I first heard of Can Kenji over on gourmet traveller and immediately looked into it; to my surprise and to Blai’s also, it was situated only about a 10 minute stroll from Blai’s parents’ flat and we (I, Blai and Blai’s mother) found ourselves strolling over to try their Japanese-Spanish/Catalan fusion food for dinner one night. It was no surprise that it was a tiny unassuming place that they must have walked by many times before without realising there was a restaurant there. I myself would never have looked into dining at a fusion restaurant but it’s got a few excellent reviews online and our need to book a few days in advance confirmed its popularity.
Their menu was full of things you want to eat and we set about selecting what we thought was a nice little range. We started with an Assortit de sushi, sharing by somehow choosing the bits that pleased us most. The tuna maki rolls were made with tuna belly which melted in the mouth; the fish we had at Can Kenji was all beautifully fresh.
A Tataki de bonítol amb salmorejo was topped with fried garlic chips, enhancing the garlic already in the cold tomato and bread soup. This dish made fusion proud, the thick slices of seared fish and the sweet yet acidic soup together making for a happy mouthful.
I was originally skeptical about the combination of cheese and prawns in the Broqueta de llagostí, espàrrecs, tomàquet sec i formatge Idiazábal (skewer of prawn, asparagus, sun dried tomato and Idiazábal cheese) but again, to my surprise, they were fabulous.
Less impressive were the Mandonguilles de xiitake i llagostins arrebossats (battered shiitake and prawn meatballs). They were the letdown of the night as the battered prawn stuffed mushrooms soaked up the dashi broth in which they sat and became soggy lumps that fell apart at the touch of a chopstick. They were tasty but could have improved in texture.
This was made up for by the Hamburguesa Can Kenji. What I initially mistook for melted cheese turned out to be a fried egg, its oozing yolk gooing all over the tender beef patty. Covered in beefy, oniony gravy, the Japanese style hamburger was served with a cold potato puree and a dressed salad. I could have just eaten this with rice…. and you can for lunch as it’s on their menú del dia. Optional at dinner time is topping the patty with a slice of foie gras. (Does any place in London serve these Japanese style hamburgers? I know they are quite popular in Japan.)
We’d left plenty of room for desserts and chose three to share between us all. A Pan cake Japonés “Dorayaki” de Xocolata (yup, a chocolate dorayaki!) was two homemade pancakes sandwiching a rich chocolate filling; the traditional version with red bean paste was also available if you need to stick to the classics.
The Flam de boniato (sweet potato flan) was silky smooth and gorgeous. I love the use of those orange sweet potatoes in desserts.
Absolutely delicious, and the most interesting, was the Gelatina de fruita amb shiratama, a bowl of crushed up jelly and fruit topped with chewy boiled sticky rice cakes and a brown sugar syrup. Their desserts were definitely worth ordering.
It was quite the bargain too – with green tea for us all, our meal at Can Kenji came to a little over €50. I’d love to return for lunch and I believe Blai’s mother will definitely be back for it – they offer both a bargainous menú del dia and even a small tasting menu then. We were warned that reservations were even necessary then, so yes, do book ahead if you’d like to dine there.