Sushisamba proves you don’t have to visit The Shard for good food with a view, although you’ll still be paying a pretty penny for it. Fans of fusion food and slick, City surroundings will be sure to feel right at home here.
Up on the 38th floor of The City’s Heron Tower, Sushisamba sits parallel with the tip of The Gherkin, providing ample photo opportunities. The lift will leave you weak at the knees and you’ll step out to a very Sex And The City venue – Carrie and the gang would love the slick appearance of the oval-shaped sushi bar. The décor references Japanese Organic architecture, making plenty of use of wood and bamboo, while also reflecting Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s unique Modernist style, with natural, curved lines and fluid surfaces. An outdoor terrace bar sits beside and holds a beautiful Japanese maple tree, lit up prettily and with glowing orange leaves. The floor brings in a South American motif, mosaic tiling adding a splash of the samba element.
Through to the restaurant, where great bamboo shoots arch up the windows and interlace along the ceiling, the typical light bulbs hanging down loosely, too. Red upholstered booths curve round tables in the middle of the room while tables for two cluster around the edge of the room and provide the best view out to the streets of the City and beyond, and fancy seats in brown leather have been custom-made for comfort. Further seating in this 600-cover restaurant is available on a secretive mezzanine level, where seating is more informal and overlooks the main restaurant floor.
Although the restaurant’s name may conjure up visions of the latest gimmicky fitness craze to sweep the capital, Sushisamba is far from a fad, brimming with custom throughout the week almost a year after launching to the London public. Perhaps it’s because the Sushisamba name has international acclaim – outposts exist in New York, Chicago, Miami and Las Vegas – or perhaps it’s because this restaurant is so geared up for the flush City customers who crowd in and up the lift. It’s a City slicker’s paradise up here and most customers are smart financial workers doing business lunches or unwinding in groups after hours. They’re lulled into out of office mode by a soundtrack of funky and Balearic house and Hed Kandi chill-out albums. And although the décor is more sushi than samba, the waiting staff are mostly South American and are attentive yet relaxed, full of character yet polite. Bear in mind that the popularity of this prime location means you may be rushed through your meal and time slots are applied to tables. Perhaps you’re best off observing more relaxed hours and dining after dark.
Drawing on the cultural cross-pollination that resulted from clusters of Japanese migrants settling in Sao Paulo in the early 1900s, Sushisamba fuses South American – particularly Brazilian and Peruvian – cuisines with Japanese food. The result is a blend of miso and moqueca; sushi and ceviche. New head chef Claudio Cardoso has a formal background training in the best Portuguese kitchens and adds a few ideas of his own to the menu, such as escabeche criollo (£14), a refreshing spring leaf salad with slithers of lightly battered turbot and a Japanese sunomono dressing. This starter appropriately sets the tone for creative fusion food. Prices remain as sky-high as the Heron Tower, though.
Small plates or sushi rolls are a great place to start and yellowtail taquitos (£12) is one of the most popular dishes. It’s easy to see why; the crunchy little morsels hold a sweet and spicy meld of moist fish flakes and avocado. Just as enjoyable are the samba rolls – beautiful maki rolls with occasional Latin American twists. A Samba London plank (£15) is an all-rounder option, with six different raw fish toppings and accompanying wasabi mayo and soy sauce reduction. To suit extravagant City diners, wagyu tataki (£17) comes with the addition of foie gras and a fried quails egg. This is one of the richer dishes on an otherwise light starter menu.
Another delicacy on the small plates menu is kuromitsu glazed pork belly wraps (£12). Four caramelised morsels of fleshy meat are served in individual lettuce leaves, with little nibbles of orange flesh to add an extra citrus kick. Peruvian corn makes an ideal side dish to accompany larger main course options – the large kernels are less sweet than corn found in this part of the world, and are cooked in a fragrant coriander glaze. The robata grill provides ideal main courses to share, with asparagus on skewers (£8.50) tasting crisp and crunchy with a sesame tang.
Duck breast (£14) from the grill is cut into slithers and is intense in iron-rich flavour and deliciously pink in the middle. Meanwhile larger plates are on offer for bigger appetites and a fleshy cut of sea bass (£27) is perfectly presented sitting neatly on a corn leaf. It is sweet and zesty from a leche de tigre marinade and comes with a pretty heritage tomato accompaniment.
Desserts aren’t as consistently accomplished as some of these stunning-looking main course dishes, and an apple tiradito (£10.50) has a slightly synthetic flavour from its Granny Smith foam, although its accompanying coconut lime sorbet is a real palate cleanser and a pretty mosaic of apple and peach slices looks pleasing on the plate. The chocolate banana cake (£10) is a much better bet, with a moist texture similar to that of a sticky toffee pudding, and with vanilla rum ice cream and plantain chips adding the necessary Latin flavour.
The sake offering is substantial here and 100ml measures start at £8 on the list, although real connoisseurs can pay extra to try sakes from a seasonal list. For City slickers less inclined to sample sake, there’s plenty of bubbly to go around., including some vintage Cristal and Dom Perignon. Wines are well chosen to suit the subtle and citrusy flavours in the food, such as a robust Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley for £7.50 by the glass or £43 by the bottle. Cocktails include a Japanese twist on the Peruvian Pisco Sour, as well as a couple of tequila- and rum-based concoctions. Finally, the beer list is perfectly representative of what Sushisamba is all about – Brahma from Brazil, Cusquena from Peru and Kirin Ichiban from Japan all cost £5 by the bottle.
The Last Word
Sushisamba is a City slicker’s playground and the food, drink and views go a long way to explaining why the 600-cover restaurant is consistently flowing with custom. If you can justify the price tag, then this is the perfect place to sample some serious fusion food in supremely stylish surroundings.