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CIty Guide

Yakuza By Olivier, Lisbon’s Remarkable Japanese Dining Spot

Image Source: Trip Advisor

When I arrived at our destination as indicated by the taxi driver, my initial confusion was quickly replaced by amazement as I glanced at a bustling street in the heart of Lisbon. A few strides further and there it stood – Yakuza, the esteemed Japanese eatery of Chef Olivier da Costa.

Situated near Lisbon’s prestigious Avenida da Liberdade, this modern restaurant is affiliated with the upscale Hotel Avani where the skilled chefpreneur, with nearly three decades of expertise, initiated his first establishment, now expanded to five venues across three countries.

With a capacity of approximately 100 guests, the interior boasts a sophisticated and cozy ambiance, featuring a mosaic marble floor, gentle illumination, a captivating indoor garden enclosed by glass with a watchful buddha, and walls adorned with artworks. The restaurant encompasses multiple spacious sections offering diverse seating arrangements including booths, communal tables, and sushi bar counters.

My companion and I were seated in a charming corner, with a floor lamp illuminating our table, and pots brimming with orchids suspended above us on elegant gold stands, imparting a romantic atmosphere. Directly in front of us stood the open sushi kitchen, embellished with a vibrant, oversized carp painting on the ceiling, an homage to Japanese culinary art, crafted by the artist Ivo Santos, also known as Smile. Adjacent to us, a glass-encased display cabinet showcased personalized chopsticks from previous patrons.

Impressed by the diverse cocktail menu, I opted for a zesty tamarindus pisco sour, a concoction of Peruvian origin, blending lemon, yuzu, egg white, and a dash of angostura bitters. Meanwhile, my companion selected a refreshing mocktail, cha Yakuza, featuring jasmine, hibiscus, clove, cinnamon, lime, and mint. The menu also offered sakerinhas Yakuza and shogun, both infused with sake and tropical fruits and spices. A selection of ten distinct sakes was available for patrons to choose from.

Dubbed as Japanese cuisine with a Mediterranean influence, Yakuza’s extensive menu, centered around the concept of communal dining, encompasses a myriad of options ranging from traditional and reimagined sushi and sashimi, makizushi, gunkans – rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed topped with assorted ingredients, to tempura, robata, and salads. Maria, Olivier’s niece, who we affectionately dubbed our ‘culinary guide,’ greatly assisted us in selecting dishes throughout the evening.

Our multi-course dining experience, creatively presented, commenced with delicately arranged slices of amberjack or yellowtail resembling flower petals on a plate, enhanced with classic citrus ponzu sauce, honey truffle, onion, and red vinegar, with the truffle adding a distinctive Mediterranean twist.

Among the highlights were the restaurant’s renowned gunkans, one featuring seaweed, sea urchin, soy, and lime, described by my companion as “a burst of ocean flavors that awaken the palate with its refreshing essence,” and another comprising tuna belly, rice, foie gras, leek, and truffle.

Our sashimi presentation was theatrically delivered to the table, showcasing 12-day dry-aged tuna belly with caviar, yellowtail, sea-bream enveloping sea-urchin, red mullet, crystal shrimp paired with salmon eggs, all presented on a grand platter enveloped in a veil of dry-smoke mist.

A prime example of fusion cuisine was our king crab salad, featuring delicate meat artfully displayed inside one of the crab’s slender legs, complemented by butter sauce, tomatoes, coriander, and miso vinegar.

Even incorporating foie gras into the menu, with a nigiri sushi pairing it with eel, teriyaki sauce, and pickled green apple.

Moving from sea to land, we concluded our culinary journey with dainty wagyu burgers adorned with seaweed ribbons and topped with quail egg, truffle, and coriander.

Blending traditional Japanese gastronomy with Mediterranean influences is a standout trademark innovation by chef da Costa, an experience not to be overlooked when exploring vibrant Lisbon, as renowned personalities such as Portuguese football icon Cristiano Ronaldo and Hollywood actor Owen Wilson have also savored, as evidenced by their photographs adorning the reception area.

Image Source: Trip Advisor

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