I checked out Samba-Le this past weekend. Nestled on the Lower East Side on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street, nothing flashy or grandiose jumps out at you first glance, but it turned out to be a nice find in an area packed with restaurant choices.
They offer Brazilian and Italian fare served in a tapas style. The atmosphere was cozy and dimly lit with some good Brazilian music that was loud enough to be noticed, but not too loud as to swallow up a conversation. No reservation was needed for a mid-evening meal for 3, but I would suggest calling ahead for a large party. Samba-Le seems to cater to this type of crowd, with their large tables and tapas-heavy menu.
I’d have to say the highlights were the Duck Breast with Balsamic-Strawberry Sauce and a few fried croquette style dishes which showcased shredded meat and bacalao encased in a crunchy shell. A few bacon-wrapped items graced the menu also, you've got to love the Brazilians for that. Although the main dishes sounded impressive (Filet Mignon Ravioli and a number of seared seafood dishes to name a few), we sided for about 9 small dishes to pass around the table and that was more than enough to send us on our way without packing down any dessert.
The service was very average, but the strong, sweet mojitos and constant flow of small dishes pouring from the kitchen kept us distracted enough not to be overtly critical. They are a cash only restaurant, which usually doesn't sit well with me. It was very affordable though and the small, but decent wine list won’t put to much financial strain on you either.
Samba-Le was dead-on with all the essentials and would be a good place to bring one, two, or ten friends who love to eat......