My first time at Café Sambal was about 8 months ago with my boyfriend, and while we were driving there he said “baby, I’m taking you to a restaurant with one of the prettiest views in Miami.” He certainly wasn’t kidding because the outside of the restaurant is on the water, overlooking Brickell key and the rest of the city with a breathtaking view. Just make sure that you go on a warm night if you plan on sitting outside, because the water does create a breeze that can get rather chilly. If you end up sitting inside, you will find that the décor is very modern with clean lines, which seems fitting for the Japanese-inspired cuisine.
Tonight I went with my boyfriend and his family to Café Sambal for dinner, which was fun because as a group we ordered lots of appetizers and so I got to try a whole bunch of new things on the menu (I couldn’t wait to blog about it all!!). We started with the Steamed Edamame with Hawaiian sea salt (sounds fancy, but it was like the Edamame at every Japanese restaurant), the Lotus Chicken Wraps (really delicious, puts PF Chang’s version to shame), the Te Corvina Ceviche (not really my thing, but everyone else enjoyed it), and Dim Sum samples with chicken, vegetable, and beef (the beef was my favorite). For my entrée I ordered the Korean-Style Kobe Skirt Steak in spicy brown sauce, which is probably my favorite dish here to date. But I was disappointed that it wasn’t served with any sides…just steak on a plate. The brown sauce was good, but not even remotely spicy, so I asked for some type of hot sauce to put on my steak and they brought me a little dish of hot pepper heaven!! If you like spicy food then you have got to ask to try their hot sauce….it’s divine!
On other occasions I have also had the Chicken Pad Thai, which is very good and unusually light on oil (I can only imagine how god the hot sauce would be on this dish!!). I have also had the Crispy Tamarind Chicken, which good but very small. Although it did come with some mashed potatoes and string beans, the dish was not filling and I left the restaurant wanting to eat another meal. It’s not something I would ever order again.
Overall, I like this restaurant but I don’t love it. The menu is not inspiring or unique. The food is good, but not exceptional. There is no dish that I crave or feel that I can’t enjoy somewhere else. Basically, Café Sambal makes good Japanese food, but doesn’t take it to another level or create any signature dishes of flavors of their own. I think the restaurant is over priced for the rather average food that it serves, and I believe that there are many other Japanese restaurants more reasonably priced that offer a similar menu. I think that the beautiful view is the most inspiring thing about Café Sambal (the food certainly isn’t) and although I would eat there again, it isn’t a place that I’m dying to go back to.