Sunday, November 4, 2012

Samba Room, Tampa, FL

Samba Room pretty much had me at "hello".  The decor walks a sleek, juxtapositional line between retro and contemporary Latin.  If I squinted my right eye, I was peering around the room in expectation of a Lucy or Desi sighting (being the old farts that we are, we arrived at 4:45 on Saturday afternoon,  which is why the place is deserted except for us and the tumbleweeds)...
...and if I squinted my left eye, I was immediately transported to a hip South Beach eatery. Piped-in, pulsating dance music served to enhance that imagery, but was dialed down to a civilized, non-distracting level which did not inhibit conversation.

I'd read an Urbranspoon review that said "this is no Ceviches's (sic)"  and wondered why it would want to be.  Indeed, Ceviche is fine...albeit a tiny bit dumbed down for the Velveeta and White Bread Snarfing Masses.  Just sayin'.  In my opinion, having actually channeled Ms. Pac Man in Argentina and Uruguay,  I found Samba Room's offerings to be not only more authentic but tastier.

The char-grilled Arepas (dense corn cakes topped with queso fresco and served atop flavorful, slow-cooked shredded beef) were smoky and divine.

Chorizo and Clams in Spicy Tomato Broth pretty much set the bar for said dish.  Clams were large and tender, liberally embellished with chorizo chunks, and served in a thick, spicy and savory tomato broth with a hearty toast point on the side.  More bread would've been nice (and our server would've brought it), but we snorted these babies post-haste so it was kind of an afterthought.

The Maiz a la Mexicana (parmesan crusted Mexican street fare style corn on the cob) was so good that I didn't even mind picking it out of my teeth for the next two hours. 
Guava Glazed Pork Belly was delectable...meaty and easily rendering to the fork.  Jimaca slaw and a crispy malanga croquette added interest.  This was $5 well spent.
Lamb Meatballs with Sweet Peas and Sherry Foie Gras Cream Sauce were toothsome morsels with a nice "chew" factor (even better on the plate than they sounded on paper)...think exotic "Swedish Meatballs".  These guilty pleasures kind of had us looking over our shoulders for the PETA Police, but were well worth any potential risk of being spray-painted.  Sofa King good!
Desserts all sounded amazing, but Bread Pudding is always a foregone conclusion for me when it appears on a menu...and Samba Room's Guava and Cream Cheese version with Dulce de Leche Gelato did not disappoint.  Density?  Check.  Crispy edges?  Check.  Moistness?  Check.  Sweetness level?  Perfect.  If I really dug deeply to find something to criticize, I would say that it could've been served a few degrees warmer...but I'm feeling a little bitchy this morning (a fact to which UD will no doubt enthusiastically attest), so factor that in.  I thought my free "fall back" hour would make me more cheerful this morning, but no...I still hate Sunday (aka Monday Light).
All of this bountiful goodness plus four glasses of wine and one cocktail set us back around $100.  We got excellent service from the bartender as well as our server (Ty)...and were acknowledged several times by the manager on duty.  It was overall an exceptional experience.

There's a cute little park right across the street for detoxing, too.  Four Bacchante Maidens (okay...three Bacchante Maidens and one Old Lush):

Samba Room on Urbanspoon


  1. The bartender there (one of them anyway) did a mixology seminar at Epcot. He made cocktails I normally wouldn't have tried, but they were awesome. I keep wanting to go there but can't get past my favorite watering hole Beaune's Wine Bar in Ybor....

  2. Thanks for reminding me about Beaune, Jen. I've only been there once (just for drinks) and have always meant to go back for dinner, but I never think of it.

  3. You MAKE me want to dine here ASAP! Thanks.