The Roots of Uma Nota’s Nipo Brasileiro Cuisine
A vibrant energy runs through the streets of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. The city comes alive when the sun goes down, with live samba music playing in the background, the smell of sizzling meat filling the air and Paulistas flocking to botecos—Brazil’s small rustic bars—for a good time. The metropolis is known for its football team, carnival parades, colourful street art and good food but it also boasts a rich cultural diversity. In the 19th and 20th century, São Paulo had a high-scale immigration of European, Asian, Arab and African communities which diversified the city’s culture and gastronomy. One cuisine that has particularly stood out but still remains quite untouched in the culinary world is the Nipo Brasileiro cuisine. This is where the story of Uma Nota begins.
The Nipo Brasileiro cuisine came to be when São Paulo’s biggest migrant population, the Japanese, came to the city to work on coffee plantations. Eventually, the diasporic population concentrated in the neighbourhood of Liberdade—freedom in Portuguese—an appropriate name considering many families had been battling with poverty in Japan and had taken the opportunity to migrate to Brazil once the slavery trade was abolished. The area soon became known as São Paulo’s Japan Town and the home of the largest community of Japanese people outside Japan.
“The city comes alive when the sun goes down, .. “
The Nikkei community retained strong ties to their homeland and built shops, hotels and production facilities to recreate tofu, soba noodles and more. Marked with a Torii Gate—a traditional Japanese gate—at the neighbourhood border, Liberdade is now filled with Japanese-style houses, hanging lanterns, karaoke spots, manga shops and street markets.
Unable to find the exact staples they had back home, the Nikkei community soon embraced local ingredients such as native fruits and local fish and started cooking them using Japanese techniques. Soy sauce was created from a liquid coming from the native cassava root, a much starchier alternative, due to the lack of soybeans. Miso was made with asparagus beans and tsukemono pickles—a pantry staple made largely of cucumbers and radishes—had to be replaced with pickled green papaya and bananas. The creative blend of Japanese-Brazilian cuisine, or Nipo Brasileiro, was born.
Whispers and praises of the intriguing cuisine made their way to the ears of Meraki Hospitality Group’s founders Alex and Laura Offe, who were searching for a unique restaurant concept that would cater to the sophisticated palate of Hong Kong people. The siblings planned a trip to Brazil, first stopping by Rio de Janeiro where all they found were restaurants offering Brazilian-Japanese fusion. But the cuisine they had heard about used Brazilian ingredients with Japanese techniques. What they were really looking for was actually nestled in São Paulo’s Liberdade neighbourhood, and not inside restaurants but on the street. There they found food stall after food stall of everything from coxinhas, a Brazilian chicken croquette, to meat skewers to ceviche. And by a twist of fate, our Uma Nota restaurant was born.
the energy of Brazil is never too far
We made our first step onto the culinary scene in Hong Kong in 2017, quickly followed by the opening of our second branch in Paris a year later. Blending both Brazilian modernism and Japanese minimalism, we see our restaurants as the contemporary version of botecos. A place where laughter is medicine, friendships are born and food and drinks are constantly flowing. Our colourful set of stairs with splashes of yellow, green, blue and orange is reminiscent of those found in the bars of Rio de Janeiro and the stunning portrait of a laughing woman wearing a crown of flowers symbolises freedom and joie de vivre.
Every detail, from the wicker and natural wood to the jungle plants, brings a touch of Brazil to Hong Kong and Paris.
The Japanese touch can be found in our menu. Because deep-fried food is popular among Japanese cuisine, you’ll find an Uma Nota take on the famous chicken coxinhas. The Polvo Teriyaki uses the teriyaki method of cooking on pan-seared octopus and the Salmon Kabayaki uses the kabayaki method of splitting the fish into a butterfly, skewering it and grilling it. You’ll also find the crowd-favourite yakitori-style skewers and the famous Japanese katsu sando gets the Nipo Brasileiro treatment with a fried pork mince patty, roasted okra salad, tonkatsu sauce and milk bread. And of course, a post-work drink at ours is never complete without a Caipirinha in your hand. The famous Brazilian drink comes with a choice of flavours ranging from the classic lime and sugar to wasabi syrup. If you want to make it a Sakerinha, ask our staff to substitute the cachaça for sake. With Uma Nota, the energy of Brazil is never too far.
“Blending both Brazilian modernism and Japanese minimalism, . .”