By Caitlin Marino
We all know SUSHISAMBA as a well-known staple of Miami Beach’s famous landmark, Lincoln Road. You’ll always find outdoor dining tables under the enormous, and now iconic, orange umbrellas packed with natives and international travelers who all simultaneously sit outside to enjoy the novelty of people watching. On a warm September night, I headed over to try a few of the “Signature Items” as well as the specially-curated dinner menu highlighting the best of Japanese, Brazilian, and Peruvian cuisine fusion for their Miami Spice menu created by Executive Chef Cesar Vega.
I kicked off the dining experience with a selection of deliciously refreshing libations. The Niña Fresa was the perfect tropical combination of guava, strawberry and lime, while the Chucumber cocktail was a good choice for those who might prefer a light, clean tasting beverage. I was obsessed with the presentation (listed on the menu as the “Cocktail Tree”) which brings 12 “stems” of up to three different choices of signature cocktails. It’s a great selection for a group outing and it makes for the perfect picture to snap for your next Instagram upload.
I went on to enjoy a few of the “Signature Items” available on the menu including the Yellowtail Taquitos, which brought avocado and roasted corn miso and was served with spicy aji panca and fresh lime. While miniature in size, these taquitos bring a big amount of flavor. If you love spicy, make sure to pack on the accompanying spicy aji panca sauce for a lip-smacking flavor combination. The greatest part of all? You can catch these taquitos during SAMBAHour for only $5 for a pair.
I then went on to have El Topo: a sushi roll with salmon, jalapeño, shiso leaf, crispy onion, spicy mayonnaise, and fresh melted mozzarella, all drizzled with eel sauce. I was pretty excited to see a sushi roll that featured my favorite cheese, but sadly I felt like it fell a bit short of the high expectations I had. It was by no means a bad roll, but I’d suggest to save space for another round of yellowtail taquitos.
I also tried the Sea Bass Anticuchos with miso and Peruvian corn. Deceptively simple, the dish featured perfectly cooked sea bass that literally melts off of the skewer as you bite into it. I am not one to usually order warm/cooked fish (I prefer sashimi, ceviche, etc.) but this was way better than expected and a complete highlight.
After experimenting with a few of the signature dishes, Chef Vega treated us to the highlights of SUSHISAMBA’s Miami Spice dinner menu. The following is a brief recap of said menu ($39 pp):
eruvian corn, Amazonian tomatoes, choice of tuna or salmon sashimi, house smoked trout eggs, chicha morada vinaigrette, and sacha inchi oil– P
Chicha morada is one of my favorite Peruvian culinary dishes. Usually served as a cold drink, I was intrigued to see Chef Vega integrate it into the dish as vinaigrette, which I found made for an exquisite combination with sashimi.
homestead tomatoes, flash fried kale, gooseberry, and shallot-soy vinaigrette
As if I wasn’t already smitten by the Chicha Morada, I then enjoyed the Heirloom Tomatoes and Crispy Kale. If you’re anything like me, kale and tomato might not sound too convincing, but a true foodie gives everything a try. The crispy kale and juicy tomatoes on this dish are drenched in a tasty soy vinaigrette, which yields a fresh, palate pleasing taste. Like Mitch, I also might be re-thinking my #TeamNoSalads stance after this delicious interpretation.
avocado, yuzu pepper, white soy, yukari shiso salt, and white truffle infused olive oil
I’ve seen a few dishes pop up this summer that pair fish and watermelon together to create a refreshing summertime favorite. So far, I’ve loved them all and this Salmon Watermelon Tiradito was no exception. There’s just something so perfectly complementary about the two main ingredients and the added hint of white soy sauce, salt and pepper, and white truffle olive oil in this rendition makes you savor each piece that much more.
confit alligator ribs, housemade bbq bacon, and Samba slaw
I decided to take a big leap outside of my comfort zone and try the most interesting, and probably most unexpected, item on the SUSHISAMBA Miami Spice menu: the BBQ Alligator Ribs (confit alligator ribs, housemade bbq sauce and Samba slaw). I traditionally stick to chicken, pork, or fish options, but I was curious to see what Chef Vega had up his sleeve with this dish. Surprisingly, I found the flavor to be exactly how most people initially react to alligator ribs – very similar texture to chicken just with a neutral taste. The housemade BBQ sauce stepped in to bring a rich, smoky flavor to the meat, which made this a finger-licking, enjoyable experience. If you’re not necessarily a big ‘gator fan (and I’m not talking about college football season) or if you simply prefer a more traditional entrée item, SUSHISAMBA also offers a Pan-Seared Fish, Grilled Wagyu Picanha, and Tuna Tartare as other entrée selections as part of the Miami Spice menu.
Coco Cake – drunken coconut cake, passion fruit caramel, avocado ice cream, and volcanic salt
When you visit this restaurant, you’ll notice it offers an amazing variety of desserts as part of the Miami Spice menu such as chocolate banana cake and mochi, but as soon as I saw the Coco Cake I was sold. The presentation is spectacular: the oozing passion fruit caramel puts all eyes on the center masterpiece of moist coconut cake, a scoop of vibrant avocado ice cream, all topped with even more passion fruit caramel. Needless to say, there wasn’t one drop left behind in the aftermath. I gave a standing ovation for this masterfully executed creation.
Caitlin’s take: Like most Miami natives, I unfortunately do not make it out to Miami Beach often, and usually make the trip just when relatives or friends who want to explore the city are in town. Thus, I hadn’t visited SUSHISAMBA in a while, but I was pleasantly reminded of how great the ambiance, service and menu are. I also learned more about the great happy hours (available from 4 – 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. – close every Sunday through Thursday), which feature both drinks and items from the kitchen and sushi bar for just $5 or $7 – basically unheard of for Miami Beach restaurants! My experience definitely re-opened my eyes and I hope to be back for happy hour very soon! And don’t miss out on the Miami Spice experience… Only 4 days left!
Standout dish: The Coco Cake was unforgettable. How many “pleases” would it take to get this permanently included on the menu?