My love affair with Barcelona has been ongoing for the past 6 years, since 2009. Each time I visit Bacelona, I observe the Chinese population steadily increasing, spreading from one neighborhood to another. I finally came to Barcelona to live in October of 2014, and since I’m a terrible cook, I quickly found the best Asian restaurants. This article is about the Asian neighborhoods of Barcelona and its best spots. I’ve also written about what it’s like to be an Asian in Barcelona in a separate article.
Though the Chinatown in Barcelona lacks the stereotypical “Chinatown gate”, one must not underestimate the Chinese population here. In fact, the Chinese population is the 3rd largest immigrant group in Barcelona, with more than 17,000 registered residents (the first is Italy and second is Pakistan). Surprised? So was I.
Turns out the majority of the Chinese population is from one specific region of China: Qingtian, which is a area with only half a million of residents. They came to Spain family by family, buying up small supermarkets (though these are now predominantly run by Pakistanis) hair salons, and Spanish bars. The Chinese are also in the “sell everything” bazaar business, as well as the textile business. You can find Chinese people everywhere in the city, especially if you peer into its little shops. However, the biggest concentration of the Chinese population is in Eixample – between Arc de Triomf and Plaza Tetuan.
On Ronda de Sant Pere and Carrer de Trafalgar, you can see lines of clothing shops for bulk sale, run by Chinese owners; All long Passeig de Sant Joan between Arc de Triomf and Plaza Tetuan, you can see Chinese restaurants and bars owned by the Chinese. There are two types of Chinese stores in Barcelona – one catered towards the “foreigners”, and others catered towards the Chinese. You can identify the ones for the Chinese by the absence of Spanish on its signs. Carrer de Ali Bei, you can see Chinese shops opened by the Chinese and for the Chinese – restaurants, driving schools, Chinese supermarkets (Yang Kuang, Pg de Sant Joan 12, is a good one)…
Though the Chinese population underwent its highest growth in the past couple of years, there are families that have been here for more than 20 years. You can identify the long-time residents by observing the playgrounds and watching Spanish-Born Chinese kids playing together with their Catalan friends, speaking in none other than Catalan as their native tongue. Much like American Born Chinese kids, the children here have to go to Chinese school on the weekends as well to learn their parents’ heritage. The Institut Pau Claris, for example, is a primary school that offers weekend Chinese school for children in the neighborhood.
Here is a list of Asian restaurants to satisfy any of your sudden cravings for oriental food!
Best Chinese Restaurants Barcelona
Qi Xin Mien Guan/ Chen Ji (Carrer d’Ali Bei, 65, Eixample Dreta) – Popular Chinese restaurant known for its noodles
Ying Bing Jiu Lou (Pg. de Sant Joan, 34, Eixample Dreta) – Chinese restaurant with all you can eat hot pot for 15 euros (drinks not included)
La Taverna dels Amics. Carrer de Sicília, 210. Chinese restaurant with the most Catalan name possible – But you must try their dumplings.
Best Fusion Asian Restaurant
Mosquito (Carrer dels Carders, 46, Born) – Dim Sum aka Chinese Tapas, adapted to Spanish tastes, but still good
Best Taiwanese Restaurant in Barcelona
Son Hao (Carrer de Muntaner, 66, Eixample Esquerra) – Taiwanese and Chinese restaurant owned by a warm and outgoing Taiwanese guy. Best and only Taiwanese restaurant in Barcelona. Honestly, I had higher expectations, but it tasted like normal Chinese food and did not have Taiwanese specialties.
Zen Zoo (Carrer del Bonsuccés, 6, Raval) – Bubble tea store off the Ramblas. Legit bubble tea from Taiwan!
Best Japanese Restaurants in Barcelona
Yoshino (Carrer de Mallorca, 90, Eixample Esquerra) – Great value Japanese restaurant (run by Chinese, as with the case with many of the other Japanese restaurants in Barcelona). Dinner menu of 3 of any of the dishes (out of a hundred) for only 10 euros, and 14 euros buffet. Lunch menu is even cheaper. Everything I tried was quite tasty!
Ramen-Ya (Carrer de Girona, 164, Gracia) – Ramen taking Barcelona by a storm. Be prepared to go early and still wait in a line of at least 30 minutes. The ramen is worth the wait. Why is it that the best ramen restaurants in both NYC and Barcelona always have a long line?
Kibuka (Carrer de Goya, 9, Gracia) – Fusion Japanese restaurant (maybe with a bit of a Brazilian flair?). Yummy and innovative Sushi.
Best Vietnamese Restaurant in Barcelona
Bun Bo (Calle Sagristans, 3, Barri Gotic / Carrer dels Àngels, 6, Raval) – On the cheaper end as far as Vietnam cuisine goes in Barcelona. Though I still prefer pho from the US, the broth was decent here. The bun, cold viet noodles, was quite good. The best part was its 3.50 EUR potent mojitos – same price for fruit flavored mojitos too!
Best Thai Restaurant in Barcelona
… Sorry, STILL SEARCHING!!! Let me know if you find a good one.
If you’re curious about what it’s like to be Asian in Barcelona, read here.