Friday, 24 October 2014

Dining at Altitude: SushiSamba

There are three elements that a restaurant needs to become one of my very favourites:

1. A lively and buzzy atmosphere.
2. A room with a view.
3. Really, really good sushi. 

There is one restaurant in London that fits my criteria perfectly: SushiSamba. Actually Aqua Kyoto does too but the view isn't quite so good...

The Japanese / South American fusion restaurant is split across levels 38 and 39 of the Heron Tower, making it officially the 2nd highest restaurant in London and the perfect candidate for the next instalment in my dining at Altitude series. SushiSamba is actually one of my favourite restaurants in London and worldwide, I've also visited the New York and Las Vegas branches but London is my favourite. You can't beat those incredible views, plus it's where Mr S and I celebrated our engagement together when we were back in London after our trip to Australia.

We were a group of five girls heading out for sushi to celebrate my friend's Francesca's birthday...as you can imagine we couldn't contain our excitement to be heading out to one of the most glamorous restaurants in London.

The experience really starts as soon as you walk into the lift...


It kind feels like Charlie at the Chocolate factory as you know the 'Great Glass Elevator' will be whisking you away to a magical experience.


It's not for people with the vertigo as the lift is very speedy...


...and in no time you're 38 floors high.

We started off with drinks in the bar, which really has the most incredible view.





The outdoor terrace, with the now famous tree sculpture is a must visit during summer but, sadly, due to high winds it was closed on the night that we were there. 

The dining room itself is just stunning...


A bamboo ceiling hangs above you and the lightbulbs suspended from it made me think of a room full of stars...


But the fabulous panoramic view of London is the real star of the show.


And here are the ladies...from left to right: Leah, Amelia, Alisha, Francesca and me!

Four of used to work together years ago, and Amelia recently introduced us to Leah, who's quickly become one of the gang.

Now before we move on to the food, I must apologise for the photo quality. As with City Social, the lights are fairly dim in order to showcase the view. In some of the photos I've used the flash and in some I haven't so sorry for the inconsistency.

We were five very hungry ladies so we ordered some nibbles to accompany our champagne while we perused the menu...


Green bean tempura with truffle aioli


And padron peppers...the girls were a little worried about getting a rogue spicy pepper. But I have an asbestos mouth and tend not to worried about these things. The peppers were well charred and the flavour much enhanced by the side of salt. 

Needless to say the two plates of nibbles disappeared in about five seconds flat...so we ordered more...


Vegetable tempura with a delicious yuzu soy. 


Delicious crispy taquitos with yellowtail, avocado and roast corn miso was accompanied by a delicious spicy sauce which we smothered on. 


Shrimp tempura with spicy mayo and black truffle vinaigrette. This dish is one of my top choices at SushiSamba...in fact it was so nice we had it twice :)


Wagyu gyoza with a sesame and su-shoyu dipping sauce. 


An assortment of ceviches including scallop, tuna and octopus. I just love the way that the fusion cuisine merges the flavours and techniques of Japanese cookery with South American. For me, it's the perfect combination. 


Samba rolls: crab, tuna, salmon, white fish, prawn, scallop, wagyu, tempura, with a wasabi mayo and a soy reduction.


Black cod is one of my favourite dishes and at SushiSamba it is served as skewers prepared over a Japanese charcoal grill and served with Peruvian corn (which I love!)


Shrimp tempura, quinoa, shishito, spicy mayo and red onion. 



We were having a fab time!! 
But rather sadly, that was when the evening took a slight turn...it may seem like we'd ordered a lot of food but bearing in mind that was between five of us...we hadn't really had anything substantial, it was more like nibbles and canape sized bites. 

We asked if we could order another plate of sushi, but we were told we were due to vacate our table. We asked if we could still order dessert, apparently this was ok but no more sushi. Could we just get the sushi with the dessert? A slight kerfuffle ensued with the manager being fetched...who took around twenty minutes and gave a long explanation about why we couldn't order more sushi...by which time they could have just bought the sushi. 

We had been warned about how long we'd have the table for but it was slightly annoying being expected to leave...it was 11pm and even if more people were coming in after us there were plenty of empty tables. These things do happen but they didn't handle the situation particularly well and compensation was one more drink each. I don't like to name and shame but it put a dampener on an otherwise excellent night. 

We were however, allowed to order dessert...


With Love from Rio: valhrhona dark chocolate ganache, coffee mousse and tonka bean ice cream. 


Passion fruit cake, green tea and white chocolate ganache, raspberry sorbet, coconut tuille, raspberries and passion fruit.


And this delightful plate came out. Assorted mochi with a cute birthday wish. Ok...not quite all was forgiven but they had certainly put the smiles back on our faces. 

I totally love SushiSamba so I'll forget about the slightly negative ending as it was probably just an off day. The food, atmosphere and dining room interior are all superb and despite a few service problems, it's still one of my favourite places in London. 

PS. Lovely blogger, Manasi also visited recently...check out her review here.

SushiSamba
Heron Tower
110 Bishopsgate
London 
EC2M 4AY

0203 640 7330

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

The SilverSpoon Guide to Las Vegas!!!

Where can you go to Paris, Rome, Venice and New York all in one day? 
Vegas, of course!! While the City of Sin may not be for everyone, Mr S and I love the opportunity for partying, fun, shopping and eating lots of food. And gambling? Well we'll have a flutter, but neither of us are particularly into it and we'd prefer to spend our time in Vegas doing other things. So I'd like to present my guide to Vegas, minus any recommendations for where to gamble! In my previous blog, I gave you a little tour of the Encore and the Wynn so this post represents my recommendations outside those hotels and also where to avoid!

Restaurants 

There's something for everyone in Vegas, whether it's high-end Michelin dining, a cool hot spot, a quick burger or an all-you-can-eat buffet, you can please your most fussy friends. Here are my choices for places to dine:

Dinner with a View

With it's neon lights, crazy shaped buildings (Eiffel Tower or Egyptian Pyramids for example) and huge skyscrapers...it may not be London or New York but the Vegas Skyline is iconic. Here are my choices for restaurants with a great view of the famous Strip.

Yellow Tail


Dine on the outdoor veranda of Yellowtail and you can enjoy a panoramic view of Vegas as well the the famous Bellagio fountains. Located in the aforementioned hotel, Yellowtail serves exciting modern Japanese creations which can be paired with one of their exotic sakes. Check out the Frozen Beauty Sake for a mere $2,400...




Be sure to try the Sashimi Pizza topped with truffle oil (top left); it's fabulous Asian comfort food.

The Eiffel Tower Restaurant at The Paris Hotel 

Image for iStock

Now, I know what you're thinking...'Oh, Angie surely that's tacky...and haven't you eaten at the real Eiffel Tower?' Yes I have, but I assure you, dining at the Eiffel Tower in Vegas in incredibly romantic. Ok I concede it's not as romantic as the real Paris, but with fine French food and views over the Bellagio fountains it's really rather special. Decor inside the restaurant and in the Paris hotel is a little dated but ignore the retro vibe... and enjoy the great view with you loved one. 

miX

Michelin-starred miX at the Mandalay Bay Hotel is my top choice for dining with a view in Vegas. We loved it so much when we first went to Vegas three years ago, that we had to revisit it on our honeymoon.



It's the perfect place to view the entire Vegas strip and the vast landscape of neon. 
Multi-Michelin super chef, Alain Ducasse created the menu, so you're not just coming for awe-inspiring views, the food is utterly incredible too. 


The poached egg with a chorizo condiment (top left) was a posh version of egg and dippy soldiers and probably one of the best things we had while we were away...we even asked for more dippy soldiers...

Finally, a restaurant with a view to avoid is Top of the World at the Stratosphere. The hotel itself is pretty shabby, though great if you're looking for thrill rides!! The restaurant is 800 feet above the strip and the view is good but the interior is very retro and it rotates 360 degrees which can make you feel a little queasy!

Great for Lunch

Sushi Samba

Very conveniently situated in the shopping centre at the Palazzo, Sushi Samba serves great food with a fabulously lively atmosphere. When we were there, Brazil were playing a world cup game so the South American fusion restaurant was particularly lively.


With it's orange archways, citrus tones, art projections and installations, you can't help but get into the carnival spirit at this restaurant that fuses the cuisine of Japan, Peru and Brazil. 


Olives

I love this restaurant in the Bellagio for the perfect daytime view of the fountains served with a side of Mediterranean comfort food.




Julian Serrano

Hard core shopping calls for an array of tapas and a huge jug of Sangria, Julian Serrano at the Aria is the place to have it!

Check out the dish on the top right, the molecular raspberry tuna skewer for something a bit more adventurous.

Clubby

Hakkasan

I mentioned in an earlier post that when I'm away I try not to go to places that I could go to in London. Well, I didn't really stick to that, I visited Sushi Samba twice and Nobu twice! Oh well, the thing is when you know somewhere is good, it's just a no brainer! Despite these intentions, Mr S and I had always planned to visit Hakkasan at the MGM Grand, we love the London restaurants and were keen to try the Vegas night club version.


I was a little disappointed that the interior is exactly the same as the London version as is the menu. But when you're on to a good thing...

The fabulous Cantonese food is every bit as delicious too. We ordered our favourite Dim Sum dishes to share...


After dining you can ascend the stairs and head into Ling Ling, the chill out Lounge and then on through to the nightclub. I think the Hakkasan night club is probably the biggest club I've ever been to at 80,000 square feet with a capacity of 7,000.




We were greeted by a huge stage and DJ, pounding music, laser lights and dancing girls - and the place was packed with people. I have to admit I love partying, but this was too much for me (I quite like having a place to sit down!) but if you want as really banging night in a very cool club, Hakkasan is the place of the moment.

And if you like massive night club / restaurants with an Asian flavour, Tao is a fab alternative to Hakkasan. And you'd be in good company as it's one of Kimmy K's favourite Vegas hotspots. In fact the first time we were there she was having her bachelorette party, the one for the wedding to Kris Humpheries...

Hotels

There are so many weird and wonderful hotels in Vegas, some are gorgeous and glamorous, some have had their day and are starting to look shabby, while others are to be seriously avoided altogether! Here are a selection of my favourites, aside from the Encore and the Wynn, and why I think they're worth visiting.

Bellagio

One of the most luxurious hotels in Las Vegas, Bellagio was inspired by Lake Como in Italy. The hotel houses one of the most iconic features of Vegas, an eight acre lake with dancing fountains synchronised to different pieces of music.


On entering Bellagio you a greeted by a totally out-of-this world, and slightly crazy conservatory housing botanical gardens.




Everything at Bellagio exudes luxury, the shops are high-end designer fabulous, the 65,000 square foot spa has a comprehensive selection of indulgent treatments and the Mediterranean-style pool is simply beautiful. I already mentioned Yellowtail and Olives for dining but I'd also love to try Picasso, the fine dining restaurant where you can enjoy French food while admiring the great artist's masterpieces.

If you're in the party mood, head to Bellagio's super club, Bank. The ginormous club is uber opulent with gold accents and glittering gems suspended from the ceiling.


I've not had the chance to see it but apparently the show 'O' by Cirque du Soleil is fantastic featuring, world class acrobatics and synchronised swimming. 

The Venetian 

The Venetian and it's sister hotel, The Palazzo, are probably the most epic that I've ever encountered in Vegas. With over 7,000 rooms in the combined adjoining hotels, they make up the second biggest hotel in the world.


Venice, Italy is the inspiration for the hotel so obviously there is a canal running through it!


I think the shopping area, The Grande Canal Shoppes, is one of the best retail therapy spots in Vegas. It has all the high-end designer shops plus the high street ones that are lacking at The Bellagio and The Wynn / Encore. There's tons of great places to eat, again high end places such as CUT by Wolfgang Puck, cool places like Sushi Samba and fab clubby places like TAO. 

Another great place for shopping is Caesar's Palace, a gargantuan hotel based on ancient Rome. At the hotel's Forum Shops you will find plenty of the top designer brands and high street fashion. Rather fabulously, my favourite restaurant has opened it's first hotel there! 


Mandalay Bay

A great choice for a family friendly hotel in Vegas is the Mandalay Bay, the pool is an enormous eleven acres big and includes a 1.6 million gallon wave pool with a sandy beach and lazy river. When we first visited three years ago we checked out the Aquarium and shark reef which is a great distraction for children.


The Michael Jackson ONE by Cirque de Soleil is also very family friendly (though they don't admit children under 5) with high energy dance moves, acrobatics and aerial performances set to the legendary songs of Michael Jackson. 


Mr S and I went to ONE while on our honeymoon, and though it is totally fabulous,  strangely the two of the Cirque de Soleil shows I've seen in London at the Royal Albert Hall have been better. But I love the music of the king of pop so it was great to dance away to the tunes while watching the fabulous feats performed on stage.

For a total luxury and break from the casinos, The Four Seasons, Vegas is adjacent to the Mandalay Bay. The all-suite, THEhotel, soon to be rebranded as The Delano, also operates as part of the Mandalay Bay hotel. The complex really allows for the best of both worlds, and with 24 restaurants in this awesome trio of hotels, you really can't go wrong!

Best of the Rest

Aria: The Aria has more of a modern look to it's older counterparts as many of the hotels in Vegas are starting to look a little dated. We loved looking around the Crystals shopping centre which was more modern and less crowded than the Venetian and Caesar's Palace. The rooms at the Aria are also characterised by 'smart technology' the lighting, curtains and music can be tailored perfectly for the guest's wishes. For the ultimate in luxury and VIP treatment plump for one of the Aria's Sky Suites.

MGM Grand: When you enter the MGM Grand, you will probably notice that this once dazzling star of the Vegas Strip is now looking a little tired...but this mammoth hotel is definitely worth a visit. It houses Joel Robuchon, the only three Michelin star restaurant in Vegas, as well as Wolfgang Puck and the epic restaurant / night club, Hakkasan. It is also home to Wet Republic one of the biggest and hottest pool parties in Vegas, I have this on good authority from Mr Silver, who very much enjoyed it while on his stag party! It is also home to the Sky Lofts, one of Vegas' most luxurious and VIP accommodation.

The Cosmopolitan: If you're looking for something uber glamourous, glitzy and more modern look no further than the fabulous Cosmopolitan. The Cosmopolitan has a fabulous selection of restaurants, bars and clubs and the perfect place to party. Lovely lifestyle blogger, Caroline, has stayed there a couple of times so check out her blog Cocktails and Caroline for a full review of this hotel. 

This post is the last of my honeymoon series and I really hope that you've enjoyed it! 

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