Yapa, in Quechua (one of the native languages of South America), sounds like "something more". This is the name of the restaurant that opened in Porta Romana area with the idea of accompanying the customer on a journey.
Crossing the threshold of Yapa, even physically crossing the black curtain at the entrance, means entering a primordial, essential space, perhaps a cave, with a long and imposing kitchen counter where you can sit down and observe the men-only brigade at work, in a frame of large-leaved plants with an Amazonian flavor. Everything exudes essentiality, matter, fire and flames and also a certain brutalism. The light is calculated to reveal something but not too much, the atmosphere is much more than suffused, the music is high and exclusive, so much so that it doesn't seem to be in Milan or Italy at all - which makes me wonder if this city really is. is ready for a venue of this type, between the exclusive New York club and the starred restaurant.
Matteo Pancetti is the chef: Tuscan origins and many years of experience built in foreign kitchens also alongside Sergi Arola (himself a pupil of Ferran Adrià and Pierre Gagnaire). His idea of cooking is like a tableau vivant of people, sensations and landscapes, those he personally experienced between South America and Asia, obviously without neglecting the profound Italian influences where the raw material is enhanced to the maximum.
The room is managed by the very kind and professional Alfonso Bonvini (former maitre of Tokuyoshi and Serica), the staff is attentive, although at times a bit insistent to push the order of more dishes - especially the off-menu items.
The menu is divided by types, a real excursus of the different cooking techniques: from robatayaki (a Japanese cooking style similar to the bbq which involves cooking food in front of the customer) to bread making, passing through frying in woks and boucher ( a selection of fish or meat cuts according to market availability, which can be combined with vegetable side dishes).
Equally immersive is the drink list, created by Matias Sarli: tailored cocktails perfect to combine with the various dishes - also in this case the staff pushes you to order several. Among the most interesting I indicate Negroni Nuts (with caramelized hazelnuts), Americano Kimchi and Bloody Yapa Mary. Alternatively, natural wines or sake.
Since this experience is a journey, the invitation is to order as many courses as possible in batches to be able to share them: the portions are very small (if you are more than two people and want to eat more than a couple of bites you will have to order at least twice the same dish), bordering on mere tasting, which makes everything problematic on the one hand, but on the other hand it allows you to try almost the entire menu.
But what did I eat from Yapa? As amouse bouche a small funny bao was served (it looks almost like a caciotta) to be dipped in a sweet sauce reminiscent of hoisin. Then, among the dishes ordered and that most impressed me, the grandiose Ceviche Yapa (fish, leche de tigre, sweet potato, cancha corn, coriander), the sublime Anticucho de Pulpo (avocado, aji panca sauce) whose smoky aroma I ha bewitched and the Chicharrones de Pulpo and artichokes (a tempura accompanied by wasabi mayonnaise, kimchi, lime kaffir). The fish is super fresh, delicious and the octopus is cooked to perfection.
Then I found very tasty the Nigiri del Chianti (Rubia Gallega, teriyaki sauce, sesame) even if the consistency of the rice in my opinion was too al dente, as well as the Ceasar of Red Prawns with kimchi and sesame mayonnaise (all sprinkled with puffed rice which, personally, I would have avoided) and Tamagoyapa, a sort of cross between a tamagoyaki and an okonomiyaki with a soft consistency and seasoned with katsuobshi, turnip greens and sriracha sauce.
I was a little less convinced by the Baozi alla porchetta (the meat seemed "treated" like a char siu and therefore was too sweet and not very tasty, while the steamed bread was very good) and the Thai / Mediterranean rice (fish, vegetables , bottarga, galanga), where I did not find the strong flavors of Thai cuisine such as coriander or lemongrass. Too bad, because both have a strong potential behind them!
Finally, the desserts are perhaps the real culture shock for the Italian clientele, probably accustomed to an important sugary charge and not to such conceptual, research or simply "not sweet" recipes: the Amazonian (creamy chocolate, Mantuan pumpkin , coconut, hazelnut) and Profumo di terra (beetroot, goat's milk ice cream, mountain pine) are certainly the most ancestral and unmissable. Delizia al limone(lemon, meringue, soft biscuit) turns out to be the comfort zone for those who do not want to dare.
Dining here is certainly a singular experience, perfect for both small groups of friends and couples. The dishes proposed are thought out, structured but, alas, "skimpy", much more because the final bill is decidedly exorbitant. Yapa hasn't opened long, so I'm hoping for some targeted tweaking to make this restaurant a real gem. I therefore recommend it for an important dinner or for an anniversary.