Sunday, September 6, 2009

Simba's Grill

Restaurant: Simba's Grill
Cuisine: African/Fusion/Barbeque
Last visited: September 3, 09
Area: Vancouver, BC / Burnaby, BC
825 Denman Street
Price Range: $10-20 (closer to $20)

1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very Good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!

Food: 4
Service: 2
Ambiance: 2
Overall: 3
Additional comments:
  • African/African fusion food
  • Popular and known for grilled meats
  • Similar to Indian food, but lighter in spices and richness
  • Curries are consistency of Persian stews (thinner)
  • Good amount of meat in curries
  • I'm not a professional in African cuisine -
  • but Simba's is East African cusine qith some Central African influence
  • A bit overpriced, but everything is shareable
  • Big portions, meant for sharing
  • Busy for dinner on weekends
  • Photos of food available at restaurant
  • Closed Monday

**Recommendation: Grilled entrees, Chicken Kebab, Ugali (not necessarily good, but should try it)

I've only been to the Simba's on Denman Street and this is where the owner (the African guy on the website) spends most his time. The servers are all international students from Asia that probably live around the ares. I'm not sure who cooks the food though because the kitchen is hidden. The owner manages the operations and keeps a close eye in the back unless it's so busy on the weekends that it requires him to be up front. I'm not sure how "authentic" the food is, but I've had African food before and personally I think it's mild Indian food. Relative to other African restaurants I've tried I find Simba's is a little more fusion-inspired.

Generally African food is not as heavy as Indian because they don't use much dairy (lack of dairy in Africa). The curries are not thick or creamy and they don't use as many spices giving dishes a lighter flare in terms of flavour and a little in appeal. The complimentary chutneys they serve are a combination of the Northern Indian chutneys (the reddish brown one served with pakora) as well as Southern Indian chutneys (the coconut one served with dosas). They also have really spicy ones that remind me of the Asian sambal chili sauce. Simba's serves good food, but in terms of serving authentic African cuisine I doubt it - I call it dumbed down African food (food for the masses) still tastes good, but just not authentic African.

On the table:

  • **Chicken Kebab 5/6
    • Marinated and grilled chicken skewers served with rice - $22
    • Yes, this is more typical and doesn't sound as "authentic", but I had to try it once because Simba's has a reputation for serving exc ellent grilled meats. Tender, juicy and nicely marinated and grilled. Great use of spices. It's a big portion served on a large plate with a bed of rice. Eat these skewers with the chutneys, otherwise it feels like eating a kebab that could also be from a Persian place.
  • **Ugali 3/6
    • This is a staple starch common in East African cuisine.
    • Made of corn flour and water - maybe cornmeal too? I recommend people to try this because it's authentic and typical of traditional East African cuisine. You may not necessarily like it, but it's worth a try. It looks li ke mashed potatoes, but it's plain and not supposed to be flavourful - kind of like how Chinese rice alone is not meant to be flavourful. It's the texture of thick and sturdy mashed potatoes mixed with cornmeal - gritty, but soft. You can stick a spoon in it and it will hold - see my picture.
    • Eat it with the curries. You take a chunk, roll it into a ball and dip it in the sauces. I like to mash my curries into it and then roll it into a ball, and then dip it in the chutney - but that's not the traditional way of ea ting it.
  • Muchuzi Mbuzi with Chicken 3/6
    • A tomato based reddish brown curry mixed with spices.
    • We had it with chicken breast, and you get quite a bit of chicken. I don't think there's dairy in this so it's a little soupy in texture. It's a bit spicy as well but I enjoyed this. There's no other veggies in it though, so you need to order it with other things or you'll get tired of eating a whole bowl of this.
  • Jumbo Prawns with Spinach Curry 4/6
    • I don't remember what it's called on the menu and it's not the website. It's a spinach based tomato-ish curry mixed with spices. We had it with jumbo prawns, and these prawns were actually quite large. It came with 5 jumbo prawns and they're cooked perfectly - nice and crunchy still (about $16). This is the thickest curry we had. It's not really saucy, but the thickness comes with the saute ed spinach. For me it was more of a sauteed spinach stew. This one isn't spicy.

  • Green Coconut Curry with Chicken 1.5/6
    • This wasn't very good. It was pretty watery and not flavourful at all. It was the thinnest curry out of the bunch and really lacked in flavour - couldn't pick out any spices. It wasn't really spicy, just really bland. Again you get a good amount of chicken, but it's all flavourless. There's no other veggies in it, so again you would get tired of eating this just for one.
  • Naan
    • Only one kind, regular in size and buttered...possibly bought. It was ok, Indian restaurants do a bett er job with the dough and the cooking.

  • Complimentary Chutneys
    • **Coconut Chutney - I have to give a shout out to this chutney. It's amazing! I used almost the whole thing for myself - there's flaked of shredded coconut in it - not really sweet, but gives the food a great texture and unique flavour.
    • Reddish-brown chutney - a thin sweet and sour chutney similar to the chutney served at Indian restaurants used to eat pakoras.
    • Yogurt Chutney - Really thick plain yogurt. Almost like sour cream, but it's yogurt.
  • Mango Lassi 3/6
    • This was quite good, but not the best. It was really thick and heavier on the yogurt flavour than it was on mango flavour. Quite tangy.

Simba's Grill (Vancouver) on Urbanspoon

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