Friday, February 24, 2017

First Bite: Samba

Shangri-La chain of hotels has been known to offer superior services. These past years though, the spotlight has been on its dining establishments. From the well loved Heat, Senju and Summer Palace of Edsa Shangri-La to Inagiku of Shangri-La Makati, tastemakers have grown to be fascinated with the new additions Canton Road and Raging Bull of Shangri-La at the Fort.  And late last year, a new restaurant was added to the list and it is designed, just like the others, to give us a gastronomic experience worth remembering.

Hello, Samba.
This Peruvian restaurant on the 8th floor of Shangri-La at the Fort, may seem to be a bit misplaced at first given that Canton Road and Raging Bull are both on the 3rd floor.  However, one would understand why this restaurant is placed there upon stepping in its al fresco dining area.

Situated to be right beside the pool, one could lounge by the poolside while drinking one of Samba’s signature drinks and enjoy the cool night breeze. But we dropped by not just to get intoxicated by the restaurant’s delightful concoctions. We went there to indulge in some scrumptious dishes.

Service was quite fast considering that the place was entertaining several big groups (one of which was former Ms. Universe Gloria Diaz’s party). First served were the appetizers.
Chicharrón de Cangrejo (PHP650) was the first dish to grace our table. The crispy soft shelled crab was served with Peruvian limo chili, cilantro, pineapple, passion fruit sweet dip, and zarza criolla. Though it’s your usual deep fried crunchy crab, the sauce made it stand out. The slight tangy, sweet, and spiced drip turned the typical crab into a delectable appetizer that tickles the taste buds.
The Salmon T-RA-D-TO (PHP450) was great too! The thin salmon slices were drizzled with lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) then topped with onion brunoise, celery, mushroom and micro greens. I loved the combination of flavors and textures. The light taste also makes it an excellent appetizer.
A more familiar dish, Ceviche Limeño (PHP525), was served next and it was perfect to be paired with a few cocktails. The beautiful mix of shrimp, octopus, scallops, calamari, lapu lapu, red onion, coriander sprouts and tobiko swimming in leche de tigre (citrus-based made of freshly squeezed lime juice, limo pepper and cilantro) was a splash of flavors per mouthful. The contrast in textures also made it more interesting.
But Conchas al Carbon, (PHP475) stole the spotlight for this dish was on fire, literally.
The plate of chargrilled scallops marinated in Aji Amarillo ceviche topped with cilantro leaves and chopped red onions had some salt drizzled with alcohol in the middle that the server set on fire. And it was done not just for show. It was actually meant to heat the scallops.
Although good, I feel that the Aji Amarillo masked the delightful and delicate taste of scallops.
And this is why I prefer Chalaquitas (PHP440), yet another scallop dish but instead of Aji Amarillo, it was topped with onions, tomato brunoise, lime juice, coriander and corn which helped highlight the scallops.
Anticucho de Pulpo (PHP500) was another favorite that night as the chargrilled octopus seasoned with panca pepper wowed and tickled the good ol’ taste buds. 
The slight spice from rocoto added a new dimension and the roasted potatoes gave it a contrast in texture. [Note: This dish is not ideal for the elderly as it might be a bit hard for them to chew this.  If ever they insist, give them the tentacles part as it’s softer.]

The Brazilian Moqueca de Camarao (PHP750) was scrumptious too and it acted as our soup.
I went to seafood heaven upon watching the warm Malagueta chili chowder being poured on the picturesque bowl of lapu lapu fillet and prawns sitting on EVOO, palm oil and cilantro.  But having my first mouthful made me stay in that heaven a bit longer.

The freshness of the lapu lapu fillet and prawn added a bit of sweet taste, which harmoniously blended with the thick chowder. I could easily finish one order on my own.

But one of my favorite I’m-going-to-dream-of-you-for-weeks dish was the mouthwatering Arroz con Mariscos (PHP700). Though this dish doesn’t seem to be as photogenic as the other dishes, especially compared to Conchas al Carbon, it was a winner in terms of taste.
The Peruvian seafood rice mixed with calamari, octopus, shrimps, scallops, white wine, paprika, creole seasoning, parmesan cheese and coral butter would remind one of risotto or paella. I fell hard for the cheesy taste of this dish and the contrast between the soft rice and fresh seafood.
Yet another familiar taste was Pork Anticuchos con Salsa de Adobo (PHP525). The 18-hour slow cooked pork belly seasoned in panca pepper, fresh oregano and red onions was served inside a crispy sourdough bread bowl. I was expecting the pork belly to be very soft given that it was simmered for 18 hours. However, I found it a bit tough. The rich sauce also made me not like this as much as the other dishes.
But my frown was instantly turned upside down by Chuletón de Res (PHP4,500). The 800g sous-vide chargrilled US certified black angus prime rib in pepper sauce with roasted sweet potato, pumpkin, beetroot, and asparagus on the side was perfection! I enjoyed munching on the succulent meat and contrasting it with the crunch of asparagus and sweetness of sweet potato and pumpkin chunks.

We paired these wonderful dishes with equally good cocktails.
I tried Pisco Perucho (PHP400) first which was highly recommended to me by one of the staff.

The lovely mix of Campo de Encanto Pisco, Mancino Bianco, fresh lime juice, homemade pandan syrup and fresh thyme was great! It’s great for those who are not fond of strong alcoholic drinks as this one tends to be a bit sweet.
Aloha (PHP400) is a bit stronger compared to Pisco Perucho and it comes in an adorable ceramic tiki. The combination of Samba blended rum, Jose Cuervo traditional, homemade Falernum, fresh lemon juice, pineapple juice, agave nectar and fresh mint could be a bit strong at first but it gets a lot better after some time, when the ice dilutes the alcohol.
I wasn’t too crazy with R’s Hakuna Matata (PHP400) and Frankenstein (PHP400) as both were quite strong.

Hakuna Matata has Don Papa Rum and Mango Paradise liqueur while Frankenstein has Plantation 3 stars rum, Myer’s dark rum and Bacardi 151 overproof rum. Though both drinks had fruit juices, it wasn’t enough to dilute the strong taste of rum.

And to cap the night, we feasted on some heavenly sweets.

One of the must order desserts is Picarones (PHP300) or homemade Peruvian pumpkin donuts with raw sugarcane syrup and citrus sorbet.
I couldn’t really comment on the sorbet as I wasn’t able to try it but the deep fried donuts with pumpkin chunks were divine especially when drizzled with syrup!
The Merengado de Guanabana (PHP300) which required us to “drop” the white chocolate bowl with ice cream was interesting too. I loved the soft guyabano bits and the slight tartiness of the ice cream and blueberries which was beautifully balanced by the thin sheet of white chocolate.
The Peruvian homemade ice creams (PHP140/scoop) were all great too. We tried Queso Helado (Milk Cinnamon), Lucuma (Andean Chesa) and Choclo (Corn).
Among the three flavors, I liked Lucuma best as it somehow cleansed the palate with its tangy taste.
Overall, it was a fun night. I had a fantastic time indulging in great food and drinks while spending time with some of my favorite foodies. I will definitely visit again for some drinks and a few light snacks or maybe for some steak as well.
Samba is located at 8th Floor, Shangri-La at the Fort, 5th Avenue, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

Samba - Shangri-La at the Fort Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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