Yeah. I've been a few times--and God help me--I like it. It's a bizarro concept, Brazilian/sushi--but the fish is fresh, the specials creative--the other night they had thumbnail-sized live crabs, fried to order and served as an app--and a capharena (sp) goes down well before tucking into a plate of raw seafood. And the music is good. It's fun.
re: Anthony Bourdain
I had dinner at Sushi Samba last night, and it was pretty extraordinary, all ways around.
First of all, the place is JAMMED with the thirtysomething cell-phone crowd. We had a reservation, and still waited a half-hour for a table.
The place has a very late-fifties, early-sixties feeling, which is appropriate to the samba theme, since that's when samba "arrived" internationally. And there's lovely Latin-American music piped into the medium-small space at just the right volume level. Somehow, it's not too noisy--probably the low ceiling.
The food is literally extraordinary. The chef, Eiji Takase, has Iso pedigree, and Match Up/Downtown as well. It's the first time Japanese/Peruvian cuisine has been purveyed in Manhattan other than Nobu, which is grotesquely expensive. The sashimi is 1/2 inch thick, there are some really unusual seviches, and the anticuchos (skewered marinated and grilled meat/fish) included foie gras, which was pretty much as good as it gets.
Anyway, I can see why it's so popular.
My wife and I went a few weeks ago. We both love all forms of Japanese food, as well as Central/South American. Sushi Samba didn't really do it for us. While they certainly get points for creativity, my opinion was that they suffer from the same problem as other fusion restaurants - they do neither of the cuisines superbly. My notes:
We went early, so the wait wasn't a problem, but god help anyone arriving after 7 - the place became a madhouse. We sat at the bar, and were kind of disappointed that they didn't offer an "omakase" or chef's choice menu that most sushi bars will do. The cerviches were OK - but the fish used to make them weren't of the highest quality, and they even if they were, they all tasted over-marinated and kind of the same. The rolls had some good spice and creative flavor and unusual vegtables in them. Drinks were the mix you'd expect (caprihana, mojito, sake, saketini) but pretty overpriced.
Bottom line: We were glad we went - once. But we both preferred to enjoy these two particular cuisines separately. We especially missed the cleaner way a pure Japanese restaurant presents their raw fish.