November 22, 2011

Sushi Samba On Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

The color orange is alluring, fun and flamboyant, a color that creates strong positive or negative associations. If used effectively, it radiates warmth and energy, and savvy restaurants know this. The summer sunset shades of orange which shine through Sushi Samba Dromo’s restaurant scene evoke jubilant feelings on arrival. While creating a destination restaurant is a juggling act worthy of the Cirque du Soleil, a banal environment and scene can wound even an honorable chef’s talent. As a South Beach epicurean I am sensitized to wallet-rape, even in this city disguised as a village with its inflated prices.

Sushi Samba can easily consume your holiday cash, just as furtively as the nearly invisible no-see-ums of the Bahamas devour your flesh while you loll happily on a sunset beach. If you were planning on gambling that money away anyway, I urge you spend it here. The innovative cocktails are served at Brazilian speed but are worth the wait. Their sybaritic broad and sophisticated, family-style, Peruvian/Japanese fusion menu is well-executed and filled with idiosyncratic culinary surprises. If you are concerned about the dollar sign at the end of the meal and simply crave the untamed and sometimes x-rated revelry, you might be satisfied with two or three ornate sushi rolls.

Sushi Samba serves up a variety of experiences. Even in summertime, when it can be overwhelmingly hot or pouring with rain, the open interior (reminiscent of a 60‘s discotheque) with its three bars can become an unofficial game of speed dating, particularly on Tuesday nights. The outside setup is scattered with energetic locals, newcomers and Bachelorette girls-gone-wild, all trying to colonize a bit of territory in this cinematic block party.

The servers represent almost every continent in the world. Depending on the nationality, the service can be professional and efficient or slow and inattentive. There are four kitchens, so hold on to the menu and order in stages, otherwise you’ll end up finishing your meal before your cocktail makes its fashionably late entrance. Even with its minor hiccups, this restaurant ticks all the boxes- so much so that I have visited four times in two months. Each experience was memorable for the stimulating scene, well-executed cuisine and powerful cocktails.

I strongly advise that everyone share everything, even my American readers. The grilled shishito peppers are a good choice for a starter. Their silky skin coated in lightly seared oil, quality sea salt and zesty lemon. The ladies love this one. For the boys, the fried rock shrimp is mandatory, full of worthwhile calories and laced with sublime black truffle vinaigrette. These tender shrimp enrobed in crunchy batter are a symphony of textures, drizzled in spicy mayo with that intriguing dash of truffle. It’s not cheap, but it will linger in your mind like a pop song. The special of Salmon tiradito is exorbitantly priced for each slither of raw fish, served over fresh watermelon, all decorated with a dollop of pear relish- an unexpected explosion of flavors.

Tuna takaki is a blurry memory and not a standout. The vegetable tempura was value for money, with good volume and with two obverse and intricate sauce options. The vegetable’s delicate flavors were enhanced by a featherlight and crisp tempura batter. Pan-steamed pork gyoza with spicy ponzu had an assertive umami meat interior, and was thoughtfully balanced by the sweet onion compote. In contrast, the steamed scallop dumplings with enoki, celery root purée, and yuzu butter lacked any wow factor- moderately pleasing, but not admirable.

The anticuchos, a peruvian word meaning ‘stew meat’ was served on skewers, with four alluring menu options. The sea bass glazed with sweet miso over plump Peruvian corn is arguably better than Nobu’s legendary miso black cod. The frog and I shared and savored each morsel. This is not to be missed. The mastery of traditional Japanese seasoning is perfectly utilized here to coat mild, feathery pieces of freshly-caught sea bass.

As the crowd of Lincoln Road pedestrians surged, we decided to stay for a dessert and play fashion critics reviewing the passers-by. We split an intensely satisfying warm chocolate-banana cake crowned with maple butter, banana chips and vanilla-rum ice cream. Its flavor recalled fond memories of childhood treats and a time when calories were meaningless. The classic combination of taste was unpretentious, almost countrified but with an avant-guard twist.

For the young at heart, the fun-seeker or foodie, Sushi Samba imbues Miami with a golden glow. Since any South Beach restaurant will blow your budget, why not celebrate spending a small fortune Carnaval style in this pulsating corner of cross cultural fusion.

Sushi Samba

600 Lincoln Rd Miami Beach Florida 33139 (305) 673 5337

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