When searching for an authentic Japanese dining experience, Mallorca may not be the first place that springs to mind. But step into Sakana restaurant in Palmanova and passion, authenticity and charm are present in every single dish. A long-standing favourite with the Celebrity team (it is a mere 50 paces from the Celebrity office), Sakana is a Japanese restaurant with a soul.
Owner, Olga, who is originally from Russia, told me during our conversation that it is quite strange to think that where she grew up is a mere one hour and fifty-minute flight from Japan, while the capital city of Moscow is over eight hours away – no wonder she ended up in Japan. Having spent many years soaking up the culture, the language and the vast and diverse cuisine of her surrogate home in Japan, Olga moved to Mallorca where she met her now late husband, Biso. Together they decided to open an affordable yet authentic Japanese restaurant that served traditional sushi that at the time was impossible to find elsewhere on the island. After finding the perfect premises next to the beach in Palmanova the next, and most important thing for Olga was finding a Japanese chef with the knowledge and experience to design a menu and cook the dishes she had enjoyed during her years in Japan. The head chef (who is rather shy in person but definitely not with his cooking) that they found has been with them from the very beginning. Ever since then, the head chef has personally trained every sous-chef and kitchen assistant and prides himself on the fact that all of them have come from esteemed sushi academies in Japan.
So, it was on a rainy afternoon in November that Matthew and I went to meet Olga’s fiance and the manager of Sakana, Sam, to experience the full dining experience at one of our favourite local establishments. Sam and Olga have been together, working hard to honour the true heart and soul of Olga and Biso´s original dream for the restaurant, while battling the recent restrictions, raising three young children, and growing their business. Sam’s extensive experience in management in London has certainly helped with the growth of the business and he invests a lot of time and money to make the business a success.
Starting off with a crisp white wine, we chat to Sam who speaks about Olga, the kids and the restaurant with equal love and passion and begins to tell us about the past, present and future of the restaurant. And then the food arrives…
To say that this is a colourful menu would be an understatement. Every dish is beautifully presented with the vibrant colours practically leaping from the plate, and all of the dishes together create something resembling an artist’s palette with the fresh ingredients acting as the paints.
First up we have a tuna tartare and another salmon tartare, both of which are surprisingly precise in their construction and complemented by the green layer of fresh avocado in the middle. Marinated in their own sauce, the flavours are delicate yet refined and allow the delightfully fresh fish itself to do the talking. Next up we are served a Midori sushi, salmon nigiri and Maguro, all unbelievably delicate in appearance but bursting with complex flavours that make you wonder how so much flavour can be packed into something so tightly packed. A personal highlight for me was next, the tobiko gunkan which is traditional sushi in the shape of a ship (gunkan) topped with flying fish roe (tobiko). Beautifully presented, the colour of this fish roe is like nothing I´ve seen before and the popping sensation when eaten was unexpected but surprisingly pleasant.
Once the cold dishes had been devoured it was time to tuck into the “meatier” dishes – Yaki Udon with beef which was fragrant, hearty and well seasoned and the prawn noodle soup with fresh Japanese vegetables. Both dishes added something different to the spread and can be made as vegetarian options (although Matthew and I are true carnivores at heart so if you are like us then beef is definitely the way forward!)
Anyone dining at Sakana will undoubtedly feel the passion, the authenticity and the ambition to constantly evolve that the owners, the staff, and the chefs exude. But it is the exquisite food that is as authentic as one can find on the island that is the true reason to make sure that this restaurant is one that you visit once and return to often.
A brand new Sakana restaurant is also opening up very soon with more space, new dishes, delicious wines and cocktails, and a new look and is only a skip and beat down the road…so watch this space! And if you can´t wait until then, scan the QR code in this review to check out the menu or place a delivery order – you won’t be disappointed!
To find Sakana, when arriving in Palmanova, head towards the sea and you will see the restaurant located on the right-hand side. For reservations call 971 681 005 or visit www.sakanacalvia.es
By Ben Mulvey