Come 12 June, when the curtain rises on the 2014 World Cup, there can surely be few better places to watch the action than Sushisamba, the irrepressible
Brazilian-cum-Japanese restaurant atop London's Heron Tower.
Samba drums and big screens showing the games will be set against sweeping views of the capital from its 38th floor terrace - if Sushisamba isn't a lively
destination already, it is about to ramp up the fun factor even more. While the festivities will celebrate the football with typical carnival spirit, the restaurant is keen to make sure they play second fiddle to executive chef Claudio Cardoso's cooking; and the kitchen plans to mark the occasion with its own World Cup menu.
The month-long event marks a perfect way for the restaurant to celebrate its second anniversary in London. The group's sixth opening since launching in New York in 1999, and first European site, the secret to Sushisamba is partly the all-day carnival atmosphere and partly the well balanced marriage of Brazilian and Japanese cooking.
"There's such a historical mix between Japan and Brazil. Lots of Japanese have settled in Brazil, especially SÁ£o Paulo," says Cardoso. "Culture-wise they are not similar - Brazilians are very open and Japanese are very closed - but there is a lot of similarity with cuisine and they have really influenced each other. Japanese food is so fresh and light, and the flavours so clean that it suits the hot weather in Brazil perfectly."
The kitchen specialises in taking Japanese ingredients and techniques and adding South American pizzazz.
"It's sexy food; colourful food," says Cardoso. "We want to create "It's sexy food; colourful food. We want to create different taste experiences full of
colour." Witness an indulgent small plate of Wagyu beef tataki with pan-fried foie gras and quail's egg on a lively Peruvian aji panca chilli pepper sauce (£17), and small cubes of unctuous kuromitsu-glazed pork belly with palm heart and orange (£12), served on a bibb lettuce.
For the special World Cup menu, Cardoso is already playing around with a few dishes. One, a pastéis de bacalhau (£14), is a typical Brazilian salt cod brandade dish given the full Sushisamba treatment. "It's a bit different from your normal brandade," says Cardoso. "It was important for us to change the texture and make it a bit sexier."
The brandade is livened up with lime, chilli and shallots, and served in a fried-off cube rather than a quenelle. It is topped with a carnival of colour - purple potato crisps, shoots and flowers and the beautiful aji amarillo rocks - honeycomb-looking edible adornments made by mixing aji amarillo peppers with egg whites and almond powder, running it through an espuma gun, then microwaving and dehydrating the foam. It is then covered with aji amarillo foam and sauce, and a gently spiced shichimi togarashi seasoning to add kick to what is a vibrant plate of comfort food.
Also on the World Cup menu, another dish that has allowed Cardoso to flex his creative muscles, is seared scallops with chorizo (£16). "They are classic flavours done with a different approach; a slightly French one," he says. "We like to be creative and to challenge ourselves but then we have to make sure it works for the covers we do." And with 350, covers, it is no mean feat. The dish pairs panfried scallops with asparagus and powdered chorizo fat - made by
mixing it with maltodextrin then dehydrating the mixture.
Elsewhere, everything from the colourful sushi chefs beavering away to a samba soundtrack, to the rich maki rolls, and a dish of raw wagyu beef served with hot stones - for guests to cook the meat at the table - hums with verve and theatre.
Finally, a knockout dessert of chocolate mousse and red pepper is a rich medley of chocolate textures including a mousse flavoured with chilli, a Grenache
and chocolate crumble, a sweet red pepper tuille and raspberryred pepper sorbet (£11.50).
"It's certainly one of my favourite desserts," says Cardoso. "Lots of places pair chocolate with chilli but the fact we do it with red pepper I think makes it unique."
SAMPLE DISHES FROM THE MENU
ChicharrÁ³n de calamari, fried plantain, tomatoes, onion, mint, tamarind £13
Wagyu gyoza, kabocha purée, sesame and su-shoyu dipping sauce £12
Rock shrimp tempura, snap pea julienne, spicy mayo,black truffle vinaigrette £14
Churrasco rio grande ribeye, chorizo, wagyu picanha £43.50
Sea bass tempura, heritage tomatoes and beetroot ceviche, aji verde, lime £23
Mango mousse, sweet potato biscuit, passion fruit, mango-lime coriander sauce, kiwi-mojito sorbet £10
Yuzu tart cheesecake, sugar sphere, crispy yuzu, strawberry gelée, yuzu-basil granité, orange zest £13
London EC2N 4AY
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