I don’t think anywhere in the world can surpass the level of cuisine in Tokyo.
VICTOR GARCÍA[Bar Portillo de Sal y Amor]
VICTOR GARCÍA [Bar Portillo de Sal y Amor]
Having a Spanish father who runs a long-established Spanish restaurant, Victor Garcia opened “Arroceria Sal y Amor” in Daikanyama in 2012. Since then, he has opened restaurants in Nakameguro and Marunouchi, and two of them have received the Michelin’s Bib Gourmand award. In 2022, all of his four restaurants were formally certified by the Restaurants From Spain (RFS).
Bar Portillo de Sal y Amor was opened in Nakameguro in 2022 as a branch of Sal y Amor and selected for the Michelin’s Bib Gourmand. Reminiscent of a casual Spanish bar, you can be sure of getting genuine paella here.
“In Tokyo, if you want soba you go to a soba restaurant, and if you want sushi you would go to a sushi restaurant. Similarly, in Spain we would go to an Arroceria to have paella,” said Victor Garcia who runs four Spanish restaurants in Tokyo.
“I wanted to achieve success in Tokyo. I wanted to be an influential existence in the industry rather than having a restaurant that is surprisingly popular even though it is located in an out-of-the-way place. My father’s presence is big to me. So, honestly, I also thought I had to stand out. I was unbelievably arrogant like “come on! I’ll do it!” I have been getting mellow steadily, though,” said Victor and smiled. But he opened new restaurants one after another - the second restaurant, La Panza, in Ginza five years later, then the third restaurant in Nakameguro, Bar Portillo de Sal y Amor where we had an interview and Bar Portillo de España in Marunouchi in 2020.
“I’m only forty years old, so I still want to take on new challenges. But, I haven’t just been expanding the business willy-nilly. Many people say that opening four restaurants in four years is unbelievable, but I think we have been cautious.”
There is no reason why delicious paella should not be successful in Japan, a country where rice is a staple of the diet. Victor said that he was convinced in this prediction before starting the business. While experimenting through trial and error, he came across “Haenuki,” a Japanese rice made in Yamagata Prefecture. “We tried many types of rice many times, and we like Haenuki best right now.
We cook paella at a quite high temperature as if we bake it, Haenuki’s grain does not lose its shape and stands up under strong heat. But, there is only a short window when it is at its best, a condition like al dente. It is too tough before that moment and becomes too soft after it. When we can finish cooking at exactly the right moment, it is superb.” Paella that boasts of this characteristic texture is highly sought after by the Spanish.
Many of their customers are people of the Spanish Embassy. “I think all the Spanish in Tokyo have visited us by now (laugh).” Victor is now a bridge between Japan and Spain, but what does he think about the difference between the food cultures? “We may have wonderful Spanish cuisine in Spain, but there is not much variety. A good thing about Tokyo is that we can enjoy the dishes of so many different countries at such a high level and there is not anywhere in the world that can beat Tokyo on that point, I think. On top of that, and maybe even because of that, the taste sensibilities of customers in Tokyo are extremely developed and they appreciate serious efforts to produce authentic experiences, which is another huge advantage. “they respond to your earnestness.” It would be awesome if the event (Tokyo Tokyo Delicious Museum) we’re participating in allowed visitors from overseas to become aware of such sensitivity.
→The main article is included in the May issue of RiCE.（https://www.rice.press/）