Hikidashi is the name of a deliciously surprising Japanese tavern in the heart of Campo de Ourique. Agnaldo Ferreira is one of the restaurant’s partners and a Japanese cuisine chef for 16 years. The passion started at São Paulo and was extended to Portugal, where he worked for five years at the Estado Líquido restaurant and for four at the Yakuza.
Imagine eating sushi at a refined space, a place which takes you to Japan and where you seat to eat over the counter. Now imagine that scenario with best quality fish on your plate. That’s what chef Agnaldo Ferreira invites you to do.
The chef started working in 1997 in São Paulo, Brazil, at a Japanese kitchen. He worked with Japanese people until 2000 and developed hot cooking techniques with sushi “because according to the tradition of this type of cuisine, we must first learn the hot part” says Agnaldo.
That same year there was an opportunity to move to a more modern and creative restaurant. There, techniques were more contemporary. But it was in 2003 that he got the opportunity to come to Portugal to a concept called Estado Líquido (Liquid State), and upon his arrival he studied the market to check what already existed and turn to a specific niche. Guided by innovation, he decided to adopt a more westernised style.
I started with an alternative and more encompassing sushi, which could vary from traditional to hot philadelphia sushi, a way for more people to taste and enjoy the flavour
From 2003 to 2008 Agnaldo was in charge of the Estado Líquido project, and after the opening of this space there was a sushi boom in Portugal. In 2009, already tired, the chef travelled to Barcelona to find out what was new in Europe in this sector, always wanting to work on a more contemporary concept. In 2010 he returned with a new project called Yakuza, cuisine with a touch of fusion and adding some ingredients such as, for example, truffles.
Five years ago, the opportunity came up to cook only over the counter, which was completely different from the previous restaurants. A space considered to be more purist and traditional. A concept which made the chef travel to Japan to try several street foods, thus leading to the creation of the very famous Hikidashi, which translated into Portuguese means “drawer” but also “things on fire”. That was the name chosen for the restaurant because there’s much more than raw fish on the menu, there’s a drawer of flavours and full-time lit grill which offer hot dishes. The decoration is welcoming and modern, almost all made of wood.
It’s a modest tavern but with a certain flair
We are talking of an atmosphere for all types of customers, whether more elitist or simple. The embers cook kebabs of just about anything: chicken, meat, asparagus, scallops, king prawn or eggplant. All served in small portions, for a snack. “For 20 or 30 euros one may try several dishes”, says chef Agnaldo Ferreira.
Five years after the opening, a shop project is under preparation, a kind of multi-concept grocery, as “we have a warehouse where we keep all we need for the Japanese dishes, and the idea was to profit on that warehouse turning it into a shop, where you may go to have some sake and also to buy all the ingredients we use in the restaurant” he explains, a space which may also be used for training future cooks. You may currently find, on the shelves hanging on the wall, the ingredients you may buy, just like in a shop: algae, rice, beer, vinegar and tempura flour… all Japanese.
Nowadays sushi is popular, however it’s an expensive trend. Agnaldo explains why: “it’s not possible to have good sushi cheap, when fish is a very expensive raw-material”, as exemplified by the tuna chosen by the chef which costs around 57 euros per kilo, that is surrounded and caught in the open sea and is the same that goes to Japan, reaching a fat level of 5-6, as “the price is absurd, and in my case I don’t earn much because I choose the best product, the best there is in the market, but that way I earn customer loyalty”. Rice selection is another thing he considers to be fundamental for the quality of the units.
Some customers went there with their parents and now they go there with their friends. Even prime-minister António Costa has visited Hikidashi.
How was the passion for Japanese food born? Brazil has the second largest community of Japanese culture, and Agnaldo was always an admirer. From films to martial arts such as Jiu-jitsu, Japan has a special richness that attracts him.
Besides cooking, he started practicing jiu-jitsu many years ago, and already reached second-degree black belt. Before, he enjoyed motocross, surf and other radical sports.
Despite the professional fulfilment in the world of cooking, the chef also mentions that the hardest part of this journey is being away from the family, especially from his parents.
First book of the chef’s career
After inaugurating Hikidashi’s shop, the chef intends to undertake another project: his book. The timing couldn’t be better, as Hikidashi now has, more than ever, a gastronomic background to share, and is intended to share a bit of the chef’s journey and all charms of Japanese cuisine. This book will be more of a personal fulfilment than an object for sale but, who knows, maybe one day it will be for sale for sushi lovers.
As for future challenges, “I believe that if I keep working as I do, always investing in product quality, I will be successful” concludes Agnaldo Ferreira.