Sushisamba – Converting the Fusion sceptic in me

My first restaurant review in 2014 aptly connects to last year having had to book well more than a month in advance to pick a date that worked for us. After reading quite a few critical reviews on Sushisamba, I feel hesitant to say it, anxious to come across as too simple and naïve in taste but… I must admit I absolutely loved my experience there celebrating a friend’s birthday, easily catapulting it into my Top 5 special occasions restaurants in London.

“Fusion cuisine” is a word that usually makes me queazy and I’m especially skeptical of the results when it involves my delicate native Japanese cuisine abused and brutalised for the sake of a modern food experiment. And so I came with more than a healthy amount of bias towards this Peruvian Brazilian Japanese fusion food from across the pond.

On the 38/39th floor of Heron Tower, getting to Sushisamba I must say was a bit of a wanna-be fussy show walking through the door next to the neon orange restaurant sign on the ground floor past the receptionist walking through a short small corridor to the glass elevator. Not for people suffering acrophobia, the fast elevator provides a clear view of the city. Finally on the 38th, there was yet another small corridor to cross to finally reach the restaurant’s cloak room. Perhaps it was because we arrived at the same time as another party but guidance was lost somewhere and we ended up standing in the bar area not really knowing which way to go. After apprehending one of the many waiters rushing by, we were guided to the receptionist. After some waiting, our voyage finally came to an end, seated at a window table with a perfect view over London and the Thames which helped appease my earlier irritation. From then on, the entire experience was almost impeccable.

The interior was modern stylish. I had seen the terrace with the illuminated tree already online but the real view was even more stunning. We also came with the perfect weather to enjoy it. The lighting was very unique, not too obnoxious to steal the attention away from the food or service and yet very detailed. If you ever run into a conversational standstill, you can definitely bridge the gap discussing the various lightbulbs in the room.

2014-01-19 19.23.24

Our friendly waiter explained the menu perfectly well (his Spanish accent took a while getting used to but he made up for it in his charming manner), also highlighting his personal preferences without any hesitance. Whether or not I follow recommendations, I do like waiters who have an own opinion and give me a feeling of knowing and caring about the place they work at.

And so following our waiter’s suggestion to pick 2 to 3 dishes (not from the large plates which are for bigger groups) per person and choosing a few of his recommendations, we ended up with the following mix:

From the small plates

2014-01-19 19.32.10CRISPY TAQUITOS (2 per order) £12.00

Yellowtail avocado and roasted corn miso

WAGYU GYOZA  £12.00

Kabocha puree, sesame and su-shoyu dipping sauce

From the raw section

SASHIMI SEVICHE ‘MIXTO’ £11.00

Octopus, prawn, south coast white fish, sweet potato, aji limo leche de tigre

From the Robata

2014-01-19 20.05.11SALMON £14.00

Orange miso, peruvian dark chocolate

And finally from the Samba Rolls

SAMBA LONDON £16.00

Crab, tuna, salmon, white fish, prawn, scallop, wagyu, avocado, tempura crunch, wasabi mayo, aji panca, housemade soy reduction

STRAWBERRY MAKI £14.00

Soy paper roll, goma wakame, strawberry, yuzu crab mayo, tobiko caviar, avocado, sweet potato, wasabi mayo

2014-01-19 20.09.44

Strawberries in rice?? Dark chocolate on salmon??? We had our doubts. But almost as a dare, took up the challenge, only to find ourselves truly impressed by the level of sophistication and thought put into the dishes, not only in terms of taste but artistic display. It was truly fusion cuisine with influences of all three cuisines collaborating in our dishes. Daring, challenging and delicious.

After this more than filling meal, we took a peek at the dessert menu. ASSORTED MOCHI? We were a bit worried we might end up with the Japanese supermarket frozen food variant just a bit touched up, but were pleasantly surprised by a colourful dessert with so many diverse ice fillings. I myself went for the YUZU TART CHEESECAKE our waiter couldn’t stop marvelling about. The presentation was nothing like I expected: glazed scoop of ice cream, once you cracked the surface, a cheesecake with a magical freshness awaited.

2014-01-19 21.16.502014-01-19 21.16.41ASSORTED MOCHI £8.00

soft japanese rice cake filled with ice cream

YUZU TART CHEESECAKE £13.00

sugar sphere, crispy yuzu, strawberry gelée, yuzu-basil granité, orange zest

At the end of our dinner, like so many of the popular busy places, the next group was waiting to get our table, but without any rushing, our waiters at Sushisamba, more than polite, kindly suggested we could move on to the bar to enjoy the view some more. On this occasion we didn’t, but we’ll sure do next time.

Square Meal

Advertisements

La Chapelle – up for any special occasion

Ever since my first visit to Galvin La Chapelle three years ago, I have been a regular here. What is most amazing about this multiple award winning Michelin star restaurant in the 19th century grade II listed St. Botolph’s Hall, is its consistency, never failing from the standard which impressed me the first time around. And so, it isn’t very surprising that it was chosen as the venue for my roommate’s boyfriend to propose to her (among the short-listed competitors were Clos Maggiore and Oblix).

So this particular review is not only about Galvin La Chapelle in general but marks a very special occasion.

Having agreed on the location, the groom-to-be and I (his accomplice), went together about a month ago to check out the premises. Having been told that he was looking to propose, Galvin’s staff was incredibly forthcoming. Rebecca showed us around, suggested three locations within the restaurant, where he could expect some more privacy. One of the three was the first floor little stage-like area overlooking the rest of the restaurant accommodating about five tables. While it can be booked for larger parties, Rebecca suggested he could get a table there if no one should book it for that day. Luck was on our side and being a Wednesday and midweek, the space remained free from private party bookings.

galvin-la-chapelle_TA

On the day, the semi-elaborate ruse played out well. The bride-to-be thought he was only taking her out for a nice dinner to reward her for a tough week at work. We had asked for the table to be set for two instead of 3 (me being the surprise guest to walk in to bring him the ring… Don’t ask, it’s just how close the three of us are!) and to our surprise, not only had we gotten that special table on the first floor, but the entire rest was kept free as well for us to be fully private. The only teeny tiny mistake that was done was that despite instructions for flowers sent to the restaurant to be handed over to me, they were placed at the table. She, however, did not get suspicious at all, just assuming he was being a nice boyfriend (given his good track record, it seemed plausible).

In I came as a surprise guest, standing in the door, not sure whether they could see me from upstairs at this angle, the staff reassured me and guided me through to them. Despite the momentary confusion, it slowly dawned on her what was just about to happen, especially given the giant gingerbread heart (my special touch in this proposal) with “Will you marry me?” written on it, being brought in behind me by the waitress (another thank you to the Galvin staff for playing along!). My roommate was in tears of joys, he was getting so nervous he couldn’t get the ring out and it all ended in the lovely words “Yes, of course!”

So now that the hard and emotional part is done (I filmed it all for future teary memories), let’s talk about the food.

In the past, I often had the Lasagne of Dorset crab, frisee & cornichon salad (£10.50) followed by their signature dish, the Tagine of Bresse pigeon, cous cous, confit lemon & harissa sauce (£29.50), finishing off with the Valrhona chocolate ganache, honeycomb & coconut sorbet (£11.50). Yet, this time around, I went for an all new line-up.

Landes foie gras, Provence nectarine, pistachio, lavender jelly & brioche £16.50

2013-08-21 19.18.03

Having recently experienced Club Gascon, supposedly the best foie gras house in London, I had some good grounds for comparison. Unlike Club Gascon, Galvin’s foie gras was much more straight forward: foie gras that could be recognized as foie gras by all senses. Melting in my mouth, it went perfectly with the piece of soft brioche, the lavender jelly adding the finishing fine touches to the taste.

Assiette of Herdwick lamb, ratatouille, San Marzano tomatoes & fennel £31.50

2013-08-21 19.45.13

The lamb was made out of several pieces from different body parts, providing a new taste with each. The diversity was a delight.

Banana soufflé, peanut praline & passion fruit sorbet £10.50

2013-08-21 20.36.02

This was apparently my roommate’s favourite dessert and I can understand why. Beautifully presented, the waiter then cuts a cross into it and fills it up with the berry sauce. It’s a deliciously sweet and light combination with the refreshing sorbet on the side.

At the very end we were served a last treat on the house for the celebration and the restaurant manager came to check all is well. Indeed, all was well. My roommate always liked Galvin but now it will carry a lifetime memory. After all is done, I can happily say this restaurant deserved being the chosen location for this special occasion.

2013-08-21 21.16.47

My recommendation: if it’s your first time, have the pigeon tagine!

Price: ££££

Food: *****

Service: *****

Decor: *****

Square Meal