SushiSamba offers more Peruvian/Japanese/Brazilian substance than meets the eye

View a slide show of SushiSamba.

SushiSamba offers more Peruvian/Japanese/Brazilian substance than meets the eye
Michael Bloise now helms SushiSamba. View more photos of SushiSamba.

SushiSamba Dromo is the less-talked-about older sister of Sugarcane Raw Bar. The latter is currently in her prime, and has been aggressively courted by the public since a Midtown debut in January 2010. Lincoln Road mainstay Dromo gracefully ceded the spotlight but has remained quite popular. And since the arrival of new executive chef Michael Bloise (Wish, American Noodle Bar) at the end of May, SushiSamba has been turning heads once again.

The elder sibling still gets around: There are three SushiSambas in New York, two in Las Vegas, and one each in Chicago and London. She's still attractive too, hardly changing or aging at all since landing in South Beach ten years ago this month (although a total refurbishment is due come January).

The room remains, in a word, orange. It is so imbued with that hue that if Mario Batali ever removed his trademark clogs here, he'd never again find them. It's a warm, comely, stylish space, designed with a smart look and smarter flow. A dominant sushi bar occupies center stage of the 110-seater, with tables orbiting around it on two levels. A pair of energy-packed full-service bars bookends the restaurant, and overhead are overlapping round white circles of muted light that form sort of a second ceiling to keep things cozy. Even so, most diners opt for one of the 210 outdoor seats (under oversize orange umbrellas) to better take in the pedestrian parade.

Wagyu gunkan with quail egg yolk
Wagyu gunkan with quail egg yolk

Location Info

Map

SushiSamba Dromo

600 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139-2916

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: South Beach

Details

SushiSamba Dromo

305-673-5337
sushisamba.com

Lunch daily noon to 5 p.m.; dinner Tuesday 5 p.m. to 4 a.m., Wednesday and Thursday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m., Friday and Saturday 5 p.m. to 2 a.m., Sunday 5 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Green bean tempura with black truffle aioli $7.50
Cinnamon oxtail gyoza $14
Wagyu gunkan with quail egg yolk $11
Suspiro limeno $8
Xin-xim of rock shrimp-stuffed chicken breast $12

View a slide show of SushiSamba.

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View a slide show of SushiSamba.

Music drums to a Brazilian beat (including techno tracks from that country), but it gets played at a considerate volume during dinner hours. When a live DJ spins on Friday nights, the volume is considerably less conducive to conversation.

Bloise's presence may have perked things up, but he hasn't tinkered much with the long-underrated cuisine. Japan, Brazil and Peru are still the spheres of gastronomic import. (Chef Bloise is French/Vietnamese.) Our waiter explained how the menu works: You start at the top left and work your way down the page (at this point he was stating the obvious), but then you slide your eyes over to the bottom right page and work your way upward. The idea, he went on, is to select items from each category as you move forward, without landing on the space that says "Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go."

Seriously though, we jumped over a few sections; to do otherwise is to spend a fortune. Prices per plate aren't bad, but there are a lot of categories. Plus portions are consistent with small plate venues, meaning that meals generally range from upper moderate to expensive to much pricier if you're liquoring up.

The bill of fare begins with "aperitivos" ($4.50 to $12) such as edamame, grilled shisito peppers, miso soup, and bright, crunchy green beans cleanly fried in thin, crisp tempura coating. Black truffle aioli with a garlic kick proved to be an addictive, delectable dip.

Next up on the menu (heading downward) are small plates ($9 to $17). We were smitten with a xin-xim of rock shrimp-stuffed chicken breast dappled with coconut-cashew sauce and echoed by frisée greens with coconut shavings and honey-spiced cashews. The biggest hit at the table was bulky pan-fried gyoza bursting with braised, cinnamon-flecked oxtail.

We leapfrogged the tempura section, as we'd already had the green beans, and headed to anticuchos ($9 to $14). The skewers don't come threaded with beef hearts as in Peru, but with grilled proteins such as sea bass glazed with miso and chicken with smoked teriyaki. The latter was laden with smoke and too much saltiness. On the other hand, all anticuchos come with buttery Peruvian choclos, the big, soft, white corn kernels soaked in butter and a bit of sugar.

Seviches and tiraditos ($13 to $18) fuse all manner of flavors, from shrimp with passion fruit, cucumber and cilantro to tuna with mango, turnip, and smoked sesame soy. We went with hirame (fluke) marinated in key lime juice and olive oil, with a petite yet piquant dab of fiery rocoto chile sauce atop each slice; crackly cancha kernels (dried Peruvian corn) added some snap. This cut of fish, taken from around the fin, is delicate and light, but it tasted funny – not old, but maybe as if a strange olive oil was interfering. We couldn't figure out what was ruining it, but it was ruined.

You can always play it safer via raw bar offerings such as jumbo shrimp, littleneck clams, lobster, oysters, and king crab legs.

View a slide show of SushiSamba.

Samba rolls ($10 to $17) are highly creative as well. A Dromo roll wraps Maine lobster, mango, tomato, chive, and crispy rice in soy paper, with peanut curry sauce on the side. Neo Tokyo brings a spicy tuna roll with yellowfin, tempura flake, and aji panca. Yet we were disappointed with our Green Envy roll of tuna, salmon, asparagus, and aji amarillo-key lime mayonnaise. It was flavorful enough, but an advertised "wasabi pea crust" turned out to be a soft green smear of the mustard upon the rice that imparted more color than heat — and didn't provide the expected textural contrast.

I envied the person at the next table enjoying an El Topo roll, which I've sampled at Sugarcane: salmon, jalapeño, shiso leaf, fresh melted mozzarella, and crisp onion. It's so distinctive that it has a registered trademark symbol after the name.

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3 comments
Bjork
Bjork

Roberto, why would you write such an absurd thing? You are slandering a writer you obviously do not know nor do you read his weekly column often, otherwise you'd know he makes every effort to be a fair, informed source for the consummer. He doesn't pander to PR types or anyone else for that matter. Lee Klein is not only one of the most honest people still standing in Miami, he's got the bruises to show for it. I suspect you are an angry cook who has a beef with the restaurant and thus takes a cheap shot at Lee. Rather than take this cowardly approach, why not stand up for your rights as a worker and try getting the Union active to support local workers in the restaurant and hotel sectors, who have zero representation in Florida and Miami in particular?

Robertomoreno
Robertomoreno

I am not a cook nor a chef nor own a restaurant. I have been following Mr lee for quite some time. He dosent know food and his reviews are biased at best.

 
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