Samantha's Restaurant: more than just 'fine' cuisine

Dec. 9, 2014, 5:47 p.m. | By Brian Le | 9 years ago

It's hard to criticize the restaurant when the food is so good

For SCO's November restaurant review, I decided to go to Samantha's Restaurant in Silver Spring. At first glance, it looks like nothing out of the ordinary – it's a small place that sits innocuously off University Boulevard between two shady-looking parking lots. Yet, Samantha's serves some of the most delicious Latin American food in the DC area.

The place is even smaller than it looks from the outside. We were seated in one of the middle tables, and I was constantly shifting around to avoid blocking the paths of waiters. I eventually adapted to the tight atmosphere, but if you are strongly against eating in the company of strangers, it's best to ask for a side table.

The waitresses at Samantha's are quick to serve your every whim. They wear large smiles on their faces every time you talk to them making you forget about the cramped space you're sitting in. And service speed was actually reasonable, although I can probably speak for everyone when I say that it never seems fast enough. After delivering food to table after table without missing a beat, our waitress finally handed us our piping hot dishes of mouthwatering Latin ecstasy.

If you're heading to Samantha's, the chicken or steak enchiladas are a must try. Photo courtesy of Brian Le.

With its barely sweet, tender corn tortilla, stringy but juicy steak filling and savory cheese sauce, Samantha's steak enchiladas are more than delicious. I was immediately mesmerized from my first bite, but it was missing a little zest - a little zest which I fortunately found in the crisp, juicy pico de gallo (a type of salsa/salad made up of primarily tomatoes and onions). And a Samantha's dish is not complete without the inevitable side of Mexican rice and refried beans; although they do nothing different with this, its 'comfort' quality makes up for what it lacks in originality.

While the majority of the menu is Mexican cuisine, one way to explore the Peruvian side is through the pollo saltado, a stir-fry with chicken, onions, potatoes or French fries and other vegetables. The chicken is smoky but not bitter, the onions are sweet and the tomatoes are juicy, seasoned to add some liveliness to the combination. Samantha's opts to use the French fries in place of potatoes, which was quite jarring since I am so used to eating French fries with Angus beef burgers. If you want a more Latin-tasting meal, skip out on this dish and order some of the other chicken dishes, which only cost a buck more.

Pollo saltado is a Peruvian stir-fry dish popular at Samantha's. Photo courtesy of Brian Le.

Alas, all restaurants have their weaknesses, and Samantha's seems to be the seafood. With a suggestion from our waitress, we ordered the zarzuela andaluza. It's a combination of black tiger shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and salmon, all together in a white wine soup. It sounded promising, but the soup had a stale, almost rotten taste that should not come from wine or fresh seafood. I haven't tried any other seafood dishes from Samantha's so this may have just been due to a weird batch of fish. Try the seafood at your own risk (though it's more expensive than the chicken or steak dishes).

Other than the seafood, Samantha's serves amazing Latin American food and accompanies it with top-notch service. A small but successful gem that opened in 2001, Samantha's is a restaurant that will undoubtedly have many more years to come.

Samantha's Restaurant
631 University Blvd E, Silver Spring, MD 20901
Hours: Sunday-Thursday 11 AM-10:30 PM, Friday-Saturday 11 AM-11:30 PM
Prices: Appetizers $2-$14, Entrees $11-$26, Desserts $4-$10

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