Food Finds: A Samba Grille Experience
If you are in the mood for something sexy, flavorful and elegant then head straight to downtown Houston to the Samba Grille.
Managing Partner Nathan Ketcham passionately speaks about his food that boasts to be one of the best South American restaurants in town. “South American food is so vast and it is underestimated,” says Nathan.
Voted one of the ‘Best New Restaurants in 2010’ by The Houston Chronicle and ‘Top 100 Wine Restaurants in America’ by Wine Enthusiast magazine, the restaurant is revamping its menu with a focus on a la carte options. With over 15 years in world-class kitchens, Chef Cesar Rodriquez is the driving force behind the thoughtfully crafted, seasonal South American cuisine. Chef Rodriguez previously served as Executive Chef for Houston-based Cordua Restaurants, in addition to working under industry legend Tony Vallone at Grotto Ristorante as Executive Chef.
My Experience: The evening kicked off with a cool pineapple fusion martini while the chef displayed the wide array of his cooking expertise starting off with a pear salad: fresh thin slices of pear, blue cheese, arugula-frisee, sweet Peruvian corn nuts, and hearts of palm. The flavors at Samba were absolutely tantalizing with a sudden burst of fresh herbs, lime and crunch. My all time favorite was the complimentary Pao De Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Puffs) but be careful with these mini bites as they can fill you up very quickly. I savored the warm corn bisque “sango” soup which was not so thick yet had the richness of bisque. The cilantro oil with a jumbo shrimp was very flavorful.
My halibut entree was smoked in a plantain leaf with grilled shrimp, yucca and red onion escabeche (poached in citric acid). The fish was perfectly firm on the outside but soft inside melting right in the mouth. All in all a must go for peeps who are into experimenting on something different with a great fascination for lime, cilantro, peppers (with just mild heat) and lots of plantain.
A few new items have been added to the menu like corn cake sopas appetizer (trio of pork belly, duck and Huitalaloche), Antituchos (grilled beef heart, fried yucca, grilled white corn ‘choclo’ huacatay cream sauce) and Steak Tartare (tenderloin, cucumbers, shallots, peppedew peppers and plantain chips).
Amongst the new entrée additions: Lobster ‘n Grits (grilled and butter poached lobster tail, coconut grits, yucca and saffron emulsion with green papaya salad), Sweet & Spicy Scallops (rocoto pepper emulsion, black quinoa grain), and Grouper (lightly smoked wrapped in a plantain leaf shrimp escabeche, spicy garlic butter, roasted yucca, red onion relish).
In addition, the menu is now broken down into more sections, featuring ‘From the Fire’ and ‘Fire and Water’ entrées that include a variety of prime meats; and ‘The Lighter Side’ section which features more gluten-free and vegetarian options, along with summer-centric lighter items. The menu might be slightly pricier than the usual, however there is something for everyone to pick. Steaks go upto forty something dollars but otherwise the entrees ranges from $20s to $30s with great value for taste.
Natham has traveled extensively all over the world and India is on the top of the list for his next big travel plan. “Our goal is for the restaurant menu to evolve, striking a delicate balance between continuing to serve our loyal clientele while attracting new guests simultaneously,” said Ketcham. “We consider the newly refined menu an enhancement to our overall environment. And, so far, our customers are confirming we have made the right choice.”