Tuesday September 25, 2007

Sushi Samba

Sushi Samba is obnoxious; if you can deal with that, you’ll probably love it. Exquisitely designed by Scott Kester, its shanty-space-pod interior, immaculate black-clad waitstaff, and perfect futuristic-Brazilian music give it a singular retro-modern atmosphere that would be right at home on TV.

Despite living no more than a few blocks of away since it opened years ago, I’d never been; this weekend a friend and I decided to give it a shot. It was Saturday afternoon and SS was fairly empty. We arrived, and . . . immediately had a problem with the hostess. You see, SS has two types of tables — 5 and 6-person booths, and outrageously uncomfortable tables for two. We didn’t like the first table we were offered, and even the second one was less then ideal. There were parties of two seated at booths, but it seems that we’d arrived after some sort of cut-off time after which this was no longer possible, in anticipation of the evening rush. A bit of tension ensued, and we ended up acquiescing to the cramped but not uncomfortable little table.

After that, though, the evening went rather remarkably well. Our waitress (the record will note that she was tall, beautiful, and really, really good at her job) eased our lingering irritation with an introduction the the restaurant’s aesthetic (“Japanese-Brazilian”), and got our waters. So I’ll cut to the chase: the food was great. We had beer, sake, several sushi rolls, edamame, and dessert, and every single thing was spectacular. The secret of their success is that all the portions are a little smaller, and a little more expensive, then you’d expect. Still, after tax and tip, we barely cracked $100 for two people.

The sushi rolls are a cut above. Try the Green Envy (wasabi pea crust, tuna, salmon, asparagus, and aji amarillo-key lime mayo) or the Neo Tokyo (yellowfin tuna, tempura flake, and aji panca), and you may wonder why you’re paying twice what you’d pay for the same amount of food in a regular sushi joint, but only until the first taste. There is substance to this here style.

When the kitchen was out of spoons for our dessert, they apologetically brought out two sets of huge soup-spoons and tiny spoons (then our waitress rushed out with the correct spoons, still warm from the dishwasher), which pretty well sums up how good the service was (but not everyone seems to have had quite this good an experience). I left feeling like quite the elegant slouch — Sushi Samba is style over substance, but only just barely.

Sushi Samba Dromo (menu)
600 Lincoln Rd. (Pennsylvania Ave)
Miami Beach

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  1. Duran    Tue Sep 25, 11:29 AM #  

    They won me over with their purple mash potatoes… they’ve improved on one of the most simplistic comfort foods around and I think that’s hard to do without offending anyone.

  2. FerfeLaBat    Tue Sep 25, 03:31 PM #  

    Love the green envy rolls. Great restaurant.

  3. knowless    Tue Sep 25, 06:45 PM #  

    overcharging for set design? nope, don’t think so. that’s for folks who live on the beach and don’t have to drive to be further taken advantage of…

  4. Scott    Tue Sep 25, 10:07 PM #  

    I found Sushi Samba to be somewhat of a letdown on my first experience. The food is great and the atmosphere is silky smooth, but the service…

    Perhaps it was an off-night when I went, with the rain throwing the staff into confusion.

  5. alesh    Tue Sep 25, 10:53 PM #  

    There are certain restaurants that are great DESPITE lousy service, where the lousy service is somehow part of the charm. SS is not one of those, and the great service I got was integral to making the experience worth it.

    Meanwhile, there are LOTS of waiters there, and I got the sense that some of them were slacking off. I got lucky, but I could just as easily have gotten one of the lousy ones and had a rotten time (but then I’d have spent a lot less and written a much more colorful review).

    MEANWHILE!!!: nobody reminded me that I just recently said ‘Fuck you, Sushi Samba’. Had I remembered this, I’d have eaten somewhere else.

    Despite everything, I stand by my thumbs up. SS was good. I’d try it again, and I’d recommend it to a friend.

  6. dreaming    Wed Sep 26, 01:02 PM #  

    hhhmmmmm……a hundred bucks for some sticky rice and assorted other bird food? methinks not. the only place i eat at consistently on lincoln road is pizza rustica, and even then, im not so sure …. the quality has sunk there, if you ask me …

  7. alesh    Wed Sep 26, 01:08 PM #  

    sticky rice and assorted other bird food

    Are you hitting the crack pipe on your lunch break, dreaming? SUSHI is fish of sufficient quality to be eaten raw, assembled by a sushi chef with a carefully considered (and, in this case, unique) combination of ingredients.

    Plus: this was effectively a 6-course meal, with primo alcohol.

    I agree re Pizza Rustica, though. They’re expanding way too fast, and even the original location has had some issues.

  8. mapache    Thu Sep 27, 02:02 PM #  

    I am surprised that you guys had a good experiance there, a few years back i went with a friend, and we were treated very poorly, and found that the food was somewhat on the pretentious side of things more than on the “edge” of a restaurant like that. The music was way too loud and a repertoir that seems only the employees seemed to like. Maybe things have changed there, but my experiance there was a 5 on a 1 to 10. Sushi at Yoko’s on Alton road is awesome. And i know we’ve talked about it but sushi samba on lincoln rd. is my fav sushi place on that street. great service and good food.
    Pizza Rustica HAS declined and Spris is now the way to go for pizza on lincoln. HA

  9. Deeper    Tue Oct 2, 09:07 PM #  

    Few years back…c’mon mapache. You don’t know what you are missing!

    I agree on the pizza. Spris is the best on Lincoln. For sushi, it is Sushi Samba!