I was skeptical when we decided to have my birthday dinner at Sushi Samba. But trying to decide while walking down Park Ave. on a cold miserable night was not my idea of fun, so I relented. Reasons for my skepticism? Well, pardon me for being somewhat suspicious of a restaurant that serves three cuisines - Japanese, Peruvian, and Brazilian - as if mastery in one isn't enough. Also, Sushi Samba's gaudy, bright orange interiors, loud music, and attractive bartenders lent an aura of style over substance. And of course, everyone knows that Samantha (or was it Miranda?) dined here in an episode of "Sex and the City", thus attracting mobs of celebrity-seekers and camera-toting tourists. Are these sufficient enough?
Took a while for our party to figure out what we wanted, we kept flip-flopping among dishes from the cuisines mentioned above. They all sounded so good. Started off with a pisco sour, the Peruvian national drink. It came just as expected, with egg white foam on top, and tasted as good as the ones I've had in Peru. Food-wise, I stuck to the small plates and ordered king salmon ceviche (uncooked fish marinated in lemon) and shrimp anticuchos (skewers) over corn. Struck gold with both dishes as they were perfectly executed. Had to admit, I was impressed...make that very impressed.
As per our usual practice, my dining companions and I freely shared the various small plates we ordered. Other standouts were chicharon de calamar, with its light cornmeal coating and tamarind sauce leaving a sweet sensation on the tongue, and the miso-marinated sea bass anticuchos which were devoured in a snap. Just when I was about to get more...they were gone!!! No wonder then that they were the general consensus for best dish of the night.
We stumbled out of Sushi Samba delighted at our discovery. I was happily disabused of my preconceived notions and despite the adage that a "free meal is always delicious", I am eager to return to Sushi Samba for seconds.