Sambal Stumbles

Good for sushi and sake, but bad for dinner

Roast chicken is the lowest-priced large plate, at $21, and it is one of the best. A golden-seared breast and teeny leg and thigh were served atop an earthy, aromatic ragout of wild mushrooms (including the fabulously fragile enokis), papery-thin sheets of bean curd, and a dash of soy, sesame, and supposed eucalyptus oil, though the last ingredient did not register.

I rarely order salmon, but Sambal's menu description of it being teriyaki-seared with edamame fried rice, eggplant, sautéed pea tendrils, and green tea butter sauce sounded too alluring to pass up. The succulent pink square of fish was missing the tendrils, which on another evening I espied atop a salmon at the next table; the bright green color enhanced the appearance, and the extra flavor no doubt elevated the fish as well. More pressing liabilities included the green tea sauce being too bland to have much impact, and two logs of Japanese eggplant arriving hard and practically raw — no vegetable tastes worse when uncooked.

The eggplant remained on the plate, chewed but uneaten, throughout dessert and while we waited for the check. And while we waited for the check. And while we waited for the check.... Service was titanically inept, the staff neither polished nor even remotely attentive. Glasses of water remained unfilled throughout one dinner, were only sporadically attended to in the course of another, and the table was never wiped down during either meal (guess you have to dine in a diner to be extended such courtesies). Whenever anything was needed, we were left looking around, waving for help as if trying to hail a taxi in the rain — and often, like such wet, frantic gesticulators, to little avail.

JOE ROCCO

Location Info

Map

Cafe Sambal Restaurant

500 Brickell Key Drive
Miami, FL 33131

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Brickell

Details

Open daily 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami; 305-913-8251

For dessert, some of the hotel's buffet pastries are presented tableside on a wooden tray. All are glossy, many shaped and decorated like mini pillbox hats: fruit tart, cheesecake, chocolate éclair, and so forth. No complaints in this department, for a muffin-size, brownielike chocolate cake with dense chocolate mousse filling, and an über-fresh napoleon were both undeniably delectable. Yet a $4 cup of lukewarm coffee, poured from a pot that was apparently sitting on the burner an hour or two too long, put a damper on even dessert.

I am, in essence, suggesting you stick to sushi and sake at stylish Sambal. To do otherwise is ... well, let's just say if you are desperate for dinner with an oceanside ambiance, you would be better off stranded on a remote island with some coconuts and the ghost of Shelley Winters.

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