A recent hot opening in London is Sushisamba, a restaurant brand brought over from the States (it can be found in New York, Vegas, Chicago and Miami). Its style is described as a “unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian”. When I called to make the booking, a Brazilian carnival beat blasted across the line. Even before getting there, it already seemed like a fun place.
Spread across two levels on the 38th and 39th floor of Heron Tower, it offers a stunning view of London from atop, which is rare in this city. We rode a glass elevator up, looking out at the Gherkin and at the top, stepped out into another world. We were greeted by red, orange and green perspex sheets forming a cubic design. Animation graphics were painted on the far wall. The bar was busy, full of city workers catching a Friday night drink. Walking down the stairs to the level below, there was another packed bar area. There was an energetic vibrancy to the place that seemed to promise a good night ahead. We walked through to the right into the restaurant area, which is by far the most atmospheric. Ultra high ceilings with overarching bamboos created a lofty spaciousness, while the hundreds of hanging bulbs gave the room intimacy. It was as if you were sitting in a bamboo jungle underneath the stars. We looked out onto a outdoor patio where there is bar with a huge lit up tree in the middle. It was raining that day so the area was empty but it would be the perfect setting for drinks when summer comes along.
It was a night out with visiting friends from Asia, which is an excuse to hit the cocktail list. Shiso fine was a favourite (a tall cocktail with vodka, red thai basil syrup, apple and lime). We also tried Inca Swizzle, drawn by the fact that it had dry chocolate liqueur in it, mixed with Tequila, lemon juice and bitters. You can definitely taste the chocolate, but it was very strong, one of these is enough.
We ordered green bean tempura, served with black truffle aioli to go with our first round of cocktails. The tempura was crisp and the aioli addictive. We ordered sushi rolls: samba London and Sao Paulo, both were average. Uni (Sea Urchin) Nigri was of good standard. The best of the meal were the Robata dishes, which are prepared over a charcoal grill.
The must tries are:
Pork Tsukune (meatballs) served with slow cooked egg yolk-- flavoursome and substantial.
Flank Steak with Hatcho miso--Tender and juicy.
Scallops with bonito and yuzu—The scallops were giant and meaty!
Black Cod with miso and pickles green applies—silky and delicate flesh with good flavourings.
We also ordered an Arroz Con Pato which is rice with duck breast, foie gras, cilantro and pickled red onion. Foie gras with fried rice is a personal favourite of ours and we have it whenever it is offered in Japanese restaurants. This was a good dish with a good balance of flavours and textures. We ordered the desert platter despite being very full. While the presentation was nice enough, we felt that it was nothing special.
After dinner, we went upstairs to the lounge for more drinks. The atmosphere was not nearly as good as the restaurant. That being said, the waitress was attentive and we received good table service. Also, bearing in mind that there are very few bars and lounges in London that are open late, past the 11 pm cut off point, we can see Sushisamba becoming an establishment, at least amongst City workers.
In a nutshell:
We like the atmosphere, the vibrancy, the décor and the view. It’s great for a dinner in the weekend, catching up with a big group of friends. Ask for a booth, which sits up to 7 people for more intimacy and comfort. The food is good if you order the right things. Skip the sushirolls and stick to the Robata. The fact that you can stay on for drinks after is also very convenient.
Lunch/Dinner?: Dinner! We have only been for the dinner service so this is only an assumption based on the fact that the lunch service will not be as buzzy (which is a huge plus point for sushisamba) and call us romantics, but you won’t get the same effect with the hanging lights as you would for dinner.
When we said it felt like we entered into a different world when we stepped out of the lifts, it dawned on us what that world was a few hours in—it’s South America.