Carlota Akaneya is a safe restaurant.
Carlota Akaneya is Europe's first sumibiyaki and one of only five restaurants in Spain to serve certified Kobe Beef wagyū. It is also, together with Pilar Akaneya in Madrid, the first establishment in Europe to serve the Japanese muskmelon Crown Melon. Viajes National Geographic explains it in its article published on October 22, 2020.
Carlota Akaneya's story begins in Kyoto. During his time in Japan in 2009, Ignasi Elías notices the Akaneya Junshinken restaurant, located on the iconic Ponto-chō street, on the banks of the Kamo River, in Kyoto. Inspired by this, in August 2011, Ignasi opened the first sumibiyaki in Europe in Barcelona with his friend Felipe Fernández. As a sign of friendship, Ignasi names the restaurant after his mother.
The beginnings are difficult. The first full day surprises them with Albert Adrià sitting down to dinner and leaving without eating anything. "It was a disaster," they lament. But word of mouth was unstoppable, leading to other celebrities such as Andrés Iniesta or Ferran Adrià visiting much earlier than desired.
In October 2013, Albert Adrià invited them to visit the interior of his restaurant Tickets. "That afternoon we learned more than in 24 months working," says Ignasi. Since then and until the pandemic, Carlota Akaneya is only open at night and dedicates the day to the mise-en-scène preparation.
In 2014 Carlota Akaneya added to its menu Japanese beef or A5 grade wagyu beef, famous for its taste and buttery texture, subtle and velvety marble. Until then, A5 wagyu had never been served outside of Japan, except in Hong Kong and Macau. Thus, Carlota Akaneya becomes the first Western Sumibiyaki to serve wagyu A5, the highest rating awarded by the JMGA, the official certificate issuing association in Japan. In November of the same year, Carlota Akaneya decided to make itself known and launched its website, despite the fact that "when you have so much to learn it never seems like a good time to talk about yourself", says Ignasi.
In 2016 Carlota Akaneya was reinforced with the incorporation of chef Eloi Soriano first, and Josep Gómez later. In the summer of 2016, Chiho Murata, from Fukuroi, Japan, starts to collaborate with Carlota Akaneya in the progressive improvement of the menus, plate by plate. In its annual Travelers' Choice Awards, TripAdvisor includes Carlota Akaneya in the Top 10 restaurants in Spain. In November 2017, Albert Adrià mentions Carlota Akaneya as one of his favorite restaurants in Time Out magazine.
In 2020, Carlota Akaneya becomes the first restaurant in the city of Barcelona and the fourth in Spain to serve certified Kobe Beef. Forced by the hourly restrictions on the hospitality industry against Covid, Carlota Akaneya reopens at noon on the weekends. In 2021 they added the muskmelon Crown Melon to the menu, from Fukuroi, happenning with the restaurant's 10th anniversary and the centenary of the Shizuoka Crown Melon company, created in 1921.
If the basis of pleasure in the kitchen is the raw material, Carlota Akaneya's secret begins in their relationship with the suppliers and the choice of the best possible ingredients. The simplicity of the dishes highlights the prominence of a product that, in any case, is enhanced with a subtle touch. Little is necessary when you have the responsibility of working with certain treasures of nature. Everything must be of the highest quality and prepared to perfection.
The old-fashioned cooking method is added to the quality of the product, with a charcoal that is dumped on the table manually in each service. "It is possibly the most sacrificed trade that exists in restoration," confesses Chiho. But also "the most romantic expression I have ever known."
Carlota Akaneya does not know if the guest will have a chance to return, so she prepares tasting menus that ensure a wide assortment of flavors and textures from Japan, such as the previous dance that surrounds the barbecue fire. Each plate has a function within the whole, an intricate and woven story as the course progresses.
Born in 1985 in Les Corts district of Barcelona, Josep is in love with cooking and good food. Since he was little he helped in the kitchen of his house on weekends, holidays or on special dates. Above all, he was fascinated that his parents were able to spend a whole morning locked in the kitchen preparing a single meal that could be eaten in a few minutes. When asked about his childhood flavor, however, Grandma's cannelloni always come out.
Things of fate, in his tender youth he was always surrounded by friends and acquaintances from the restaurant world. However, cooking was such a natural passion that he, paradoxically, did not see it as a way to earn a living "because he enjoyed himself too much." Until one day a friend asked him to be a waiter at the opening of a restaurant. After a short time of being there, and in the most natural way, they realized that they had to take advantage of his baggage among the stoves and he began to make room in the kitchen. There he discovered that his talent could change a business for the better, and he decided to work towards that.
He tried different restaurants in Barcelona before making the leap towards haute cuisine at the Tram-Tram restaurant, where he worked with chef Isidre Soler, trained with great names such as Ferran Adrià, Fermí Puig and Santi Santamaria.
At the Hofmann cooking school in Barcelona, he discovered the true importance of knowing the product and how to treat it. There he was lucky to learn together with the teacher and chef Lluís Rovira, who knew how to convey to him, like no one before, the immense love for the kitchen.
Finally, the opportunity came to train at Carlota Akaneya, starting at the bottom. He accepted because he was enthusiastic about Japanese cuisine and because, upon entering the restaurant, he felt "something special, a love at first sight." From Chiho Murata, he learned the simple details that determine the excellence of a dish in Japan and the factors that elevate it to the experience category. It didn't take long for him to gain her trust and go on to run the kitchen, first, and then the restaurant itself.