Within five minutes of starting a conversation with any chef, you can tell how he or she views the craft. New executive chef at SushiSamba David Sears views cooking as a spiritual exercise and an art form.
"You have to remember, something died for you to be able to create art," said Sears. "As chefs, we're lucky because we get to create art that stimulates all five senses. Its not just about sustenance, you have to respect the food."
Sears has nearly 15 years of experience, most recently with Temple Orange at the Ritz-Carlton West Palm Beach. A graduate of Miami's Johnson & Wales University, Sears has held positions in a number of top-rated hotels across the country, serving as chef de cuisine of Café MoZu in the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, D.C.; executive chef at Bull & Bear Restaurant in the Waldolf Astoria hotel in Orlando; and executive sous chef of Terranea Resorts in Rancho Palos Verde, California.
"I'm always learning, it's a never ending journey," said Sears. "Grandma once told me to never to get too big for your bridges, that's when your journey ends."
In addition to learning, Sears has been spending a lot of time teaching. His passion translates to his line cooks, bussers, runners and especially his servers. "I tell them, they (the servers) are my line to the tables, so they have to exude the passion on the guests," he said. Sears chose SushiSamba because he felt he could stand behind the food they serve. After being at Samba a few months, Sears and the Samba group decided to make some changes to the menu to cater more to their diners.
Previously, SushiSamba offered an all-day menu, but Sears was quick to create breakfast, lunch and dinner lineups. The lunch was tailored to the business grab-and-go crowd, and items were kept under $20 though ingredients were of very high quality. All the meat is wagyu and comes with its own certificate detailing the name of the cow and even its parents' names. While most sushi restaurants throw imitation crab on their California rolls, SushiSamba uses Alaskan crab legs. All the fish is strictly sushi-grade and acquired from various well-known purveyors.
"We stand behind what we create," said Sears. "It's our passion, we are very proud, we're not just about making money."
New on the menu is a churrasco steak sandwich with prime rib robata grilled steak topped with an organic egg, grilled shittake mushrooms, black truffle aioli and kewpie, a traditional Japanese aioli. The bento boxes were made to be "more of an event," according to Sears, with miso soup, a spicy tuna roll and green salad with carrot ginger dressing. The new Samba Caesar is made from an entire romaine head with aji amarillo-infused Caesar dressing, fresh marinated bugarron anchovies and manchego cheese.
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Perhaps the most decadent of the new menu items is the Samba Cobb salad, which features greens tossed with applewood smoke bacon in wasabi buttermilk dressing, campari heirloom tomatoes, avocado topped with Hawaiian black salt, cabrales blue cheese and organic chicken roasted and glazed with sweet corn miso.
SushiSamba makes constant modifications to the menu, but keeps 70 percent of it unchanged. The other 30 percent is consistently modified according to what works and what doesn't, making for an ever-evolving and well thought-out variety of selections.