If you feel like a moment of escapism in London, I may have found just the place. It felt like New York right from the elevator – and it was definitely an elevator, not a lift. With its glass frontage and chrome finishing, it swished us to the 38th floor of the City’s Heron Tower in seconds; and emerging, we found ourselves not just lifted, but transported.
Before a spectacular view over London, elegant and attentive hostesses politely asked for our reservation. Clearly, this wasn’t the kind of place you just walk in off the street: the people lunching were organised, beautiful, busy business-people with leather-bound agendas and Rolex watches. The clientele probably look similar in the New York, Miami, Chicago and Las Vegas outlets of this little chain, which boasts of its unique blend of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine, music and design. And yes, the design is as important as the food here: the décor was appropriately swanky, with high, glass and chrome ceilings, an outside terrace, and clean lines that ooze sophistication.
Not knowing what to choose, I called over one of the waiters. The Brazilian influence obviously extended to the staff, but he wasn’t just a pretty face; he asked how much, how adventurous and how spicy, before recommending three dishes to share. The first was Yellowtail Taquitos: a great combination of textures and tastes, hot and cold, it comprised lemongrass, avocado and ‘aji panca miso’, served with lime in individual, succulent, bite-sized parcels. The only drawback was that there were only five, between the two of us; I reluctantly surrendered the third to my companion.
The next dish was Kuromitsu glazed pork belly wraps with palm hearts, orange and bib lettuce. Once again, the marriage of flavours and textures was superb, with crunch and rich, aromatic softness alternating. The dish was also nicely complemented by a white burgundy: dry, distinctive and fruity, it worked well with each course and left our palate prepared for each new discovery.
After these culinary adventures, the main dish was a little disappointing – basically, a paella with a Brazilian name – but we enjoyed its heavy load of seafood. Although we couldn’t fit in a dessert, from the exquisitely-decorated puds adorning other tables they appeared to be quite a speciality.
Long after we left, the impression of being suspended from the reality of austere London, traffic fumes and cutbacks lingered. In Sushi Samba nothing hurts, money does not matter, and everything exudes a carefully nonchalant air of comfort. The food was very good, and the whole experience quite surreal. It’s definitely recommended; and would, so to speak, give any visitor a lift.