Having living in Ibiza for a year and frequented all of the Island’s sushi joints – from the party venues (imagine deep-house beats pummelling your sashimi) to the most basic – it’s with great confidence that I declare, as I am sure most of the Island residents would agree with me, that Nagai Sushi marks the Island’s finest.
Nestled in the heart of the Ibicenco countryside, Nagai is a peaceful oasis of Japan. Featuring a lovely Japanese garden next to a rustic, the Ibicencan finca boasts a lovely minimalist design that stays true to its Ibiza roots as an authentic country-house. With real wood-lit fires inside and lots of tiny, private little rooms for secluded fine-dining, it marks the perfect luxurious retreat from Ibiza’s fervent night-life. In addition to sushi, they offer a broad fusion menu including delicious local Ibicenco meats and Asian cuisine.
Run by some of the Island’s most brilliant and inspirational long-term residents, it’s philosophy is one of ethics and peace: their water is from their local well whilst the vegetables and herbs from their Ibicenco garden. Using largely organic Japanese produce, they offer organic and biodynamic wines as well as low mineral residue water.
What is more, the restaurant supports multiple charitable causes, marking them a true inspiration and leader in Ibiza. In short: this restaurant really is an oasis of tranquility, peace and love on this beautiful Island.
But how is the food?
Well, in short, we arrived at 8pm and left at 12.30am, satiated and pleased with ourselves, hugging the fabulous staff and promising to return the following day (and the following week, and month, etc etc). We were greeted upon arrival by the lovely Daniel who offered us some bespoke cocktails (their bar is fantastic, renowned across the Island for making exciting Asian fusion style cocktails with delicious sake’s and unique beverages) or some local Spanish cava. We went for the cava, which was perfectly delicious and dry with an appley-twang to begin the salivating process. Their outdoor bar was warm enough to sit outside in April as we enjoyed the peaceful Ibicenco evening breeze, whilst Daniel offered us edamame beans to keep us going.
Soon we met Laura, our waitress, who greeted us with an irresistible energy and enthusiasm before taking us to our private little corner in the Ibicenco finca, by a roaring wood fire. Cosy. We had the choice of either making our own way through their (very extensive, yet simple and authentic) menu – or letting the head chef take us through their signature dishes. Given my guest and I were sushi-addicts and would easily have ordered everything, we felt it best to let the Chef decide what we should try. An excellent decision.
For the starters, we had one of my favourite dishes – and arguably a difficult one to get right – the hiyashiki wakame salad (seaweed salad). It was divine. I mean . . . absolutely divine. We were tempted to just order more of that and spend our evening eating seaweed, but felt this may be a bit excessive given the evening ahead of us. Sprinkled with crispy sesame seeds and infused with a delicious secret dressing, it was truly luscious.
Laura then brought us their salmon and avocado tartar with orange peel, which was an unexpected sensation. I’ve had plenty of salmon and avocado tartars in my life – but never with orange peel, which rendered it with an acidity and bite that zestily cut through the creaminess of the salmon and avocado. The presentation was of course, in typical Nagai style, immaculate: sprinkled with edible flowers on pristine black minimalist plates, the dish really was a feast for the eyes. Note also, the portion sizes: this is no playing small Japanese fine dining. This is a feast enough for two, but not enough to exceed the appetite. Again . . . perfection.
To complement our starters, Laura offered us a range of biodynamic wines, of which we chose the rose Tremendus – a Spanish Rioja. My guest had a latent fear of overly fruity and simplistic rose wines – we all know the type – but this was just what we wanted to match the salmon. Crisp and dry, almost Provence style in its finesse, ensuring it had the necessary acidity to further cut through the rich starters, but it had a sumptuous fruitiness, redolent of strawberries, that stood up to, and enhanced, the dish itself.
Before we could hound Laura for more starters, she brought us their mixed tempura – broccoli, carrot, courgette and prawns – to enjoy with more rose wine. Tempura is always a tough one to get right I find – only the night before I’d had tempura at another sushi venue to find it cloy and sticky, the batter clinging uncomfortably to the serving napkin. This, however, was crispy and crunchy – the batter thin enough to retain its bite but sufficiently covering the vegetables and prawns. Very, very moreish.
After a little rest and ogling of the sake menu, Laura leapt in with her magnetic enthusiasm and energy to inform us that the sushi was ready. We decided to go for the Kikusakari that she recommended, which was brilliant – again, dry, crisp, acidic and hot – perfect for sushi and incredibly addictive. We ended up having two rounds of this rather than trying any other sake it was so good.
For the sushi, we were spoilt with a stunningly presented Dragon Roll, some nigiri, crispy/spicy tempura rolls, sumptuous sashimi – and the grand finale of – toro tuna and salmon sushi ‘flowers’. Though we weren’t sure we could finish it all, as the portions really are deliciously sufficient, we devoured it all and found ourselves asking for more: it really was that excellent. The sushi was clearly fresh and local, whilst the flavours had the right balance of exoticism and authenticity.
Afterwards, my guest insisted on dessert, though I’m not a huge dessert fan myself (I would have preferred more sushi!), Laura brought us out their signature – and my guest’s favourite – dark semifreddo. This was – words can’t describe – absolutely divine. Dark chocolate icecream, most likely a good 80% or so coco solids – rich, luxurious, creamy mounds – with two gigantic (and I mean, gigantic) slabs of pure cream semifreddo laced with cinnamon and chocolate drops. It was like a taste of Christmas in a summer, ice-cream guise. Despite being stuffed at this stage, the dessert was gone within minutes.
To top it off, Laura brought us some ice cold plum sake, presented immaculately with balls of ice in clear crystal glasses to finish the evening. After 3 of these (woops) we were ready to go home, just as the restaurant was closing.
Nagai Sushi really are the finest: from their authentic, local and sustainably produced ingredients, to their artistic innovation and presentation, to their menu’s well-articulated balance between Japanese authenticity and creativity. The staff’s intimacy and familial attitude made us feel like we were at home, whilst the restaurant’s fire-lit and cosy ambience made us never want to leave.
Catering to fine-dining, romantic meals, family gatherings and large events, I cannot recommend Nagai Sushi more. I look forward to returning when I am next on the Island – because really, why would I go elsewhere?
Santa Eulària des Riu
Balearic Islands, Spain