I’m going to start this post with a disclaimer: I actually wrote this review a few months ago but never posted it (don’t ask me why). Yesterday, when I realised that it was Peruvian Independence Day, I experienced a powerful feeling of nostalgia which promoted me to post the review. Y por qué no?
Organising a Friday-night dinner at Sushi Samba required a considerable amount of forward planning and patience. This relatively recent addition to the London dining scene is so fashionable that my friends and I were subject to a three-month wait for a table.
Arriving five minutes early for the reservation (a rarity for me) we were swiftly pointed to the bar. As the queue for a drink was ridiculously long (that’s strike one), we made our way to the terrace dominated by a brightly lit tree. Sushi Samba is located on the 38th floor of Heron Tower, so you can imagine the view over a glittering London extended far beyond the Square Mile.
Seated at the table in the buzzing restaurant, we were presented with a sake menu whose length exceeded the food menu tenfold. The mildly stressful dilemma of which bottle to select was expertly dispelled by the pleasant and ostensibly knowledgeable waiter, who suggested a mid-range, cold, dry sake – perfect for the occasion.
Whilst I was enjoying my drink, two of my friends declared themselves the ‘Sushi Dons’ and ordered for the table. The self-professed dons did not disappoint.
Starting with the rock shrimp – which was deliciously crunchy – our first taste of Sushi Samba was excellent. The tuna tataki (which tasted suspiciously truffle-infused but the menu declared otherwise) and the yellowtail sashimi were both light and refreshing. Whilst undeniably the starters were dishes worthy of praise, I was left craving the Peruvian influence that I had been expecting.
No fear: that subsequently arrived in the form of four sushi rolls. Although a sushi roll fused with cheese may sound like gastronomic suicide, I hereby declare El Topo (salmon roll with jalapeño, mozzarella and onion) the exception to this decree. Neo Tokyo was a decent tuna roll although it perhaps stood in the shadow of its sushi roll siblings. The Sao Paolo roll seemed to combine every possible ingredient under the sun – violating the rule of Simplicity 101 – yet the flavours blended together well. The Sasa was ordered purely out of greed (you only live once, right?) but was a good dish: shrimp tempura hand roll with a twist on the rice base. Last (and unfortunately least) was the ‘Ezo’, which was distinctly underwhelming and unmemorable.
On the booze front, we actually stuck to sake all night. It was delicious and matched the food perfectly. If I had chosen a wine, however, I would have opted for an Alsatian or German riesling (they had a coupe of options on the menu). The aromatic character and refreshing acidity of the wine would have complemented the spicy and flavourful food.
Although at this point far too much food had been placidly devoured, the dessert menu looked exceedingly enticing. My friends and I have eyes bigger than our stomachs, so we ordered three desserts. Yes, three – don’t judge. The waiter skillfully emboldened us to order the red chocolate chilli peppers: a dish of chilli chocolate mousse with pepper & raspberry sorbet (which actually turned out to be quite spicy!). This dessert was gone in seconds, leaving us with our other two choices. The chocolate banana cake had its merits but unfortunately it simply lacked the sophistication and unconventionality of the chilli chocolate. The apple and yuzu concoction was quite zesty and refreshing but not really up my street (and during a subsequent visit to Sushi Samba I noticed this dessert had been discontinued).
All in all, all that food and sake meant we pretty much rolled out of the building.
If you are a little tired of the ubiquitous experiences of the West End, Sushi Samba is a terrific alternative in terms of both experience and food. The ambiance in the restaurant is buzzing; the views are excellent and beaten only by The Shard; for the most part the food ticked all of the boxes and was distinctive enough to merit a trek to EC2. While I would be happy to go back, I’m not sure I can be so patient the next time round.