By: Bob Barnes
In the mood for Japanese food, A-5 Wagyu, robata grill or sushi? How about Brazilian Churrasco? Or Peruvian seafood specialties?
How about all three in one restaurant? Since 2008 SushiSamba, at The Palazzo/Venetian, has offered a menu melding all three cuisines.
As for the décor, the Tree Bar situated at the entrance is a new addition that expanded the bar area by 1,500 square feet and added 60 seats. A beautiful banyan tree illuminated by lights extends from the center of one end of the curved bar and a canopy of orange leaves wraps around to form a ceiling of leaves.
A ribbon with orange, yellow and lime hues, white tree roots and graffiti art extends from the bar and swirls into the dining room evoking a feeling of movement. If orange is your favorite color, you’ll feel right at home, as the second color of the rainbow is splashed throughout the space.
The kitchen is helmed by Executive Chef Joel Versola. Born and raised in Maui, Hawaii, he worked under Nobu Matsuhisa and became adept at Peruvian and Japanese cuisine and was executive chef at Nobu Caesars Palace before coming over to SushiSamba in 2013.
Although the Large Plates menu has items such as Chicken Teriyaki and Churrasco Rio Grande with ribeye and wagyu picanha, an ideal way to experience SushiSamba is through the sharable dishes, which encompass the majority of the menu. Crispy Hokkaido Scallop is similar to a lettuce wrap as the scallop sits atop butter lettuce with phyllo, scallion, micro greens and sweet sesame aioli.
The Yellowtail Taquitos resemble small tacos and are served with spicy aji panca sauce, yuzu aji Amarillo foam, avocado and miso. A less expensive route to experience Japanese A-5 Wagyu is by sampling the Beef Gyoza, similar to a pot sticker containing pan-fried A-5 with kabocha puree and su-shoyu dipping sauce.
Offered on the Tree Bar menu is the Peruvian Lobster Seviche served with sweet potato, Peruvian corn (with jumbo-sized kernels) and coconut leche de tigre.
The Robata items prepared over a traditional Japanese charcoal grill offer delectable, succulent bites of proteins such as Lamb Chop, Sea Bass, Pork Belly and Filet Mignon.
Sushi chefs create wonderful renditions, including the Samba Strip—Maine lobster, mango, avocado and aji honey truffle; Asevichado—tuna, salmon, yellowtail and white fish with sweet potato, cancha corn, cucumber, avocado and aji Amarillo leche de tigre; and Lima—shrimp tempura, spicy king crab and avocado.
Complementing the varied fare is an extensive collection of 42 Japanese whiskeys (like the Nikka Coffey Grain I enjoyed), 76 bottles of sake (about a dozen by the glass) and signature cocktails like the Tom Yam with Hendrick’s gin, cilantro infusion, chili, lemongrass and lime leaf.
A fun finish to your meal is the Dessert Box on the Tree Bar menu, containing 16 bites of an assortment of delights such as Brazilian chocolate truffles, chocolate bon bons, fruit jelly, macaroons and green tea cream puffs packaged in a charming wooden box hiding the sweet treats in sliding compartments.
SushiSamba is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to late-night and can be found on the second level of the Grand Canal Shoppes. A bonus is The Palazzo/Venetian is easy to get to and one of the few remaining resorts still offering free valet and self-parking