Christmas came early last year for Sushisamba. In December, the sky-high South American-Japanese restaurant located on the 39th floor of Heron Tower in London received a coveted certificate from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries to sell authentic Kobe beef. As one of the few restaurants in the world to serve this strictly controlled first-class beef, Sushisamba celebrated in style with three special Kobe dishes: 1kg of the premium meat served on a hot stone with dipping sauces, pickled plums, sake and wine-pairing advice (£1,000 for parties of at least four), a robata-grilled ribeye with kabocha, kuromitsu and mustard cress (£144 for 160g) and the A5 Kobe, a selection of either nigiri and sashimi (£24, first picture) or a temaki hand roll (£26).
The festivities have now cheerily continued into the New Year. Kicking off on Monday January 19 is Kobe Week, a seven-day homage to these purebred bovines from the mountainous region of Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture, to be held regularly during the third week of each month. The inaugural six-dish menu will be a real showstopper, with all the delightfully innovative plates – and ingredients – that Sushisamba is famous for. A Kobe Mini Burger (£6) with brioche and horseradish mayo, for example, is topped with a fiery aji amarillo, while a sashimi-style tiradito (£19) is layered in a zesty yuzu emulsion that promises to be, according to executive chef Cláudio Cardoso, “almost like a béarnaise, but with yuzu”. Also on Cardoso’s debut menu will be Kobe with, variously, Peruvian chocolate and foie gras (Kobe Tataki, £44), macadamia and gold (Kobe Tatare, £25), pickled wasabi and citrusy ponzu (Kobe Tamari, £13, second picture) and Peruvian corn and aji panca (Kobe Flank Anticucho, £140). “The idea obviously is to highlight the Kobe in every dish,” says Cardoso, “but also to play around with ingredients that pronounce and enhance the Kobe flavour. Here is a meat that’s quite exclusive and fatty, and you have to find the strategy to benefit from that.”
The menu will change every month, each one introducing six to 10 new dishes – a feat that will be helped along by changing laws making different cuts available. With such cuts – not to mention offal, including heart, tongue and tail – comes a plethora of possibilities, says Cardoso, who envisions a chance to invent up to 80 dishes a year. “Kobe has not been around the world that much and few western chefs have the opportunity to discover the meat,” he enthuses. “It’s a way for us to understand what connections are possible with Kobe… and to see what the best and most successful dishes are for our menu.”
Finally, for die-hard purists or those simply struck by the nostalgia for a classic ribeye, Sushisamba’s original three Kobe dishes will stay on the menu – so that, if one truly wished, every week could in fact be Kobe week…