Day of the Week: Friday, 12/28
Total Bill: $312.29 (before tip)
Breakdown: 5 drinks, 1 appetizer, 4 small plates, 3 sushi rolls, 1 churrasco plate, 1 coffee, 2 desserts
Pros: Excellent service, fabulous food, crazy fun decor.
Cons: A little too loud, can be hard to find parking.
Verdict: The usual fantastic Sushi Samba experience.
Hubby and I were leaving on a cruise out of Port Everglades (Ft. Lauderdale) on 12/29, so we decided to head down there the night before from Tampa. After some searching and discussion, we decided to check out the Sushi Samba in South Beach (right on Lincoln Rd.) for dinner since we’ve enjoyed some of the other locations so much. We made a reservation for two at 9 PM. At the last minute we discovered a friend from NY was in town at the same time and we invited him to join us for dinner.
South Beach is always busy. I used to live in Ft. Lauderdale and would work at a client in South Beach occasionally. I mean, during the day, during the week. Traffic was always heavy. But South Beach on the weekend is another level, especially when there’s some kind of glow-paint rave going on at one of the concert venues. (Jersey Shore had nothing on these people.) The first parking garage we tried was full, so we went to one next door, where we ended up parking on the 4th floor. Sushi Samba was a short walk (maybe three blocks).
When we got to the hostess stand about 9:15 (we waited in line about five minutes), she told us the extra person was no problem and our table would be ready in 10-15 minutes. We went to the bar and got some drinks (not included in the total above). The bartender who made my pisco sour did a superb job. After 20 minutes, Hubby went to check with the hostess and we were immediately seated. So the first impression was a little chaotic but somewhat expected given the time and place.
Our server, Roni, was so nice and helpful, very much like the other Sushi Samba servers we’ve had. They know their menu is unusual and they really try to help you navigate it in a way that makes you comfortable while also encouraging you to try new things. The service is always one of my favorite things about Sushi Samba. Empty dishes never sat on our table long, our water was constantly refilled, etc.
We started with edamame ($6) while we reviewed the menu. Our friend said he was fine with us ordering, as long as Hubby didn’t pick anything too crazy. We ordered:
- sashimi tiradito assortment of four ($33), which was three pieces of each of the following:
- yellowtail with jalapeño and lemongrass
- kanpachi with yuzu, black truffle oil and sea salt
- tuna with green apple, cilantro and lime
- cobia with grapefruit, rocoto chili, and garlic chip
- three each of the taquitos
- yellowtail with shiso, avocado, roasted corn miso ($18)
- lobster with lemongrass, frisée, hearts of palm ($24)
- two sea bass anticuchos (skewers over peruvian corn, $14 per order)
- rock shrimp tempura (golden pea shoot, snap pea jullienne, spicy mayo, black truffle vinaigrette, $17), which is similar to “bang bang shrimp”
- Neo Tokyo roll (bigeye tuna, tempura flake, aji panca, $13.50)
- Hamapeño roll (yellowtail, shrimp tempura, smoked jalapeño, $15)
- Owari roll (a special, very delicious, $14)
- Churrasco Rio Grande with pork tenderloin, chorizo, and lingüiça (three meats are $39 – five meats are $44)
The food at Sushi Samba always comes out in waves. I think I’ve got the order correct here (if it’s not totally accurate, it’s very close). The tiradito (which is basically a fancy way of saying sashimi) was awesome and, as usual, I can’t really pick a favorite. I guess the cobia is my least favorite. The taquitos were really fantastic, too, but we all agreed the yellowtail is better than the lobster. The rock shrimp was a delicious (and larger) version of what you get at Bonefish Grill (although Hubby didn’t like it much for some reason). The anticuchos were fantastic. Not only is the fish always perfect (not overcooked, sweet miso glaze) but it comes with Peruvian corn, which is the biggest, tastiest, craziest corn you’ve ever eaten. (Peruvian corn kernels are about five times the size of corn kernels we have in the U.S. Imagine the size of that cob!)
About the time we finished the first group of food, we were getting pretty full. Then the sushi arrived. All three rolls were delicious but I think the favorite was the Owari roll, which was my selection (Honey Badger knows her food!). My second favorite was the Hamapeño, mostly because I love, love, love jalapeños. Put a jalapeño in it, I’m all over it.
After the sushi, we thought we were done. And then the churrasco platter arrived! We were stuffed but determined to soldier on. And it was worth it. My favorite meat was the lingüiça. It’s a really savory, smoky sausage. The chorizo and pork tenderloin were both excellent, too.
I ordered coffee after dinner and the waiter said they had Americano ($4). I was skeptical (it usually tastes burnt or too watery to me) but their Americano was fantastic. For dessert, we ordered mochi ice cream (four to an order) and catupiry cheesecake (miso crumble, guava gelée, strawberry-shichimi ice cream), both $10. (Originally I ordered the avocado mousse but they were out. I’m still dying to try it!) The mochi ice cream flavors change regularly. I remember this particular night one of the flavors was pumpkin (I didn’t have any so I’m vague on the other flavors – one of them was definitely pink, so maybe strawberry?). The cheesecake was really good, even though by that point I was so full it was a little tough to fully appreciate it. Diminishing marginal returns and whatnot.
I love that Sushi Samba fits in wherever you put it. In Vegas (at the Palazzo), it’s hip and a little mysterious. In New York, it’s appropriately chic but also has a real neighborhood vibe. And in Miami it’s what the rest of South Beach is dying to be: effortlessly cool and exotic. Definitely worth a visit wherever you go (there’s even one in London now!). If you don’t know what to order, trust your server. They can help you select items à la carte or they can set up a tasting menu for you to suit your tastes and budget.