Monday, January 19, 2009

Sushi Samba Dromo in South Beach, Florida

In Florida’s famous South Beach district, Sushi Samba Dromo on Lincoln Road holds down the forefront on the area’s sushi scene. It’s been a year since my visit to the Sunshine State, but I still laud the Samba Dromo Roll, which combines Maine lobster with mango, tomato, chives, crispy rice, and red curry on soy paper. The flavors are pure tropical-ness, very light and sweet and airy, finished with the one seemingly off-ingredient of red curry—although the tanginess of this addition balances out the lightness of the others just right.

This time, I selected a single order of the sashimi, as opposed to the assortment of four that was also available. Although the tuna with grapefruit juice, red jalapeno and almond beckoned, and the jumbo shrimp with passionfruit, cucumber and cilantro sounded refreshing, I was ultimately seduced by the king crab with guava ponzu, tobiko and spiced panko for $15. Ordering the single serving also meant I would be getting a larger portion that I would have received on the sample platter, but this time I just couldn’t stomach that much (don’t be disappointed; it simply meant I had already eaten numerous times earlier that day).

The king crab, although satisfying and delicious, didn’t look pretty—it was literally covered in the prickly yellow batter-dust known as panko, interspersed with bits of tobiko here and there so that you had to move it all aside to unearth the meaty crustacean beneath. But the flavor did not disappoint, although perhaps it could have been presented better.

On a second visit to this restaurant the next day with a friend, I felt so torn: while I wanted her to experience the delectable Samba Dromo Roll, and I wouldn’t have minded a repeat of perfection myself, I also felt the urge to order something new—but which surely couldn’t be as good as the tried-and-true lobster maki.

I decided to take a chance and order the Rainbow Dragon and Maya rolls. While the former may sound familiar because it combines the names of two popular sushi rolls, Samba’s Rainbow Dragon actually introduces red bell pepper and mango to otherwise ordinary ingredients: eel, cucumber and avocado (it really makes you wonder why most sushi bars don’t get more creative). Doing this actually Latinizes the roll, giving it a more Brazilian flavor (in Rio de Janeiro, mango is actually used quite often, substituting the cucumber in their California rolls).

In the Maya, shrimp and avocado are definitely Latinized with the tomato and green tomatillo salsa—I have seen tomatoes thrown into spicy tuna salads, or added on top of spicy tuna rolls drenched with spicy mayo, but I’ve never seen the use of tomatillo salsa anywhere but here. And although these rolls win my vote, I can see why the Samba Dromo Roll is the house favorite.

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