By Monica Zarazua
Do you ever have dreams that merge different places you’ve known? The place in your dream is strange, yet familiar. Such was the feeling upon entering Restaurant Taiwanés Son-Hao, located in Barcelona, Spain.
My friend Laura and I met at Plaza Cataluña and walked along the busy commercial streets lined with department stores. We turned down some smaller, quieter streets until we got to the restaurant.
As we crossed the threshold, we were met by hundreds of statues: Buddhas, happy cats, even a Santa Claus. Gigantic landscapes painted in watercolor adorned the walls and wooden awnings carved with phoenixes and dragons butted against the ceiling and created curved shadows on the floor. The server greeted us in English, then Mandarin, then Spanish.
It was a Thursday evening around 8 pm. Business was slow but friendly. According to the owner, Moto, “La hora 7 es cuando hay mas gente. Los Asiáticos comen mas temprano. /
We’re busiest at 7 pm. Asian people tend to eat earlier [than Spaniards].”
We opened the menu printed in Castellano, Catalan, Mandarin, and English.
Here’s what we ordered:
- Té verde – Loose-leaf Jasmine tea
- Standard restaurant beverage that warmed us up on that chilly evening.
- Sopa de alga – Seaweed soup
- The broth was tasty. The seaweed thick and hardy. In my opinion seaweed is an either/or type of food. You either love it or you don’t. I’m a seaweed lover and can’t get this where I currently live so for me it was a treat.
- Arroz blanco– Steamed white rice
- Warm, cooked to the right consistency, but not completely fresh. Maybe this was how it had to be given that we were the last customers of the evening.
- Huevos revueltos con nabo chino – Scrambled eggs with chives and pickled radish
- The eggs were a bit watery for my taste but the radish was delicious. Eggs + radish remind me of home so if this is a comfort food for you, then you’ve got a place to get it while you wander Barcelona.
- Verduras salteadas – Stir-fried bok choy
- A little overcooked, but again, something I can’t get regularly so was happy to see.
- Costillas de puerco – Pork rib soup
- The meat was very tender. The broth was a spicy and garlicky. In sum….delicious!
Laura, who’s never eaten Taiwanese food, said that it was different than what she finds in Chinese restaurants. Her favorite dishes were the egg and pork ribs. Based on her comment, I think this restaurant provides a nice mini-introduction to the possibilities of Taiwanese cuisine.
By far, what I enjoyed the most was the service. We chatted briefly with the owner who told us that the restaurant opened in 1980 and that the wooden façades are the same ones since that time. His in-laws were the original owners. Visitors come from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Sometimes international students bring their families and there are also large tour groups that schedule lunch here.
The next time I’m in Barcelona, Son-Hao is on my list to visit again. Family owned restaurants make a city unique. I recommend coming on the weekend or closer to 6:30 when it’s busier, the pace faster and the food at its freshest. That being said, I’m glad we went later and had the opportunity to talk with Moto who gave us these words of wisdom:
“No importa donde vives. Hay que trabajar para ganarse la vida. / It doesn’t matter where you live. You have to work to earn a living.”
Restaurante Taiwanés, Son Hao
Carrer de Muntaner, 66, 08011
Monica is half-Taiwanese/half-Mexican, born and raised in the United States. Food for her is one of the best ways to connect with people and to stay rooted in personal and community experiences. She writes fiction and teaches elementary school, most recently at the International Community School of Addis Ababa.