SushiSamba Rio


Rockwell Group

Practice Area


Shimon Bokovza, Danielle Billera, Mathew Johnson


Project Vision

SushiSamba Rio’s new exterior creates a relief from the existing brick facades of River North with undulating forms and vibrant canopies that recall the pageantry of Rio. Guests arrive through a Mondrian-inspired storefront of clear and colored glass marked by sculpted handles that pay homage to the sensuous forms of jellyfish from South Africa.

The entry focus is an oval sushi bar of terrazzo and bamboo with internally illuminated plate markers and a glowing ice display. The terrazzo of the main dining room has multicolor back-lit floor lights that move like a samba dancer through the dining room.

The main dining room features a lofted ceiling, tables of Brazilian hardwood, and banquettes covered in “samba stripes.” Raised alcoves offer semi-private dining and a view of the sushi bar – the ultimate in dinner theater. A sunken, circular dining area enclosed in curtains of silver beads separates the main restaurant from a private dining room, a sultry, seductive room of crimson fabrics, fiery glass, and lenticular panels.

The rooftop features an all-weather patio, allowing guests to sit outside while they dine. Filled with lush flora, it is a tribute to the balmy breezes of Brazil and the serene style of Japan.

Project Details
This upbeat and vibrant destination restaurant is a totally integrated environment. The rich colors and textures, materials, and theatrical lighting work harmoniously – like a well-orchestrated samba team! The existing architecture, floor, ceiling, and wall patterns all move to the same rhythm and beat. The creative use of materials conveys translucency and luminosity. The orchestrated circulation and definition of intimate seating versus group dining areas is clever.
Juror 1
Design Team

David Rockwell (President); David Mexico, Edmund Bakos (Principals); Marc DeSmet, Sara Duffy, Josh Held (Staff)

Design Firm

Rockwell Group


Metro Design Associates (MEP Engineer); Culinary Design and Fixture, Inc. (Kitchen Consultant); Focus Lighting (Lighting Consultant); FTL Happold Design and Engineering (Structrual Consultant)