I don’t like to make obvious comparisons, but I was skeptical when Brazilian-Japanese kitchen Uma Nota opened it’s doors on Peel Street. The city’s only other Brazilian-Japanese restaurant, Djapa, being visually assaulting and uninspiring on the palate.
Uma Nota draws inspiration from São Paulo’s Liberdade district, home to the largest Japanese community outside of Japan itself, and successfully redeems Hong Kong’s Brazilian-Japanese offerings on a Corcovado scale. Inspired by the street vendors of Liberdade, the menu features unpretentious dishes with a street food bent rather than fusion fare.
Uma Nota’s intention is to be a modern ‘boteco’, a meeting place for free-spirited fun seekers looking for good food and drinks. Thus, the restaurant is spacious and well lit, affording a vibe fit for any kind of gathering from dates to mates and everything in between. Decor is modern and funky, with windows that open out onto adjacent Hollywood Road.
The menu is packed with meaty, heavy offerings, plus some solid seafood options like tuna picadito with chili and sriracha sweet sauce on a fried tortilla – perfectly fresh with a welcome crunch. I can’t say no to skewers, so opted for the squid with spring onion sauce, a ridiculously tender bite with just enough bounce to keep my teeth in business.
The standout was the jaba com jerimun, Brazilian jerk beef with pumpkin and butter fried onions and sweet peppers. It’s every bit tasty as it sounds, with rich stringy beef complimenting the sweetness of the accompaniments. It’s drenched in butter and the dairy brings it all together, giving it the satisfying saltiness and greasiness that you seek in street food. The berinjela, a whole aubergine with miso, goat’s cheese and cashew nuts, is an umami assault, fantastic on the palate if a little heavy on the stomach.
The drinks pair well with the food. The Meu Deus, a concoction consisting of mezcal, gentiane, pavan, soya sauce and tonic water, cuts through the more oily dishes, thanks to the smoky agave. The Negori, a Japanese twist on a negroni that omits Campari, uses sake, gran classico bitters and umeshu to make a much smoother sip.
Peel Street has a convivial atmosphere (hurry up and reopen please, Bobby’s Rabble), what with its many bars spilling out onto the streets, and Uma Nota’s style fits into this ‘hood perfectly. Even better then, that it has solid food and drink options to boot, and picks up the pieces that Djapa could only half-heartedly assemble.