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Sushi Samba

Pia Mileaf-Patel

$40+ a person

In preparation for our tradition of going out to eat after piano lessons, my mom asked my brother and me what we wanted for dinner. We didn’t miss a beat, “Sushi!” I always want sushi. Or Mexican food. If I had sushi for lunch and Mexican for dinner every day I would be the happiest girl alive, but that’s actually irrelevant. It was quickly decided that Sushi Samba, a trendy Peruvian-Japanese fusion restaurant, was the best, most ridiculous, and closest choice for Tuesday Night Dinner. When we got to the trendy restaurant, we were seated immediately at one of a few empty tables, a booth (the best!). The restaurant was surprisingly full for a Tuesday, with a few dates and friends meeting up for dinner. However unlike Friday or Saturday when you can’t get in, the bar was pretty empty.

            The exterior of the restaurant is color-blocked orange stained glass, which makes me, a teen girl, want to go inside immediately and join the obvious party. The inside has mood lighting, and you can see the sushi bar. There is a huge bar-bar, and some green bamboo chutes creating a pathway to go downstairs to the bathroom. Some quiet club-ish music is playing. Although it wasn’t as energetic and crowded as it would have been on a weekend, Sushi Samba created a festive, sophisticated, fun space to go out to eat.

            As soon as we were settled in, my mom grabbed the cocktail menu and ordered the “Chu-cumber,” a cucumber and elderflower drink, of which you can find the recipe here: I asked her about it and she said that she liked cocktails with cucumber in them because they are refreshing and, “clean.” This definitely met those standards and combined different flavors that came together nicely. As for virgin drinks (for those of us stuck in high school L) I recommend the “Coco Leite,” a piña colada like drink with mango.

            The dinner menu (they also serve yummy brunch, because who doesn’t like brunch) has a whole lot of small dishes that are perfect for sharing, and pretty darn good. Everything has a lot of flavors that are unexpected together, such as Asian pear in an eel roll, but somehow it all tastes great! They also have a few entrees, but I’ve found that the best way to navigate the menu is to order small plates and sushi to share. There is a section of special “Samba Rolls” and a page of normal sushi, sashimi and rolls. We ordered our dinner, and it came right on time; not too quickly, but we weren’t sitting there waiting and waiting, which I think is pretty hard to get right, so points for them!

            I think that possibly one of the best things, ever, is the green bean tempura, with black truffle aioli. I don’t know how to describe it other than perfect. The tempura batter coats the beans with just the right amount to add some crunch without becoming too greasy. And the truffle aioli, although unexpected, adds a subtle yet very present flavor to the fried string beans. I insist you order this.

            The edemame, a sushi-restaurant staple, is steamed and sprinkled with lime and thin, slivers of salt. Another sushi-restaurant staple is Tamago, which basically looks like a block of scrambled eggs. It’s like a sweet egg custard, cooked in very, very thin, crepe-like layers, then and folded/stacked together to form a block. Then it is sliced and put on top of rice. The whole thing looks like a piece of yellow sushi. Sushi chefs are often judged on their Tamago, as it’s very specific to their style. I’ve eaten many different types; some with minimal sugar, one that was so light and fluffy it tasted like pound cake, and dense egg-y ones. After Sushi Samba, I’ve also had the joy of tasting pre-packaged Tamago. It was just kind of sad…

            One of my other favorite items from the menu were the rock shrimp tempura, with chopped up snap peas and a spicy sauce that carried the taste of spiciness more than it was actually spicy. I also loved the not-fried tuna tataki, a slice of seared tuna on top of some fresh vegetables, drizzled with a yuzu vinaigrette. Yuzu is one of my favorite fruits. It’s a Japanese citrus that is used to flavor many things, especially drinks. It has a kind of unique, fresh taste that’s very distinct. I also recommend the gyoza, meat dumplings with a salty dipping sauce.

            We also ordered a bunch of rolls. The plate was very instagramable (for those of y’all who care, which I know you do. We all do). We got avocado, for my picky brother (which he approved of), spicy tuna, yellowtail and scallion, and some Samba Rolls, the Rainbow Dragon and the El Topo®. The rice held together, and the fish was fresh. The ikura (those little salmon roe ball thingies) was okay… The Rainbow Dragon roll is eel, avocado, pepper, cucumber and mango. The sweet and salty ingredients really compliment each other. The El Topo® is cooked salmon, mozzarella, and jalapeños on rice, sprinkled with crunchy, onions. This literally is about the weirdest thing I’ve heard, especially the “hot sushi” part, but it’s so good! My mom always mentions how unappetizing it looks, but insists on ordering it because it’s unexplainably fantastic. You just have to trust me on this. My friend ordered it once when we were in sixth grade, and we had to end up getting another order because we both wanted more!

            Dinner at Sushi Samba was very fun, and festive while still being low key. I mean, I know that it’s not amazing, foodie quality sushi (melted cheese over rice. Enough said)… I’ve been to the tzuki fish market in Japan and eaten sushi practically off the boat… but I’d recommend Sushi Samba as a good place to go out and eat something exciting. The food is very fun and the restaurant has an energetic party space atmosphere. I would definitely recommend going there, especially for a nice date, or the start of a girl’s night out!