It’s the time of the year when you crave comforting, slow cooked meals such as stews, soups and pies. The type of filling, warm dishes from childhood that encourage the hibernation and slow down needed during winter. However, if you do venture out for something to eat, you’d do well to visit Edinburgh due to its many well known restaurants but also an array of new kids to the block.
One of these is Sushisamba, a Peruvian meets Brazilian meets Japanese restaurant that has outposts in Dubai, London and Las Vegas. Those locations alone may give you an idea of how stylish and high end the restaurant is, which makes it a perfect bedfellow for the W Hotel, the spiral building, which opened recently by the St James Quarter in Edinburgh.
Situated on the 10th floor of the hotel, there’s an outdoor terrace, private dining room and bar area as well as the main restaurant.
We visited late on a Thursday night, and found the restaurant busy with birthday parties and work nights out as well as smaller groups of diners. We were sat overlooking the terrace, and enjoyed the rainy view of Princes Street, North Bridge and, handily, the Balmoral clock meaning we had no excuse to miss the last train.
Inside you’ll find an Instagram-worthy, teal tiled bar with a fairy-lit tree in the centre. There’s a monochrome floor, burnt orange seating, a shiny, rippled copper ceiling and open partitions with plants as well as feature pendant lighting. It’s funky and modern, and noisy with music and people enjoying an early start to the weekend.
On the menu you’ll find Japanese tempura, sushi, Brazilian churrasco and moqueca, Peruvian anticuchos and ceviches plus Sushisamba signature dishes. The open kitchen and fiery robata grill offer roasted and flavoured meats, vegetables and fish, while Sushisamba’s small plate style of service encourages a shared dining experience.
Edinburgh specialties include robata grilled Highland Wagyu Flat Iron with honey soy, Loch Fyne Oysters Teriyaki, and the Samba Edinburgh Roll location’s namesake specialty roll. If all of that reads like a second language, you'll find the staff extremely helpful with suggestions and explanations for what dishes include.
As a sharing dish concept, the menu is split into smaller plates - of which there are a lot (including sushi) and larger plates. We were advised to choose four to five small plates and one large plate to share.
While we mulled this over, we ordered and enjoyed a Nashi martini (£14) and a port boulevardier cocktail (£18). The martini, while being boozy, was a fruity take on this classic. The boulevardier had the expected bitterness from the Campari but the port twist in this one added a lovely mellow fruit element.
For the small plates we chose the Wagyu gyoza (£18), shrimp tempura (£16), tuna ceviche (£16), black cod anticuchos (£25) and the Samba Edinburgh roll (£21).
If you’re put off by gyoza due to them being soggy (which can be the case when making it at home) don’t be here. Forget the soggy gyoza, these small crisp parcels held a filling of firm beef inside, sat on top of apricot hued kabocha purée.
The Wagyu was soft and carried an umami flavour, with the fried gyoza giving it a really nice crunch. The puree underneath it added an extra layer of richness to the dish.
The plump shrimp, served in a deep bowl with snap pea julienne, spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette, were covered in light batter. They were rolled in the spicy mayo and truffle vinaigrette the same way a chicken wing is coated in sauce, which meant that the shrimps were covered in flavour.
The truffle wasn't too overpowering, something a lot of places fall foul of, with the spicy mayo complementing the sweetness of the shrimp. The sweet, crisp greens added a freshness in this surprisingly light dish that’s reminiscent of summer. The tuna was a bright and vibrant pink hued dish with bite from the pomegranate leche de tigre and maiz morado.
The large, firm pieces of fish melted in the mouth. There was a zestyness to this dish with an unexpected crunch from Wasabi peas. For the black cod, two skewers of chunks of fish were served with a side of oozing Peruvian corn. Black miso cod is now a classic and this didn’t disappoint.
Sweet chunks of cod fell apart when eating and were complemented by the chunks of sweet, nutty, slightly chewy corn. The sushi, which was served after the large dish, was a plate of rolls topped with lobster, mango-pineapple salsa, oshinko, avocado, yuzu miso and wasabi mayo.
It was a light bite, with no part overpowering the delicate flavours. The pastel roll casing was a nice touch.
For the large dish, we shared the churrasco rio grande, £45.
Three types of meat - fillet mignon, chorizo and ribeye - were served on a sizzling plate (reminiscent of fajitas back in the Frankenstein bar days).
The meat was cooked to perfection and like the fish earlier melted in the mouth. The only minor criticism is that the sauces on the side (herby chimichurri, onion pepper and baby spinach and black beans) could have done with some more punch, but the meat was so well cooked that truthfully it didn't need anything extra. Our side of coconut sticky rice has a hint of sweetness. It was nice but lacked seasoning and didn't really go well with our main course. I wished we’d chosen more more-ish Peruvian corn.
Finally for dessert we shared the chocolate banana cake, £12. This dense sweet was served with maple butter, a nutty tasting plantain chip, and vanilla rum ice cream, which wasn’t overpowering. It was a lot like a less stodgy sticky toffee pudding.
We also tried some sake, after chatting to our waiter about what would go well with the meal. The plum sake, which was served with the dessert, was like a sweet fruity sherry - and a very enjoyable way to finish the meal.
Sushisamba is undoubtedly a stylish place to be seen but unlike some venues like this, the food actually stands up to scrutiny. If we hadn’t been overlooking a dark and rainy Edinburgh, you could imagine you’re in LA or London, such is the cosmopolitan vibe here.
It’s an expensive bill, but the ingredients - yellow tail, wagyu and truffle - are top quality and it's not being sold as somewhere you’re likely to visit every week. Although it’s my time to hibernate and eat warming winter dinners, Sushisamba offers something lighter and more luxe to tuck into to invoke dishes suited to warmer weather, and I’m glad I got off the sofa to try it.