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September 14, 2012

Restaurant Review: Sushisamba, Heron Tower

By Spear's

The Sushisamba revolution has arrived from New York and with it, the arrogant telephone booking procedure: press one, press two, oh you want a table, well no actually go online because we are far too conceited to answer a phone. Honestly even Le Caprice can manage live conversation

The week after our trip to Sette, eager to show off my knowledge of hip emerging London restaurants, I booked a table at Sushisamba, part of the duplex of restaurants on the 39th floor of the newly built Heron Tower in Bishopsgate.

The Sushisamba revolution has arrived from New York and with it, the arrogant telephone booking procedure: press one, press two, oh you want a table, well no actually go online because we are far too conceited to answer a phone. Honestly even Le Caprice can manage live conversation.

The spectacular circular tree bar next to the restaurant is the highest bar in Europe. Suffer from vertigo? I say get over it because this place is stunning. The interior is decorated in a retro fusion style, old brown leather chairs with belts across the back (for those who suffer from clinical vertigo and need strapping in I presume) and a contemporary interior of lattice bamboo ceilings, red booths and industrial lighting. With my trusty companion Monsieur Le Gris at my side, I had the perfect consultant on all things gastronomic.

The evening didn’t start off well; walking to my table, distracted by the über-cool Tree bar to my left (pictured below), I managed to tear the leather heel of my very expensive Jil Sander evening shoes in a floor grate. Apologies all round from a team of friendly staff, so enthusiastic and waxing lyrical about the Sushisamba ‘experience’. I wondered if I had stumbled into a Scientology refectory by mistake.

Once seated (placating sparkling sake cocktail in hand) I was able to appreciate the awesome view of the city across the East of London (pictured above) and beyond, and with a view like this, it’s a tough call for the restaurant to fight for primary attention. The Frog Prince explained to me that fusion of sushi with South American cuisine is not a new concept.

‘In fact Nobu has been doing this for over fifteen years, their yellowtail with tuna with jalapenos is a signature dish.’

Of course. How could I not know that?

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‘And the Peruvians have been eating raw and marinated fish for two thousand years don’t forget. This is where ceviche originally comes from.’

‘Oh Monsieur Le Gris you are so worldly and in possession of a truly sophisticated palate,’ I coo.

Sushisamba boasts a more direct approach in its menu and goes full steam ahead on total sushi-Brazilian fusion and why not? It fits with the London tastes of the day, healthy, trendy and exotic. However Monsieur Le Gris was not totally convinced by the execution of this concept.

We started with an assortment of sashimi ceviches. The Frog Prince had the Mixto, an assortment of squid tempura, which he described as bland, together with white fish and sweet potato which, cooked with star anise, had a fantastic texture. I had yellowtail taquitos with lemongrass and avocado; they were delicious but rather on the salty side.

Monsieur Le Gris said everything tasted too much of lime and the fish was over-marinated and therefore quite tough. ‘They seemed to have jumped on this theme and are killing all the flavours.’

Indeed there was little respite from the citrus overkill and it was sometimes difficult to tell the difference between one fish and the next. This was certainly true of the padron peppers, which in my mind should never be messed with. This overuse of lemon simply sterilised these wonderful little gems which are already bursting with flavour. Perhaps we chose badly, for there was an extensive traditional sushi/sashimi menu. I must say my black cod rubata was a real hit; wonderfully succulent, falling off the skewers and perfectly cooked.

The sparkling sake was starting to work its magic and I certainly got into the vibe of the place. I was having fun and so was everyone around me. The Brazilian lounge music is thankfully not too loud (Nobu Berkley Square is one restaurant I refuse to go to on account of its conversation-killer levels of dirge) and it’s certainly a popular place frequented by the City crowd and a smattering of the hip.

The desserts saved the day; we were treated to a beautifully presented red chocolate chili peppers aji panca with Peruvian organic mouse, red pepper tuile and raspberry-red pepper sorvete. I could tell Monsieur Le Gris was pleased with this because I had to fight for just a spoonful.

‘The next time my dear you should order your own dessert,’ said a rather territorial Monsieur Le Gris.

‘But Frog Prince, it tastes so much nicer from your plate,’ I said licking the back of the spoon.

‘Mais oui…’

I tried to play footsie with him but all it did was remind me of my ripped leather heel so I had another gulp of my sparkling Sake instead and wondered how I would make it round the Tree bar without falling off the balcony.

Read more from Food Fridays

Read more by Melinda Hughes

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