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Olivier’s Yakuza: Lisbon’s Exceptional Japanese Dining Establishment

Upon reaching our destination as directed by the taxi driver, my initial state of confusion swiftly transformed into awe as I gazed upon a bustling street at the core of Lisbon. Just a few steps further and before me stood Yakuza, the esteemed Japanese restaurant owned by Chef Olivier da Costa.

Nestled close to Lisbon’s prestigious Avenida da Liberdade, this contemporary dining spot is affiliated with the upscale Hotel Avani where the talented chefpreneur, with nearly thirty years of experience, established his first venture, now expanded to five locations spanning three countries.

My companion and I were seated in a cozy corner, with a soft glow from a floor lamp illuminating our table, and pots filled with orchids elegantly suspended above us on golden stands, creating a romantic ambiance. Right in front of us was the open sushi kitchen, adorned with a vibrant and oversized carp painting on the ceiling, paying tribute to Japanese culinary art, created by the artist Ivo Santos, also known as Smile. Adjacent to us, a glass-enclosed display cabinet showcased personalized chopsticks from previous guests.

Impressed by the diverse selection of cocktails, I opted for a tangy tamarindus pisco sour, a fusion of Peruvian origin, blending lemon, yuzu, egg white, and a hint of angostura bitters. Meanwhile, my companion chose 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, tropical fruits, and spices. Guests could choose from a selection of ten unique sakes.

Termed as Japanese cuisine with a Mediterranean twist, Yakuza’s extensive menu, focusing on communal dining, offers a wide array of options from traditional and reinvented sushi and sashimi, makizushi, gunkans – rice balls wrapped in nori seaweed topped with various ingredients, to tempura, robata, and salads. Maria, Olivier’s niece, who we affectionately referred to as our ‘culinary advisor,’ greatly helped us with dish selections throughout the evening.

Our multi-course dining experience, artistically presented, began with elegantly 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 providing a unique Mediterranean twist.

Among the highlights were the restaurant’s famous 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 consisting of tuna belly, rice, foie gras, leek, and truffle.

Our sashimi display was theatrically brought 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 veiled in dry-smoke mist.

An exemplary fusion dish was our king crab salad, featuring delicate meat artfully arranged inside one of the crab’s slender legs, accompanied 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.

Transitioning from sea to land, we culminated our gastronomic journey with dainty wagyu burgers adorned with seaweed ribbons and topped with quail egg, truffle, and coriander.

The merging of traditional Japanese cuisine with Mediterranean influences is a notable and innovative trademark by chef da Costa, an experience not to be missed while exploring lively Lisbon, as evidenced by the presence of renowned personalities such as Portuguese football star Cristiano Ronaldo and Hollywood actor Owen Wilson, whose photographs adorn the reception area.

Image Source: Trip Advisor

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