SushiSamba chef reveals Dubai menu: Wagyu, ceviche and moqueca

As the world-renowned restaurant gears up for the launch of its first Middle Eastern branch in early November, here’s a taste of what’s to come

Despite Dubai's penchant for new restaurants, few have been as highly anticipated as SushiSamba. The world-famous high-end venue already has branches in the US, and London, so when news broke in 2019 that it would open its first Middle Eastern branch in Dubai, it got regional fans and foodies talking.

After a delay in the opening date (the restaurant was originally scheduled to open in 2020), it’s finally happening: SushiSamba Dubai has announced an early November launch, with reservations already being taken on its website.

Here’s everything you need to know about the new space.

The venue: a 3D-printed ceiling and fish market

SushiSamba is located on the 51st floor of Palm Tower, offering its diners 360-degree views of Palm Jumeirah and the glittering Dubai skyline beyond, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows. At 230 metres above the ground, it is the highest restaurant on the Palm – so come with your camera fully charged.

The 1,115-square-metre space has been designed to pay tribute to the spirit of Japan, Brazil and Peru. The main dining area, for example, is nestled under a 3D-printed bamboo ceiling inspired by Japanese and Brazilian woodwork and weaving techniques. The restaurant also features a theatre-style open kitchen, a sushi counter, a robata grill and a Tsukiji fish market, so diners can check out the freshness of the fare (and know exactly where it’s coming from). A DJ booth completes the setting.

The food: local ingredients and new dishes

Seasonality, authenticity and freshness are the cornerstones of the menu. It's why some of the ingredients, most notably the seafood, will be flown in from Japan, while the majority of the vegetables will be sourced fresh from UAE farms.

Chef Kyungsoo Moon, culinary director of SushiSamba Dubai, tells The National that despite SushiSamba’s Brazilian, Peruvian and Japanese roots, it will not have a fusion menu – instead the dishes are created to be as authentic as possible, while paying tribute to each cuisine’s traditional culinary techniques.

“The food and beverage scene in the UAE is a bit elevated so we want to create something special for Dubai customers, to take it a level up, make it simple and yet amazing,” says Moon.

Those who have visited other branches might still want to stop by the Dubai one, as approximately 50 per cent of the dishes are new creations, he says. These include crispy Hokkaido scallop, yellowtail taquitos, Japanese A5 Wagyu beef gyoza, Wagyu A4 Japanese claypot, a ceviche platter and Peruvian corn salad. The restaurant’s signature Samba roll, meanwhile, will be recreated as the Samba Dubai roll, featuring ingredients such as mango, avocado, soy paper, aji honey truffle and lobster for an indulgent twist.

“We’ve crafted the menu keeping UAE consumers and tastes in mind,” says Moon, naming dishes such as the Brazilian moqueca seafood stew and the Wagyu claypot as some he thinks will appeal to regional tastes.

On the subject of regional flavours, he says the team have also experimented with ingredients such as sumac to add a local touch to the ceviche.

If you want to make the most of your meal, Moon recommends trying a little something from every cuisine. “You can order the sushi, sashimi, ceviche as a starter, and something from the robata grill for a main. The important thing is to enjoy the different flavours.”

More inclusive menus

To serve Dubai’s food and beverage market, the restaurant will cater to various dietary restrictions and have a dedicated gluten-free menu. “Usually when you go to a Japanese restaurant, it’s hard to find gluten-free dishes, as most of them use soy sauce,” he says. “However, we’ve found a sauce that is gluten-free, which we are using for the separate menu.”

There will also be a separate menu for vegans. For instance, the restaurant will have taquitos with crispy tofu; the rolled-up tortilla dish usually comes with a filling of beef or chicken.

Meanwhile, ceviche will also get a vegan makeover in the form of a mushroom version garnished with the flavour of truffle, plus a mushroom claypot main for vegetarians.

“These days, we’re seeing a lot of non-vegetarians also opt for vegetarian and vegan dishes, and I have to respect that,” says Moon.

New experiences: a special SushiSamba afternoon tea?

Brunch is an institution in Dubai, and Moon reveals there will definitely be one coming to this branch – although he does warn diners not to expect too much too soon.

The restaurant will instead focus on introducing new experiences in stages, first perfecting the dinner and lunch menus before launching a brunch in the coming months.

It may also capitalise on the gorgeous sunset views with the launch of an afternoon tea in the future. On that menu will be savoury bites and finger food, from maki rolls to ceviche. “Just don’t expect any scones,” Moon says, with a laugh.

SushiSamba Dubai will open in November; 51st Floor, Palm Tower, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai;

Updated: October 17th 2021, 12:20 PM