More than 20 years after making its debut in New York, SushiSamba has launched a Dubai branch on Palm Jumeirah.
Breathtaking views, courtesy of the restaurant's location on the 51st floor of The St Regis Dubai, The Palm combined with a multifaceted menu that blends Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian influences, are already making it a firm favourite with Dubai diners.
Only time will tell if SushiSamba can end Zuma's longstanding reign as the emirate's most-loved Japanese-inspired eatery, but it is certainly a strong contender.
What to expect and where to sit
Dubai’s latest hotspot is defined by its sky-high location, and the spectacular views it offers from this unique vantage point 230 metres above the ground. In a city that prides itself on its stunning vistas, SushiSamba leads the charge.
You’ll want to sit next to the floor-to-ceiling glass windows that wrap around the entirety of the restaurant, and then be prepared to spend a good portion of your meal gawping at views of Palm Jumeirah extending out beneath you, and the Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa in the distance. Our meal is lent extra drama by the odd flash of lightning illuminating the sky.
The 1,115-square-metre interior is dark and evocative, with a 3D-printed bamboo-effect ceiling and lush greenery that pays tribute to the Amazon rainforest. Backlit leather bar fronts, a theatre-style open kitchen, plush seating and a live DJ all contribute to the sumptuous tropical vibe. The atmosphere is lively – full without feeling crowded and intimate without feeling unsafe.
Service is attentive but not overbearing, with our Uzbek waiter doing a stellar job of talking us through the nuances of the various dishes.
SushiSamba has already made its mark in London and Las Vegas, and the Dubai venue is its fourth. The concept is a mix of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian flavours that the brand likes to call a “tri-cultural coalition”.
The cuisine harks back to the early 20th century, when Japanese emigrants began settling in South America, and combining their culinary traditions with those of cities such as Sao Paulo in Brazil and Lima in Peru.
The menu includes an artful mix of Japanese sushi and tempura, Brazilian churrasco and moqueca, and Peruvian anticuchos and ceviche.
Our initiation starts with crispy taquitos (Dh50) packed with yellowtail, avocado, white miso, coriander and lime, setting the tone for a meal that playfully melds textures and flavours. The Japanese A5 Wagyu beef gyoza (Dh92) are served with tiny moreish swirls of kabocha puree and a sweet soy sauce, while the Peruvian corn salad (Dh54) combines grilled corn, sweet onions and avocado, offset with the subtle zing of red chilli.
There’s an extensive selection of seviches (spelt with an "s" on the menu in tribute to the restaurant's name), but we try the sea bream (Dh57), which is enhanced with green chilli, coriander, cancha corn and panca oil. The scallop tiraditos (Dh110) offer a break from the more zesty flavours, and come with a sweeter-tasting Nikkei-style leche de tigre and wasabi dressing that is perhaps more of an acquired taste.
Sushi rolls are generously served on a tiered, table-hogging ceramic platter, topped with a cloud of dry ice. The Samba Dubai (Dh150) is exclusive to the UAE venue and combines Maine lobster, mango, avocado, soy paper and ahi honey truffle, somehow still managing to feel light and delicate.
Similarly, the asevichado roll (Dh78) brings tuna, salmon and yellowtail together with avocado, cucumber, cancha corn, ahi Amarillo and leche de tigre, all expertly topped with a shaving of sweet potato.
There are plenty to choose from. The beef gyoza are perfectly seared, with a slight browning on one side, while the Chilean sea bass skewers (Dh95) or robata, prepared over a traditional Japanese charcoal grill, melt in the mouth.
A chat with the chef
“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 chef Kyungsoo Moon, culinary director of SushiSamba Dubai.
He recommends trying a little something from every cuisine to fully appreciate the SushiSamba experience. “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.”
Value for money and contact information
You’ll definitely need to call and book ahead as, rumour has it, there’s already a sizeable waiting list.
The restaurant is generating a lot of buzz and there was barely an empty seat to be found when we visited on a Saturday evening. It is priced at the higher end of the scale, with ceviches ranging from Dh48 to Dh127, tiraditos from Dh78 to Dh110, and sushi rolls from Dh68 to Dh192, but you get what you pay for.
From January 28, the restaurant will offer daytime dining between 12 and 3pm. In addition to the a la carte menu throughout the week and weekends, the restaurant will launch the Vivo Business Lunch from Monday to Friday, offering two courses for Dh139 and a great opportunity to sample the SushiSamba vibe midway through your day.
SushiSamba is located at The St Regis Dubai, The Palm, and tables can be booked by calling 04 582 1555.
This review was conducted at the restaurant’s invitation