The Place: We all know about Wynwood Walls, and now Miami Beach has its own walls in the Sushisamba restaurant, the longest-standing eatery on Lincoln Road with a revamped menu. Several walls were recently spray painted over six nights with abstract graffiti by Sushisamba London’s executive chef Claudio Cardoso, who is from Portugal. In the center of the space is a sushi-making station with a light fixture with stained glass panels above it. The vibe is like a lounge, with low lighting, a full bar, low banquettes and a soundtrack that includes jazz and Brazilian samba. There is ample outdoor seating with shade umbrellas and people-watching.
The History: The first Sushisamba was opened in 1999 in New York City by Israeli Shimon Bokovza, who is the CEO and founding partner with Mathew Johnson and Danielle Billera. Miami Beach was next, then Las Vegas and London. Perto Rican executive chef Cesar Vega started in the industry when he was 15, then came to Miami where he worked at Deering Bay for 10 years, becoming the sous chef after starting in prep. He also owned Komaki, a sushi and Thai place. Manager George Strom started here as a bar back eight years ago, then became the bartender until his promotion.
The Food: Japanese with Brazilian and Peruvian influences. Not just a sushi place, Sushisamba also offers rock shrimp tempura, pork belly confit with compressed dragon fruit and a lobster taquito with a shot glass filled with aji panca and aji amarillo foam to start with. Entrees include anticuchos (skewers) with cancha (Peruvian corn) sautéed in butter and lime juice; braised short ribs with kabocha pumpkin puree; Brazilian moqueca (coconut milk and seafood stew) with dende (palm oil); chicken teriyaki with aji amarillo and mashed purple potatoes; black cod with wasabi-infused crispy noodles and mirin braised trumpet mushrooms; and ribeye churrasco with chorizo and Wagyu picanha (tender sirloin cap). There’s also a tasting menu that starts with a welcome caipirinha cocktail followed by a yellowtail taquito with avocado cream, Wagyu gyoza, salt and pepper squid, assorted skewers, tuna tiradito and an Ezo roll ending with mochi-wrapped ice cream. If you’re ringing in in the New Year here, be sure to dress in white, as revelers in Brazil do, and enjoy a Brazilian-inspired celebration with DJs, samba dancers, drummers and festive NYE menus from 9:30 p.m. until close ($135 minimum per person). The chef-curated five-course omakase menu is extra. Reservations required.
You Didn’t Know This: The Ezo roll is named after a band that was popular in Japan in the 1980s similar to Kiss (executive sushi chef Shoyo Ida played electric guitar). To make it, salmon is marinated in soy sauce and yuzu for 24 hours and rolled up in soy paper with asparagus, red onions, chives and tempura flakes served with wasabi mayo. Chef Cardoso also created the yuzu scallop to go with his graffiti. It brings raw and cooked scallop marinated in yuzu with vanilla bean in cilantro jalapeno sauce with sesame seed “soil” and squid ink brioche toast meant to be mixed together to make abstract art on a plate.
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If You Go
The place: Sushisamba
Address: 600 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach
Contact: 305-673-5337, sushisamba.com
Hours: Noon-1 a.m. daily
Prices: Appetizers $5-$19, skewers $8-$16, entrees $24-$44, rolls $10-$19, sushi/sashimi $3-$7.50, tasting menu is $55 per person with a minimum of two.