Amsterdam Foodie

SushiSamba: the most un-Amsterdam restaurant in Amsterdam

According to the Interwebs, SushiSamba was made famous in a Sex and the City episode in season 5. Which, having visited the new SushiSamba in Amsterdam, makes perfect sense. It’s all flashy and glamorous in a faintly 90s way that makes you feel significantly underdressed and like you should definitely be wearing heels – preferably expensive ones. But this is Amsterdam: our outfits are chosen based on bike-ability, which is why we don’t wear dresses and Manolos. Especially not when going for dinner right next door to the Leidseplein’s Hard Rock Café on a particularly wind-swept autumn evening.

Décor and dress code aside, things didn’t get off to the greatest of starts when we arrived on time for our reservation and had to wait 20 minutes for our table. Still, they had a bar – how bad could it be? We ordered two glasses of white wine, which the bartender poured using one of those parsimonious little measuring cups. There was an inch or two of left in the bottle afterwards, which she proceeded to pour down the sink instead of topping up our glasses. THAT’S A F%&KING CRIME AGAINST WINE. Things weren’t looking good, to put it mildly.

Sushi Samba Amsterdam
Warning: avoid SushiSamba’s interior if epileptic

Just as we’d ordered a snack to tide us over, our table was ready so we left the bar (probably a blessing for all concerned) and headed into the restaurant. We were starving by this point, so we ordered immediately and four dishes came out in quick succession. Green bean tempura with truffle mayo was a suggestion from the aforementioned bartender, and on that one she slightly redeemed herself – it was good, but then it ought to be for €8 for a bar snack. Plantain chips were suitably crispy and salty, but I wasn’t a fan of their aji amarillo dipping sauce.

Gyoza at Sushi Samba Amsterdam
The wagyu gyoza (I hid the messy plating at the back of the photo)

The wagyu gyoza came with kabocha purée – I’m assuming it’s related to the pumpkin/squash family. Again, it tasted good, but for €14 you’d hope for more than five dumplings – you’d also hope the plating might be a bit more presentable. Meanwhile, I’ve had better (and cheaper) ceviche elsewhere – the tuna, raw peppers, pomegranate, wasabi peas and toasted corn were flavoursome, but swimming in far too much slightly bland leche de tigre, and served with a tasteless and unnecessary foam.

Ceviche at Sushi Samba Amsterdam
Foreground: ceviche. Background: plantain chips.

Until this point, the pace had been – well – pacey. But we waited a long time until the next plates of food showed up. Perhaps they were deemed as mains and therefore a second course – it was hard to tell. We tried two sushi rolls: one hand roll called the “Sasa” with shrimp tempura, toasty quinoa and various fresh and fragrant additions (think coriander and a little spice); the other a set of six fancy nigiri-style rolls known as “El Topo”. These were a highlight: freshly seared salmon, melted mozzarella (trust me: it worked), spicy mayo, a touch of jalapeno, and lots of crispy fried onions. The dish felt suitably decadent.

Hand rolls at Sushi Samba Amsterdam
“Sasa” sushi hand rolls

Another high point was the octopus skewers: perfectly cooked and meltingly succulent, they came with two purées – one made from olives, the other from aji panca (a Peruvian variety of red pepper). If this sounds like it would be overpowering, it wasn’t. I can’t explain it, but it worked perfectly and was probably my favourite dish.

Octopus at Sushi Samba Amsterdam
The highlight: octopus with olive and aji panca purée

I could’ve ordered the tacos and more wine, but by this point I was: a) freezing – SushiSamba is the temperature of most restaurants in America, which is to say air-conditioned to the max; and b) terrified of what the bill was going to look like. In the end, we got out of there for €65 each, although we only drank two glasses of wine and I could’ve certainly eaten more. But by that point, I wasn’t prepared to throw down more cash.

If (like me) you can’t afford to eat out in restaurants all the time, you need my cookbook to spice up your lunch! The print version is the price of a simple meal; the e-book version the price of a craft beer 🙂

As my friend and I walked back to our bikes in our non-heeled boots and practical coats, we discussed where we’d go for dinner next time. “A-Fusion”, I suggested – “better food for half the price, and it’s warmer too”. “How about Mae Somjai?” my friend countered; “it’s my favourite Thai in Amsterdam and it’s literally impossible to spend more than €15”. You know what? We could probably do both for the price we paid at SushiSamba.

all the info

SushiSamba (Asian)

Max Euweplein 64, (Leidseplein)020 797 1530 /

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