I love discovering a new place that instantly ingratiates itself on all levels. It’s even better when that place is about ten steps from the front of your apartment entrance!
The Avenue; AKA Lee Tung Avenue has to be one of the most popular destination spots in Hong Kong now, I can attest to this as I watch the brightly lit avenue become more and more crowded as each day progresses. With a mix of bakeries, shops and restaurants, there is plenty for everyone at The Avenue.
Recently, we’ve seen a couple of new restaurants open, with one in particular standing out from the crowd. Colourful furniture and eccentric artwork form the downstairs bar section of Djapa, a Nipo Brazilian bar slash restaurant opened up by Le Comptior. You might recognise the group by some of their fine dining restaurants located all over Hong Kong; Bibo, The Ocean and Tri are a couple of their more popular dining spots.
The team at Le Comptoir do things a little differently, you only need to spend five minutes in the art studio restaurant that is Bibo to figure that out. They’ve really stretched the imagination with the amazing Djapa, a mix between Japanese and Brazilian cuisine. Taking a cue from Bibo, Djapa’s interior also takes on the mantle of art studio, with interesting pieces in the downstairs whisky bar, and even more creative pieces upstairs in the spacious restaurant.
We’d walked past the colourful spot a heap of times before finally slotting in for a quick bite to eat. With a no reservations policy, we’d arrived right on opening time and were shown upstairs, where there were already a few early diners at the brightly coloured chairs and tables that would have been at home on the sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro. We were placed right in front of an amazing skull mural that had layers of colour and complexity.
Looking over the menu, which it has to be noted was the reduced soft opening menu, there were plenty of dishes available that sounded amazing. More so, the menu actually looked quite healthy with lots of fresh ingredients and tasty sounding options. Of course, being a Brazilian restaurant, the centrepiece of the menu was beef; all of which originated from different regions in Japan. Of course!
After a quick run down of the menu, which was largely designed for share dining, we took heed of the advice on the serving sizes and ordered four to five dishes each (all for sharing purposes, of course). The girl also ordered a Sapporo, one of the Japanese beers on tap, and all was right with the world.
Our first couple of rounds of food came out in pairs, the first of which were from the ‘raw’ menu; turbot yuzu was the first I tasted. I was instantly struck by a pleasant bitter hit that was refreshing, the fresh turbot soaking up the flavour of the yuzu and shiso, sour grapes adding to the effect. Served in a bowl with a tuile that added both texture and a little sweetness, the dish was lovely, but on it’s own, may have been just a little too sour.
Luckily, we’d also selected the salmon mikan, which was served on a breadboard and had a much sweeter flavour, enhanced by mandarin pieces and an yuzu butter. Finely chopped nuts were sprinkled on the plate for texture and there were pretty little purple flowers that added to the presentation. The salmon was sliced thin, then rolled up for presentation and when combined with the chunks of turbot from the sour dish, was a well balanced combo.
Whenever I see octopus on a menu, it’s mine! But, I was completely conflicted! The grilled octopus was served with mixed quinoa and chilli; usually, I pass on quinoa on principle (too healthy really!). I’m glad I did order the octopus, it was delicious, soft and tender with a subtle hint of lemon, which was delivered as part of the delicious quinoa! I was kind of freaking out, had I become so health conscious that quinoa started to taste good? Anyway, the combo of the sweet lemon with the dish, and a little heat from the chilli was perfect with the octopus and we quickly devoured the lot!
Served at the same time was the Brazilian corn cooked in Djapa’s own butter; caramelised baby corn and sweet corn were served in a deep bowl and looked really appetising. The different textures of the corn mixed well, and the natural sweetness of the corn was enhanced by the cooking process that must have included a decent amount of butter. It maybe wasn’t as healthy as the quinoa and grilled octopus, but it was equally scrumptious.
We also ordered the Hokkaido scallops from the ‘not so raw’ component of the menu, which was both beautifully presented and a delight to eat. Served with an apple foam and crispy apple circles, the lightly seared scallops were sweet and expertly cooked. I loved the apple foam, which had a medium texture, not really sure how they pulled that off, but it was more than a foam and not quite a solid. The combo of apple and sweet scallop was perfect, what’s more, it was quite a generous serving as well. Really tasty and excellent value!
The main gig at Djapa is their signature robata menu, essentially small portions of grilled meat that was mostly sourced from Japan. The menu included cuts from Kogoshima, Ohmi, Hokkaido, Miyazaki and Kobe; all cooked on the restaurants open grill and served as quite small portions, but relatively cheap for such great cuts of Wagyu (all score +4 or +5).
We ordered a couple of random bits of meat, but were informed that the Kobe was off the menu for the night (the menu did state that the Kobe was limited availability). Instead, there was an Argentinian chorizo that we ordered; and we finished off the order with a skewer of chicken thigh.
The skewers arrived en masse and we lined up all of the meat in a row to start devouring. Each of the skewers contained approximately 40 grams of protein, not a lot, but given the prices were well below what you’d expect to pay for premium beef, it was reasonable. We did have a little bit of a
Mexican Brazilian standoff though, each skewer only had three pieces, so we had to negotiate for our favourites.
The Kogoshima chuck cut was lovely and quite fatty compared to the rest of our cuts; the strongest flavour as well, but not our favourite. The ribeye from Ohmi took out the ‘people’s choice’ award for tastiest piece of beef, it was rich and almost creamy in its flavour; yummo! The Hokkaido tenderloin was probably our second favourite, although quite a bit leaner than the chuck, it was still nice and flavoursome.
Outside of the beef, we both really loved the Argentinian chorizo, which was super tender and not as hot as it’s Spanish counterpart. Of all the dishes though, the chicken thigh was the least favourite; with the chicken being a little over cooked and just a tad dry. Chicken thigh is temperamental at best, and only a few extra seconds on the grill can make all the difference.
It was time for dessert; after asking our sommelier for his recommendation, I opted for the coco tapioca, which was a creamy tapioca with a subtle honey undertone, with the addition of some Japanese peach, the dish was actually really refreshing. Tapioca can be cloying, but the Djapa version was prepared wonderfully and they even managed to present the dish in a way that was visually appealing. It wasn’t cloying in the slightest and I was a little sad when the dessert was finished.
The girl went for a plum sake for dessert (haha), which according to the girl was the best sake she’d ever had and worth the price of admittance alone. Throughout the night, the girl had been treated to little samples of different wines as well; a Japanese chardonnay and an Argentinian red from grapes that were thought to be extinct (yep, cannot remember the grapes though!)
As the night wore on, the spectacularly colourful seats that made up the restaurant filled and the noise level and ambiance of the dining room came alive. Service was excellent, with great explanations of the food and approach as each course was delivered. Our sommelier was particularly friendly, although, we really did love and appreciate the attention that we received.
Throughout the meal, I wandered amongst the artwork that adorned practically every wall and area in the dining area. The space was truly colourful and quite spectacular, the Brazilian artists responsible doing a smashing job. Their creations were augmented by additional works by well known artists such as Takashi Murakami, Yayoi Kusama, Hajime Sorayama, Masakatsu Iwamoto and Tomaz Viana.
The kitchen and grill area for Djapa even was surrounded by its own pieces of art, although I did worry a little bit when I went and had a look, the grill was smoking up something fierce, and while the aroma was intense and intoxicating, perhaps the artwork might suffer a bit.
Given this place is the closest restaurant to our front door, and given how much we loved the food, and especially considering how reasonably priced the meal was (for HK standards), there is little doubt we will be back. Djapa is a fun restaurant with great food and is visually stunning.
Oh, did I mention that there’s a bar downstairs with a ridiculously large number of Japanese whiskies?
The food of Djapa
The Artwork of Djapa