There is something to be said for fusion cuisine.
Of course, I’m not talking about midnight fridge raids that result in a state of fusion confusion. Nor am I talking about viral food ‘hacks’ like coffee paired with cheese. (Try as they might, influencers will never convince me that a Parmesan Espresso Martini is a good idea).
But when done properly, marrying seemingly unlikely ingredients to create innovative, hybrid dishes can make for an incomparable dining experience. Behold the new kid on the block, Sushisamba, a melange of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisines.
Sushisamba, known for its stylish, flamboyant décor, has sister branches in London, Las Vegas, Dubai and Doha. So, when news hit that it would be coming to Edinburgh, frissons of excitement bubbled down the spines of gastronomic high heidyins. But would this ‘tri-cultural coalition’ with Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian influences stand up to scrutiny in Scotland?
We walked through the entrance of the W Hotel which is based inside Edinburgh’s ‘ribbon’ building and the St James Quarter. First, we were whisked up to the top floor. Nothing could have quite prepared us for what we found. Glass doors framed the silhouette of Edinburgh Castle and opened out to the most incredible 360-degree views. Still not convinced of the copper spiral that sits on the capital’s skyline? This vantage point will sell it to you.
Back on the tenth floor is Sushisamba which features a private dining room, outdoor terrace and main restaurant. Diners are met by the restaurant’s iconic ornamental oak tree which is lit by orange fairy lights and enveloped by a teal-coloured bar. A reflective, rippled ceiling brings light into the heart of the room, and one wall is covered in cascading green plants.
On the opposite side is the open kitchen, featuring a Japanese robata grill that is used to roast meats, vegetables and fish over charcoal. The floor to ceiling glass that wraps around the dining space is, however, the showpiece. It is, by all counts, stunning. A place to be seen. A place, dare I say it, to be Instagrammed.
That said, there’s more to Sushisamba than just superficial curb appeal. As we headed to our table, looking out over The Balmoral Hotel and Princes Street, eclectic groups were enjoying the delicious-smelling spoils. Beside us sat a young family with empty plates and happy faces. Four businessmen were huddled in the corner, discussing their crowded plates in hushed, appreciative tones. Meanwhile, a couple behind us popped open some bubbly and quietly started their own private celebration.
As I glanced through the gargantuan menu, I wished I had a culinary arts degree, or at least a translator who could help me to decipher the array of Japanese tempura, Brazilian moqueca and Peruvian anticuchos on offer. Thankfully, our lovely server Megan was all too happy to offer some advice. Four or five small plates and a large plate should, she said, feed two. The dishes come as and when they are ready and are designed to offer a shared dining experience.
I was dining with someone who spent a year in South Korea, so was quickly informed that no Asian-inspired meal could begin without an aperitivo of edamame. (£5) It was a salty, citrusy hit that whetted the appetite, but I looked longingly at the padrón (grilled spicy pepper with salt and lime) on the adjacent table and declared we’d be ordering those next time.
The onslaught of devilishly good small plates that followed had us unable to converse coherently. The salt and pepper squid (from local fishmonger Campbells) with dry miso, shichimi, sea salt, crispy garlic and su-shoyu (£12) was the star of the show with its crispy exterior and umami flavour.
The wagyu gyoza with kabocha (a type of squash) purée and sweet soy (£18) was unsurprisingly moreish and was hoovered up at an immoral rate. That said, highly-prized meat like this (which is sourced from Highland Wagyu) probably ought to be served alone. But more on that later.
Exclusive to Sushisamba Edinburgh is the robata venison truffle with miso sauce and mashed yuca. (£25) Again, Scottish produce is front and centre as the meat is sourced from Braehead Foods in Perthshire. It didn’t make for the most elegant eat (especially when you factor in chopsticks) but the truffle was subtle and the sweet sauce that sat alongside the game was divine.
Though tempted by the samba rolls, we took Megan’s advice and ordered one of her favourite sides instead – teriyaki tofu. (£6) It was rich and silky, smooth and intensely savoury.
The show-stopper, though, was the wagyu ishiyaki (£60) served on a hot stone with dipping sauces and pickled plums. Aside from being an unapologetic piece of theatre (you cook your own wagyu on the stone with chopsticks) the meat was unlike any I’ve ever had. This was also a masterclass in how to serve a premium ingredient – on its own, save for a few simple dipping sauces. It practically fell apart the second it was lifted from the board. I couldn’t have rated it higher and – judging by the look of contentment on his face – nor could my plus one. If we had ordered a cocktail and the hot stone wagyu alone, we’d have left exceedingly happy.
Speaking of cocktails, Sushisamba has a carefully curated list of drinks including premium sake and Scottish and Japanese whiskies. That said, it is January. With alcohol a no-go zone for us this month, we opted for the mocktail list. Saffron-shiso ‘Caipirinha’ was by far my favourite with saffron, shiso, sour hits of lime and fiery ginger beer. (£9) My plus one has a sweet tooth, so the passionfruit and elderflower martini was a hit on the other side of the table. (£9)
To top off the heady array of flavour combinations, we ordered a chocolate banana cake dessert with maple butter, plantain chip and vanilla rum ice cream (£12) and a sata andagi (dolce de leche Japanese doughnuts with red fruit coulis and citron ice cream, £12) to share.
The cake was undoubtedly a close relative of the ever-popular sticky toffee pudding, but with the addition of crispy plantain. My plus one literally laughed out loud it was so good. The doughnuts? I’m a total convert. Though this is probably the last thing I would usually order on a menu, I’d happily order a pot full of these deep-fried morsels to enjoy on that sky terrace…
‘Understated’ and ‘inexpensive’ are not words that exist in the vocabulary of Sushisamba’s creators. But I felt as spoiled as Carrie Bradshaw and the nighttime views of Edinburgh – which looked every bit as cosmopolitan as NYC – made me feel a million miles away.
Sushi, samba and sensational views? I think I can get on board with that.
To find out more about Sushisamba Edinburgh, please visit their WEBSITE.