Taking the Brazilian spirit of “life is a festival”, Uma Nota is committed to hitting the right note with everyone who seeks the exotic, carnival-vibe dining experience. From the signature mural outside to the rich assortment of Brazilian-Japanese street food, the restaurant captivates a zestful crowd. We sat down with Alex, co-founder of Uma Nota, to walk us through the restaurant’s concept, the must-tries on their new menu, and his view on social media food photography.
1. Can you tell us about how the idea of Uma Nota came up? Do you have a connection to Brazil?
I am not Brazilian but I had always wanted to go to South America, particularly Brazil. I adore the energy and hospitality of Brazilians, which I find missing from other similar concepts in HK. We want Uma Nota to be a timeless concept that showcases the Brazilian culture and its Japanese heritage, which is intrinsic to the street culture in Brazil. We traveled to Brazil before opening the restaurant to see what makes a culture authentic, and we found boteco, the typical neighbourhood izakaya bar that you feel good and comfortable in. We want to do the same thing here but in a modern way, with the furniture and interior. Therefore, in Uma Nota, you can find the party vibe and hospitality from the Brazilian side, as well as the finesse and delicacy from the Japanese side.
2. What are the challenges of bringing such a distant culture to HK? And what is the fun part of it?
First thing that came to mind was obviously the ingredients. We use a lot of Brazilian ingredients, like pepper, spices and herbs. Yet, we are lucky to be in a city like HK where everything is imported.
Another fun challenge is getting the Brazilian energy and hospitality to HK and making the locals understand it. That’s why it’s very important for us to have Brazilians in the team. To make sure that the experience we are offering is authentic. Currently we have two Brazilians in the kitchen, an amazing bartender, and a Colombian executive chef who lived in Brazil for 10 years.
We often host Brazilians in Uma Nota and it is most rewarding when they feel like home after trying our signature dishes. That’s when you know you are doing it the authentic way.
3. Obviously the street element is central to Uma Nota’s concept. How do you see the similarities and differences between the street culture of Hong Kong and Brazil?
Brazilians are always on the street discovering and trying new things because of the nice weather, which is very similar to people in Hong Kong. The only difference between them is that Brazilian street culture focuses more on drinking and partying!
4. A Summer’s day in HK is almost as boiling as in Brazil, what can you tell us about the new spring menu in keeping the palate nice and refreshing?
One dish I would recommend is the ceviche. We have added 3 new ceviches to the menu: a spicy one (Miso Tiradito), a citrusy one (Ceviche Nikkei), and one with miso-base tiger’s milk. All of which are done in the Japanese way, and are perfect for the hot summer days.
Another must-try at the moment is definitely Robalo, one of our signature dishes on this new menu. It is a sea bass fillet cooked in banana leaves, so it’s very tender, moist and light. It comes with fried banana and manioc flour called farofa, which is a very important ingredient in Brazilian cuisine that soaks up the juice and adds texture to any dish. On top of the fillet is our own non-spicy salsa sauce – a refreshing note to the dish.
5. With an extensive drink menu to offer at the stylish bar, what are some exclusive / must-try cocktails this summer at Uma Nota?
Caipirinha is a must-try in a Brazilian restaurant, and we make the best ones (!) Recently we have been using the iconic fruit calamansi to make Fruit of the Day Caipirinha, which is really good.
The other cocktail I would recommend for the guys is Liberdade Mule. It’s our take on the whisky highball but we use cachaça instead, a special kind aged in a special wood barrel that you can only find in the Amazon forest, so it gives you an old smoky taste.
We also do interesting cocktails for the ladies like Shibuya Night, which is a spicy strawberry margarita, and also mocktails for those who don’t drink alcohol.
6. The graffiti outside of Uma Nota has created quite a stir on social media. What do you think about social media nowadays in both a restaurant’s operations and when it comes to food presentation?
Social media has become such a big part of society and everyone’s life nowadays. There are a lot of positives about it, you just need to be careful with the negatives. Take our mural for example. We have got a lot of foot traffic as people stop by and take pictures of it. From a business perspective, it’s free publicity. Even though people may not be aware of it being part of the restaurant! I understand you can’t control the quality of every photo people take of your food or your restaurant. That’s why you need to make sure you are perfect everyday with every detail.