If you’ve ever walked down Wan Chai’s Lee Tung Avenue, you will already have felt that sensation of being far removed from Hong Kong, as this tree-lined, pedestrianised street, with colourful, European-style buildings is not something you come across often in this city. Enter Le Comptoir Group’s new restaurant, Djapa, and you’re in an entirely different world, as this place combines the colours, the flavours and the vibes of two very distinct countries: Japan and Brazil.
If the idea of blending Japanese and Brazilian cuisines seems entirely bizarre to you, firstly, it’s worth pointing out that Brazil is home to the largest Japanese population outside of Japan. Secondly, the rest of the world has been combining these flavours for a while now (think SUSHISAMBA in London, New York, Miami or Las Vegas), so it’s about time Hong Kong caught on.
This two-storey space is fun and welcoming from the moment you step into the relaxed downstairs bar with colourful Japanese stools and colourful graffiti all over the walls. Upstairs, the casual dining room is equally inviting, also with colourful tables and chairs, and stunning art by world-famous Japanese artists and Brazilian street artists, whilst Japanese pop music (would we call that J-Pop?!) helps set the scene.
The drinks menu offers a fun take on classic cocktails, a small selection of western wines, and then a whopping selection of over 300 Japanese whiskies, wines and sakes. We tried the Agua Benta (a take on a caipirinha but with passion fruit and jalapeños), and the Curious Brew (a quirky take on an iced tea) and later tried a glass of Brazilian tempranillo.
The food menu isn’t overwhelmingly large, and neither are the portion sizes, and, since everything is designed for sharing (as should always be the case), you are able to try a range of dishes without overeating. We started with the salmon mikan, which consisted of melt-in-the-mouth salmon sashimi rolled around a piece of white onion, served with mandarin slices, yuzu butter, salmon roe and chopped nuts. The textures and the flavours were absolutely spot on.
If you look around the restaurant, it’s clear that these guys like their art; it’s only natural, therefore, that they incorporate art into their dishes, such as with the “suntanned” crabs. Here, tiny Sawagani crabs were perched on a bed of farofa (cassava flour) “sand” beside a pool of spicy mango sauce, under a cocktail parasol. The trick was to dip the whole crab into the sauce, then roll it around in the Japanese pork belly-infused farofa and eat it in one bite. Although perhaps $128 was a steep price for three little crabs, I would still order this again.
What is a Brazilian meal without feijoada? Djapa’s pork and beef feijoada was mostly a pretty typical version of this traditional Brazilian stew, with the addition of plantains and orange slices to give it a slightly sweet and sour touch, and a handful of crispy garlic to give it some Asian texture. This was hearty, comforting and just the right sized portion.
We paired the feijoada with a side of fluffy, sweet, coconut rice and some interesting sweet potatoes marinated in blood orange and yuzu.
Djapa takes pride in its robata, with a whole section of the menu dedicated to beef skewers from the key beef producing regions of Japan. Each order contains just one 40g skewer and, since we didn’t think it necessary to spend over $100 on a single skewer, we stuck to the beef from Kagoshima, tasting both the chuckroll A4 and the rib-eye A4, both of which were insanely tender and delicious. They were accompanied by a selection of sauces – passion fruit curry, Peruvian ají panca and tamarind – or a dollop of wasabi.
We also tried the sweetbread, which was lovely and crispy on the outside and buttery inside, and the Argentinian chorizo, which was another winner.
When all we needed was just a little sweetness to round off the meal, the Brigadeiro were just what the doctor ordered. Each portion included three little truffles – one classic Brigadiero with dark chocolate and sprinkles; one with white chocolate and coconut; and lastly (my favourite of the three) dark chocolate with pistachios.
Service was excellent, the staff ready and willing to give personal recommendations and full descriptions of the dishes. A filling (but not uncomfortably so) meal for two with two drinks each cost about $550 per person. I had heard stories of people leaving Djapa hungry and poor, but we left both satisfied and pleasantly surprised, thinking that a repeat visit is most definitely on the cards.
Shop G18-20 & F18A
Lee Tung Avenue
200 Queen’s Road East
Tel: +852 2617 2900