Flamed salmon, tuna and sea bass – all of them as good as a nigiri can be. Perfectly tempered rice, a well balanced portion of extremely fresh and tasty fish. My favorite was the salmon, since I really like the smoky aroma of the flaming in combination with the clean taste of salmon.
I love mackerel! This one was just perfectly marinated and cooked, in a green spicy green sauce made with chili, daikon and tomato. The spicyness was well balanced by the tomato on the side. A great dish, that actually tasted like it’s colors 🙂
A Peruvian standard: Cevice. Supposedly the best Ceviche I will ever eat in my life and by the way a HUGE portion. Amazing raw seabass, perfectly marinated. Simple. And so delicious.
Under the title „causas“ (a famous style of Peruvian streetfood in various forms) we were served a squid maki causa with soy sauce and mentaiko, which was very nice: Very soft squid with nice salty and vegetal accents. The other one was a fried causa with chicken and huacatay, a fried chicken ball basically – very nice.
Outside of competition: This serving brought the idea of a sandwich to a whole new level. Seriously. Forget every fish sandwich you have ever eaten. This is the real deal. A crispy, waxy and incredibly render bun. Inside a small but extremely taste piece of fried fish. A mayonnaise that made love with your palate. And I think there was even salad. Wow. Just right.
What could come after this? Well, gyoza is a good competition. These were amazing, the dough was waxy as it should be with a rich filling of juicy, fatty suckling pig. And the sauce, usually the weakest point with gyoza….just great. Hot, fruity, yummy!
I love soba! These firm to the bite noodles are just great. The Japanese way to eat these by dipping them into soup or sauce is great. The surface of the noodles transports a lot of taste right to your taste buds. A perfect interpretation of this classic!
This warm ceviche with „rocoto“ orange color pepper was a nice variation to the cold ceviche before. The temperature alone made a significant difference in taste, though I liked the cold one better. But again, a dish with amazing product quality.
Up next was a more rustic dish, some skewers with grilled chicken and potatos. First of all the presentation was thrilling. The chicken itself was juicy, tasty, perfectly prepared and seasoned. The potato had the Peruvian sauce that came quite often during the menue. Although it appeared that much, you never got tired of it because the variation of the ground product made it always thrilling and interesting.
I know something about fish. And this one was amazing, absolutely superior quality. The mullet was covered in panku and deep fried, of course perfectly to the point so that the meat was still juicy. It came with vegetables and sauce escabeche (vinegar, sage, black pepper). The green notes of the vegetables and sauce were a very nice counterpart to the sweet and fresh meat of the fish.
Until this point I thought, that I’ve seen it all. Then came this. One bite. A tiny one. But oh my god. A slice of lukewarm duck liver, coated with black pepper sauce. It was amazing, mouthfilling, with an eternal aftertaste of spicy, ducky fattiness. Paradise.
Back to earth 🙂 Back to the start with a Honzen Ryori of deserts. There were sweet patato „picarones“ with cinnamon honey (the doughnut), then a coconut pearl and a banana bonbon with umeshu gel (in the palm leaf). And of course the black sesame and yoghurt tree. Well, I’m not a big fan of Asian deserts. I liked the banana bonbon best, with it’s intense, mellow fruit taste.
Due to it’s earthy notes, this was a nice way of bringing your taste buds down again after so many interesting and complex flavors. Very straight, very nice.
And then, just before finish, a small candy to pick you up again. Citing a sweet Peruvian drink, this candy hit your taste buds with sweet/sour fruitiness.
As a last course they served some chocolate, the white one made with sakura and beautifully painted with Peruvian folklore art. A really nice last surprise, also in terms of sitting toghether, chatting and having some bits of chocolate.
I’m so happy that we’ve been to Pakta. It was an amazing experience. The staff was very relaxed, friendly, helpful and explained a lot about the food and the ingredients (in a charming version of Spanglish). All through the menue you could taste superior product quality, without any flaw. The presentation and preparation were very sophisticated, but still easily accessible. Great, one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve ever been to. Including drinks and tip we paid 155€ per pax.