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Sushisamba gets mix of Japanese, Peruvian flavors just right

Although it may sound, to some, like an unlikely juxtaposition, Japanese-Peruvian cuisine isn’t exactly a new concept; Nobu Matsuhisa, for one, started it a few decades ago, when he pioneered this fusion experience after moving from Japan to Peru. But Sushisamba’s take on it is far from stale.

Take, for instance, the Pacific roll ($16). King crab, avocado and Asian pear sounded like a successful marriage of flavors, but the reality still managed to impress us. The pear, in particular, was an inspired choice for both its assertive flavor and characteristically crunchy texture, and the wasabi-avocado crema sealed the deal, its mellow nutty notes kicked up by just the right amount of heat. Soy sauce? Pickled ginger? They were there, but the balance was so perfect, we didn’t want to taint it.

We’d actually been somewhat concerned that the wasabi-pea crust of the Green Envy roll ($13) might be a little much, but again, the balance was perfect, the tuna, salmon and asparagus keeping the heat in check. And we loved the tiny asparagus spears poking out of the top of a slice, looking like the first harbingers of spring amid the onrushing autumn and tasting like it, too.

So OK, now I guess I should admit that, yes, I pretty much inhaled those. I wasn’t all that hungry, but they were mighty tasty, and sushi — good sushi — just goes down so easily. So maybe it was time to try something from the samba side of Sushisamba, the tuna ceviche ($14), an appreciation for raw fish being only one thing that Japanese and Peruvian cuisines have in common.

And yes, aficionados will be quick to insist that ceviche isn’t really raw but “cooked” through the use of an acidic dressing, as the young guys at the next table were discussing. To that I say, “Bah!,” confirmation coming from those queasy about raw fish, which I’m not. This tuna was in all of its raw glory, gussied up with shreds of jalapeno and sliced toasted almonds. The grapefruit juice that contributed the acid was tamer than I’d hoped, its flavor not particularly notable, but maybe that’s for the best because it was quite a successful dish.

Also from the samba side of the menu: a side dish of sweet plantains ($5), the best I’ve had west of Miami, the thick slices creamy in their texture, their surfaces nearly tantamount to caramel.

Then back again, with a little basket of green beans tempura ($8). The beans were commonplace enough — crisp, the coating light and nearly devoid of grease — but most impressive was the black-truffle aioli on the side, which had the rare quality of actually tasting of truffles and which gave the grassy beans a very appealing earthy counterpoint.

And, from the robata section of the menu, a succulent little lamb chop ($14), its cloak of red miso and yuzu smoky and citrusy and just the right accent.

Service was fine, in scattershot sushi-spot fashion, which was not only acceptable but customary.

Sushisamba is, of course, on the Strip, and it’s very much one of those clattering, tourist-centric spots, with lots of swirling color, lots of action and lots of energy. Service was fine and our server most congenial, but tables were so close together that we heard her tell the guys on one side of us that she was pre-med, got the whole story on ceviche from the guys on the other side and periodically lost track of our own conversation because of the steady whumps on our aisleside chair.

So there’s that, and fair warning. The food, however, is a whole lot less jarring.

Las Vegas Review-Journal reviews are done anonymously at Review-Journal expense. Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at 383-0474 or email her at hrinella@ reviewjournal.com.

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