Bar review: Djapa, Wan Chai – Japanese-Brazilian bar and restaurant is a pleasant spot to chill out

Brazil and Japan represented in equal measure in new bar in revitalised Lee Tung Avenue, but the decor trumps the oversweet and bland drinks

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 5:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 December, 2016, 5:04pm

The vibe: as Hong Kong’s first Nipo-Brasileiro (Japanese-Brazilian) bar and restaurant, Djapa scores points for a genuinely fresh idea. The ground floor bar (the restaurant is upstairs) has a lively, if chaotic, modern art decor. There are lots of bold, primary colours including brightly painted chairs, murals featuring Japanese anime characters and ceiling lights with an eclectic selection of basketwork shades. Glass doors on two sides of the bar can be pulled back to create an open, tropical feeling. Service was friendly but extremely slow – the Japanese friends who’d come with me were quick to comment that this was obviously the Brazilian side of things.

The drinks: Brazil is represented by cocktails (one of which, the Blushing Geisha, comes garnished with a thong, presumably a tribute to Rio’s Carnival costumes), red, white or rosé wine and a selection of cachaca; Japan by an extensive list of whiskies plus a couple of sakes and beers. Mixology is heavily on the sweet side and none too adept on the classics.

The Agua Benta (HK$128, cachaca, jalapeno, passion fruit) arrived with a mountain of crushed ice; apparently it’s a frozen drink, although it doesn’t say so on the menu – which wasn’t what was needed on a winter’s night. With the ice removed, the drink was pleasant enough, mildly spicy and more potent than it seemed at first sip. It would have been better with some citrus, so the lime daiquiri (HK$128) seemed like a good follow up. What arrived was so bland and full of sugar it was almost undrinkable. An acceptable Negroni (HK$128) served to counteract the sweetness.

Draught beers are Suntory Malt Black or the lighter Sapporo. Whiskies are Japanese only and maybe prices reflect Lee Tung Avenue’s popularity as a haunt for salarymen – there’s very little for less than HK$200, many items are more than HK$1,000 and, unlike more serious whisky bars, there are no flights. Discovery of the evening was the Fuji Sanroku non-vintage blended whisky (HK$98), smooth, elegant and complex with vanilla notes and a refreshing aftertaste. None of the cheaper single malts we asked for were available. The bartender told us the distilleries have stopped producing them (in which case why list them at a newly opened bar?) and recommended the blended Nikka from the Barrel (HK$128), full-bodied and rich, if rather rough.

The verdict: Djapa is a pleasant spot to chill out with a beer and watch the world go by, but the Nipo-Brasileiro theme works better for the decor than the drinks; cocktails are below par and whisky lovers can get better value and choice elsewhere.