Palazzo (last visit: May 2009).
Sushisamba is a YACK (yet another chain kitchen). It offers what it describes as a fusion of Japanese, Peruvian and Brazilian food. It also bears the distinction of receiving Las Vegas restaurant critic John Curtas' most scathing review in recent memory. Thus forewarned and forearmed, I entered the lion's den.
It's a wild mix of sushi, robatayaki, seviche, and items that are more difficult to categorize: those that combine influences of Japanese and South American cuisines.
I visited on a Saturday in May, during one of Las Vegas' major conventions (NAB). At 6 pm the restaurant was already pretty crowded. The place has a modern feel, with many hard surfaces, a black industrial ceiling, loud music, and a televisions scattered here and there.
I ate at the bar - a large circular affair, seating about 20 people. It had a bright orange top and off-white vinyl stools. The staff was very busy, which resulted in slow service at times. However, everyone was friendly, and nothing bothersome occurred.
I started with my gold standard for a partially Brazilian restaurant: a caipirinha. This is a Brazilian drink prepared with cachaça (kind of like rum, but distilled from sugar cane instead of molasses), lime, and sugar. Sushisamba's version was a little light on the lime flavor; there were only two or three small lime pieces in the drink, and they didn't look muddled. Still, it was pretty good, and very strong indeed.
I started the meal with Sawagani:
These thumb nail sized Japanese crabs are flash fried until crunchy. Pop one into your mouth and eat it like a potato chip. One of the crabs was a little too hard, but overall the dish was what I expected: a moderately good novelty.
Next came hamachi kama:
This is yellow tail collar, cooked on a Japanese charcoal grill. I know, it doesn't look like much, and it's a pain to pick out the flesh from the bones and cartilage, but when done right the flesh is juicy and flavorful. This version wasn't as good as some, but was still very tasty.
Finally, squid robatayaki:
A moderately sized portion of tender squid rings had a slight smoky flavor. Salted and served with garlic mayonnaise, it was pretty good.
I really wasn't expecting much. I also knew from past experiences in Miami that the menu is a bit of a mine field. Perhaps that's why I was pleasantly surprised. The food was pretty good, the service was decent, and the prices weren't outrageous by Vegas standards. You could do worse.
The meal was $36, plus drinks and tip.
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