THE on-again, off-again rain spells in the Metro these days have me yearning for the warm and sunny days of summer. While a trip to the beach may be out of the question in the meantime, savoring summer treats is possible.
Summer usually means seafood, fruits and vegetables, and lots and lots of chilled drinks—all of which are within reach at Samba, the Peruvian restaurant at Shangri-La at the Fort in Bonifacio Global City.
The first time I had a meal at Samba was when Chef Mitsuharu “Micha” Tsumura of Maido, adjudged one of the World’s Best 50 Restaurants in 2016, was in town as part of the Shangri-La International Festival of Gastronomy also last year. Gifted at magically merging Peruvian and Japanese influences, Tsumura is a perfectionist at heart, and applies a contemporary approach while making traditional food. He said the Nikkei cuisine he’s pioneered in Peru is a summation of his memories, experiences and heritage—or simply, Japanese food with a Peruvian heart.
His participation in the global Shangri-La hotels event was also a way to formally introduce Samba to public. Peru being a coastal country, the cocktail dishes served to us were light and delicate, crafty and innovative, and all delicious. These dishes, for me, set up Samba as a must-visit restaurant for a proper sit-down dinner.
My next meal at Samba was a fambam birthday dinner. Not only did we manage to get a private dining room—thanks to Shang at the Fort’s former public-relations maven, Lesley Tan, who is now based in Singapore—but every dish served us from the menu, and we did eat a lot, was just perfection.
Previous to my visit of Samba, the most I knew about Peruvian cuisine was ceviche (raw seafood “cooked” in lime), a South American cousin to our kinilaw (which uses vinegar instead), and the Pollo a la Brasa, otherwise known as Peruvian roasted chicken, both of which I’ve had in a local restaurant supposedly specializing in Peru’s dishes.
Similar to the Philippines, Peruvian cuisine is an amalgamation of more than 500 years of cross-culturalization. Beginning with the indigenous Incans, to the country’s eventual colonization by Spain, as well as the arrival of natives from Africa, China and Japan, all have contributed in creating a truly unique and soul-stirring cuisine.
Samba’s kitchen is ably headed by Chef Carlo Huerta Echegaray, a Peruvian native who started working in the kitchen at 16.
He studied at Le Cordon Bleu Peru, where he perfected his cooking skills and techniques, always experimenting to come up with new fusions of flavors. He worked at several restaurants in South America, while at the same time, researching Peruvian ingredients and ancient recipes.
In 2010 he became the executive chef at Vivaldi Restaurant, one of the top fine dining restaurants in Lima, Peru’s bustling capital. Soon after, he became the corporate executive chef of Embarcadero41, managing the kitchens of 15 restaurants in Peru, Ecuador and the United States. With decades of culinary experience, Chef Carlo brings the exciting and contemporary flavors of Peru to the discerning diners of Samba. Despite his busy schedule of whipping up his beloved culinary creations, Chef Carlo took a break to check on how we were doing and if we were enjoying his food.
And we were! We reassured him that every dish, and every mouthful was a delightful play of flavors on the palate. They were very summery in taste and the warm feelings they evoked. A bite of the Ceviche Limeño (shrimp, octopus, scallops, calamari, lapu-lapu, red onion, coriander, tobiko, leche de tigre and cancha corn), and I was on my favorite beach enjoying the cool breeze. A plate of Prawns Anticucho (grilled prawn skewers, garlic rocoto chimichurri, limo pepper, roasted potatoes) is a reminder of summer barbecues, with one’s favorite ice-cold beer on hand.
The Arroz con Mariscos (Peruvian seafood rice, calamari, octopus, shrimps, scallops, white wine, paprika creole seasoning, parmesan cheese and coral butter) conjured the colors of the setting sun, bursting into furious pinks and glorious oranges. For dessert, a taste of the Queso Helado (Peruvian milk and cinnamon ice cream) was akin to slipping into the cool seawaters. It was a refreshing and reinvigorating end to an incredible meal.
Diners will enjoy the family plates of food, which they can share in big groups, and relish the fresh and spirited cocktails the restaurant has on hand. They have a choice of dining inside, or al fresco with a view of the hotel swimming pool. Samba is a one-of-a-kind restaurant, which is able to bring out such warm, positive feelings of comfort and cheer. And it’s definitely the place to hie off to for joyful meals, whether it be summer or any other season.
- Samba is on the eighth floor of Shangri-La at the Fort. For inquiries and reservations, call 820-0888.
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