Sakura blooms

Japan is the place to be from March to May as the sakura is in full bloom. Though we haven’t been able to see the cherry blossoms in person due to strict travel restrictions, Uma Nota at Central offers a good alternative.

The Sakura Brunch (HK$350), which comes with two 90-minute free-flow alcohol options (from HK$195), is cocurated by Uma Nota’s chef, Gustavo Vargas, and chef Max Levy from Japanese restaurant Okra and is available on weekends until May 30.

Now offering its second chapter with four new dishes, the menu comprises sushi, makizushi, tatsuta-age, ceviche as starters and snacks, a shared main and a dessert platter.

Kick off the journey with sakura-inspired Hanami Highball, a pretty-in-pink concoction of rose sake, sakura liqueur, ginger beer and cherry blossom.

Or go with your usual prosecco, the perfect companion for all the delicacies to follow.

One of the new dishes, the California roll, is a new rendition. Instead of vinegared rice, the eatery uses a blend of red, brown and Japanese rice.

The addition of molasses, a common ingredient in Brazilian cuisine, gives it a South American twist. It is served with creamy dende mayo, a Brazilian special that offers slightly sweeter and more fragrant flavors.

Seasoned and deep-fried to an umami crisp, the quail tatsuta-age highlights the delicate game meat marinated in ginger, garlic, shio koji, lime juice and soy sauce with crispy kale, threads of candied ginger and a spicy guava sauce to balance the complex flavor.

For the mains, Vargas’ favorite is the bacalhau no miso (extra HK$50), which he thinks represents the restaurant’s fusion style: a combination of Japan, Brazil and Portugal.

“The first Europeans to discover Brazil and arrive in Japan, the Portuguese, introduced many ingredients, including bamboo plants and various fish, packed and preserved in salt for the journey, which inspired me to use salt-cured Atlantic cod in this dish,” he said. “I used the Brazilian technique of cooking fish in banana leaf – substituted with bamboo skin – and added the Japanese elements of saikyo miso and sake, bringing a touch of salt and sweetness to the fish. Pickled bamboo roots balance the dish with a hint of acidity.”

A meal isn’t complete without dessert, and guests can expect the signature dessert platter, which features two new limited-edition desserts: a Japanese raindrop cake embedded in the whole cherry blossom and a sakura plum and matcha cheesecake.

An exclusive dessert will be available on the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend. Made of passionfruit jam in a vanilla ice cream cocoon, the moreish Cacao Bomb is set over a bed of chocolate crumble for a flamboyant finale that Mom will remember for a long time.

(This article was published at The Standard on May 7 2021: Weekend Glitz: Sakura blooms )

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