The vibe: Concrete surfaces, steel plates, portrait art and industrial-style hanging lamps are a bit of a yawn when everyone’s onto the stripped-down, rough-hewn and hipster look. But the small space feels warm and convivial, thanks to the bustling open kitchen.
The food: As it turns out, Spanish and Japanese do make quite the couple—try it for yourself with the sake pairing menu ($180). Japanese ingredients, like momotaro tomatoes on coca bread ($5) and Kurobuta pork in Jerusalem artichoke soup ($16), are used to lift classic tapas recipes. The menu changes daily and according to what’s available in the market, but there are also signatures like the roasted suckling pig ($78 for two) and homemade foie gras and chestnut ravioli ($12) to return for.
The drinks: Sake, of course, all of which comes from breweries in the Ehime Prefecture. There are four ranges, served in wine glasses, to go along with your tapas choices—blue for seafood, red for tomato and umami dishes and yellow with ham ($15 upwards). Not big on sake? Take your pick from the selection of wines and Champagne ($11 upwards).
Why you’ll be back: The heart that goes into the menus, both food and drink, are obvious and each holds its own. While the tapas-sake concept is still relatively untrodden, the gastrobar has been buzzing since it opened—proof that it must be doing something right.
Tras Street is home to a strip of very well respected restaurants, but none are as busy as this casual Spanish-Japanese eatery by Chef Pepe Moncayo. We were skeptical a year ago of yet another place doing fusion tapas but the interesting, value-for-money menu and the bustling open kitchen here make this a solid option. The menu is brief and changes often, but features a legit mix of Asian and Western ingredients. Take the pork ear, smoked eel, quinoa and edamame: it’s a riot of textures and flavors—chewy and fatty from the pork ears, citrusy and mild from the dressed quinoa, fresh and vegetal from the edamame. And it’s $7—not bad, even for a small plate. We also like the gong-gong with leeks roasted to creamy perfection ($9) and the decadent richness of crunchy-fried baby sotong dipped in a sous-vide egg, topped with chorizo bits ($16). Or get the omakase menu which is $120-180 for seven courses. There are close to 100 sake labels in the glass-paned cellar and of course a sake sommelier on hand. Or you can just go for the house cava ($13). Service is not exactly seamless, but it’s chatty and well intentioned. Plus, there’s no service charge.