Enchanting Evening In Nagai

Posted on June 26, 2015

Words: Iain Thomson
Images: La Skimal.

Eating early in Ibiza might not be the fashionable thing to do but we love getting to a restaurant a little earlier so that we can experience that transition from daytime to night. It offers a special ambiance that really adds to the enjoyment of the experience. The stillness that accompanies the change in sky colour from bright blue to dark blue to almost black sets up the dinner itself, and with Ibiza blessed with so many beautiful dining destinations, it makes perfect sense. One such destination is Nagai, which means longevity, on the San Juan road, the Japanese restaurant boasts a stunning garden area which is where we found ourselves earlier this week.

Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal

Nagai is without a doubt one of our favourite island destinations, for several reasons. The first and most importantly is the people behind the concept and who work tirelessly to provide a home away from home for all of its clientele – Eleanora, Melchior, Luigi, Marcia and Reina and the fantastic staff extends a warm welcome to all that enter the terrace, genuinely happy that you have joined them. The second factor that has led to it being one of the most popular eateries on the island is the menu. It is a fresh as it is delicious and there is something for everyone. Whether you are a fully paid up member of the sushi appreciation society, someone that doesn’t like fish, a veggie or even the kids. This is an inclusive eating adventure that has to be experienced!

Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal

We dropped into Nagai recently for its fortnightly Saturday Bazaar, where we found a cool market and some amazing live music adding to the usual attractions, offering the community a place to gather and meet as well as enjoy some delicious food. I think what I’m trying to get across here is that Nagai is so much more than just somewhere you go to eat out. The eye catching graffiti of Fin Dac adorns the outside wall, with visions of Asian beauties in full and colourful costume, this tells you from the offset that the restaurant has something about it. The old tree offers a focal point in the middle of the garden area, with tables positioned around it. We settle in just as the sky starts turning that deep blue colour and order a bottle of Quinta De tarsus ribera del duero while we nibble on prawn crackers and edamame beans and catch up with Melchior and Eleonora. Chef Reina Nagai welcomes us personally and talks us through the menu, finding out if we have any personal preferences or allergies when it comes to food before designing our menu for the night and sending a slew of amazing dishes our way. Laura looks after us brilliantly all night, and with four fluent languages under her belt, she is a valuable asset to the stylish eatery.

Nagai by La Skimal

We kick off with white fish carpaccio featuring dorada and sea bream with beetroot and a bowl of pickled vegetables. The fish and beetroot combination is inspirational, the crisp freshness of the fish and the full flavor of the beetroot offering a combined taste explosion that gets the dinner off to a flyer. The vegetables are perfectly cooked and again bursting with flavor, the produce is all locally sourced with Nagai showing its ability to identify and work with the very best people on the island. Next up is the sushi platter, and, if I’m being honest, the thing I have been looking forward to since we placed the date in the diary. It arrives on a slim serving platter with a fish head staring at us, completing a dramatic presentation. It’s almost a shame to destroy it but the memory of how good this sushi is takes over and we dive in. There are the usual pieces – nigiri, sashimi and urumaki but also a hot option, crispy tuna, which is delicious! La Skimal is not a fish eater so for our trusty photographer there is chicken goyoza and marinated chicken Payes, cooked in a batter. Proof that the menu has something for everyone is further showcased when Raffy, the youngest and most energetic member of the Essential crew gets a rice plate designed in the shape of a panda!

Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal

We take a break for 15 mins before embarking on another wave of delicious plates and have a look around. The garden area has gotten busy, with international football stars and TV celebrities nestled amongst locals and tourists, no one giving anyone a second look, every table lost in its own conversation and contributing to the buzz around the restaurant. It offers a subtle buzz and a very laid back vibe that is in perfect harmony with our surroundings. Having seen the chicken arrive for La Skimal we chat to the chef and she offers to show is some of the options away from the traditional sushi menu, which results in a grass fed beef dish, with wasabi mash potatoes and lamb chops. The beef is melt-in-the-mouth soft, the mash has just enough kick to remind you where you are and the lamb chops are tender and peel off the bone with ease. Ignore any hesitation you might have as someone that doesn’t eat fish, this menu has more than enough about it to exceed the expectations of the most fussy of palates.

Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal

Although we didn’t try it this time round, preferring to stick to our wine selection, Nagai offers a range of sake that can be enjoyed hot or cold. They also have a cocktail list that will put a smile on your face and a hint of colour in your cheeks. Imagination is one of the things that strikes you about the menu, there has clearly been a great deal of time and thought gone into the dishes, and that constantly evolves throughout the season, meaning you can return on numerous occasions and always have a unique experience. Before we admit defeat, we have to try desert, which comes in the shape of green tea tirimasu, ginger panacotta with an orange reduction and a dark chocolate and cinnamon concoction that almost looked too good to eat. We opt for a sharing policy, given that we are all completely stiffed already; the chocolate and cinnamon is a winner, just be careful not to eat the cinnamon stick as one of us did! The panacotta also merits a special mention but it is the green tea tirimasu, in my opinion that takes the rosette, but everyone will have a different view I’m sure. Once again Nagai has made us feel completely at home, a few hours have passed in the blink of an eye and it’s time to say goodbye, but we are consoled with the knowledge that it is only 5 minutes away from Santa Gertrudis and we will be back for sure!

Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal
Nagai by La Skimal