Whatever the stuff of Christmas, Romance, Birthdays, Anniversaries, Celebrations, Promotions – even divorces if you would so wish to celebrate that – and all round special occasions is, Sushi Samba is made of it, in abundance. A feeling of dread overtook me as I arrived on the 38th floor and being shoved aside by a shrill-voiced size four, in overly-platformed louboutins, and various items of logo-ed Chanel apparel in case you can’t figure out what Chanel looks like on your own. Working in the city I had been no stranger to the Essex girls in their dozens who debutante themselves evening after evening wherever they think the affluent men of the city go. Was it still like that? After queuing behind her at the cloakroom as she guffawed ‘I wish the dress code was more strict’ which was really her own admittance of how over-dressed and silly she looked, since the venue is full of smart to smart-casual folk, I am pleased to report she seemed to be the anomaly for the evening.
I was invited to wait at the bar for my table which needed some time to become vacated – understandably so, because as I peeked over into the dining area with its beautiful fairy-lit interior – I wouldn’t want to leave either. When we were led to our table child-like glee did take over, but I managed to contain it. Just. Twinkling lights extend downward from the concave ceiling, creating an indoor starry night effect. If that’s not enough magic, they reflect back through the long bay windows looking down on the city’s view. First you have stars, and then you have the city. It is outstretched in a perfect outlay and really allows you to admire London’s skyline, even if you believe, foolishly, that you’ve seen enough of it. I love restaurants with group dining concepts – this is exactly what Sushi Samba on the evening we visited seemed to be about. To my left, there were a group of Arabic ladies, all looking royally robed in their attire, and twinkling jewellery, seated at a round table and all leaning in to clearly discuss some gossip I suddenly desperately wanted to be a part of. It looked juicy. Along the middle were a group of English folk, celebrating either a work-achievement, or a birthday for an awkward age – I say awkward because it seemed too formal to be a frivolous twenty-fifth!
‘But what did you eat?’ you say? Yes, let me get to the truly captivating element of Sushi Samba’s appeal: a dish I still crave at 8am each morning as I sit down at my desk, is the taquitos. What kind of person craves taquitos as a breakfast meal? Pregnant people aside: the kind who have tried those at Sushi Samba. We had the crispy taquitos filled with yellowtail, avocado and roasted corn miso; an inexplicable burst of taste, contoured with a tangy tomato sauce and softened by creamy avocado held together by the taco which makes for the ultimate crunch. All in all a starter not to be shared – a decision which I struggled to enforce, as they come served with two per order.
Next we had the questionably named ‘bolihnos’ de bacalhau, which I will just refer to as “cod profiteroles” instead. The salted cod, lightly soaked in the bed of lime and shichimi mayo and exotically garnished with Peruvian potato (basically purple crisps), were heartwarmingly moist and filling.
From the hand of the wonderful, interactive, Executive Chef, Claudio Cardoso who took time and attention to share his selected dishes with us, came the breakfast of Kings; the mighty Kobe beef sausage (the beef for which the cattle have serial numbers, are specially bred, and a 1kg steak costs a whopping 1K check!). The dish was rich and full of flavor, tempered by cool cucumber spirals and softened by a creamy egg which Chef Cardoso advised us to mash all up and merge the flavors into one. Reluctant to ruin the impressive (and expensive!) presentation, I followed his advice, and definitely didn’t regret it. In fact, I wanted to mash up something else now, for an equally pleasing outcome.
Our next dish however was already infused in its abundance of flavors: my favourite of all when it comes to Peruvian food: the Scallop Ceviche. Only the finest preparation allows for fish to be eaten raw and Sushi Samba definitely raises the bar for both imagination and flour. Bursting with a variety of fruit and vegetable from mandarin to onions, the scallops were soaked in their tangy and euphorically sour sauce, suitably named ‘milk of the tiger’ or as all ceviche lovers know – leche de tigre.
The Wagyu Gyoza is the beast of dumplings with succulent beef beneath the pastry. For all prawn lovers, there is no sushi to fulfill your crustacean craving like the tiger maki. It is confidently topped, filled, lined and stuffed with shrimp, tempura and tiger prawn respectively doing its title justice. Amongst a colourful bed of other equally impressive and creative pieces, Sushi Samba really holds true to its name in the sushi-stakes.
A star dish of the evening was the black cod like no other; this is the principal place to try it. Glazened to perfection without compromising the succulence of its meat, which fell of the skewers in juicy, delicate layers, one could easily tell form the rich and intense flavor that it had been marinated for 48 hours beforehand.
Our last plate, the lamb chops were made to perfection; crispy edges tapered by the most vividly soft pink meet. It’s neighbouring lamb dish, artistically pioneered by Chef Cardoso was a worthy rival. Splashed onto the plate was the incredibly creative decor, and the real punch comes from the hidden by strong sweetening accomplished by Japanese honey.
Our dessert was aptly called “with love from Rio” – I love you too Rio, especially when you send me desserts such as dark chocolate ganache, coffee mouse, which our energetic, friendly, attentive, and humorous waiter Ignacio, artfully described as “Coffee Snow” as it looks like exactly that, with caramelized macadamia and vanilla-bean ice cream. The perfect close to an inexplicably satisfying meal.
As we somehow mustered away the energy needed to digest, and redirected it towards leaving the restaurant, we were bid farewell by the wonderful Ignacio, Manager Marc and hostess Giorgiana, all of whom are beyond welcoming and hospitable for such a popular venue. We passed by the open plan kitchen and I couldn’t help but notice the awards and accolades placed on the counter-tops – if any of which are owed to Chef Cardoso, I can certainly appreciate why.
I took one look back, to take in this wonderful venue, featuring the highest outdoor dining terraces in Europe, offering unparalleled, 360 degree views of the city; Its dramatic ceilings – overlooking London– the highest outdoor dining terraces in Europe – the floor-to-ceiling glass on three sides, the grid of lights hanging through the bamboo ceiling, the intimate dining experience and the earth-to-sky motif reinforced by the designed structural tree on the west terrace. Coupling this with the unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine and design, the impeccable service, talented chefs, and vivacious teams, makes Sushi Samba an experience not to be missed, whatever the occasion.