One cuisine that I rarely have these days, but thoroughly enjoy is Malaysian food. It reminds me of my world travels during my backpacking days where I spent a wonderful six weeks exploring Malaysia and delving into the beautiful food. From the street food dishes of Chicken Satay, Nasi Ayam Goreng and Beef Rendang to the weird desserts of Ice Kachang which I don’t think I could ever grow to love – Malaysian cuisine is well worth exploring.
Luckily, my fiancée and I had heard about a Malaysian restaurant in the North Ryde/Macquarie Park area which we thought we should check out. Any excuse to get out of the house and enjoy a meal out! We had booked a table in advance at Sambal Restaurant and were surprised that the restaurant was already pretty full by the time we arrived on Thursday night at 7pm.
Located next door to McDonald’s there is parking round the back and Sambal Restaurant can be easily missed if you didn’t know it was there, due to being positioned on a busy main road – Lane Cove Road.
There is an entrance at the front on the main road, but most patrons park in the car park out at the back and enter through the rear door (although this entrance didn’t have a sign at this entrance so we went to the front to check).
Sambal Restaurant is a relatively basic restaurant with wooden chairs and tables with blank walls and we were sat near the rear entrance by the fish tank. The restaurant does cater for approximately 90 diners though. The menu is fairly strict and is inspired by Malaysia’s diverse heritage, which combines the flavours of Malay, Indian and Chinese. “Sambal” is described as evoking the aroma and taste of a spicy paste of onions, garlic with chilli cooked in oil which is synonymous with Singaporean food. In keeping with its name, Sambal therefore offers authentic Malaysian Nonya and Hawker food, which I couldn’t wait to try.
Sambal’s menu is made up of a selection of entrees, house specialities, hawker food and main dishes as well as desserts, including that Ice Kachang (basically a dessert of shaved ice, glass jelly, sweetcorn and stewed red beans covered in evaporated milk, rose syrup and gula melanka)!
My time in Malaysia meant that I had easily grown a love for their beautiful, tender and moreish chicken satay and I was excited to see it was on the menu, although not at the prices I had grown accustomed to! We therefore shared the Chicken Satay – 6 Skewers for $15.80 which came with a spicy peanut sauce.
For mains, again I was immediately drawn to the Hawker Food and ordered the Penang Char Kway Teao (flat rice noodles, stir fried with prawns, chicken, eggs, chives and beansprouts) for $19.80 and I had this hot. My fiancée took slightly longer to decide (normally that’s me), but in the end went for the Beef Rendang, accompanied with a portion of rice. Other dishes included my favourite Hainan Chicken Rice, Nonya Fish Curry and Kapitan Chicken Curry, whilst house specialities included Crab and Fish Head Curry – you need to order these two days in advance though.
Our Chicken Satay didn’t take too long to come out and we could immediately smell the peanut sauce. The Chicken Satay was a decent portion size and the chicken was perfectly cooked and tender. It reminded me of the satay from Malaysia’s hawker markets and brought a welcome smile to my face.
Our mains took a little longer to arrive, but the Beef Rendang looked good and had a hint of chilli running through. My Penang Char Kway Teao arrived about 3 minutes after, but the portion size was huge – even for me! This dish could have easily fed two people. There were only two prawns in the dish though, so they were far more generous with the noodles than the protein elements. However, the food tasted fantastic, with good amounts of heat from the chilli, and plenty of those delicate flat noodles. Yum!
Unfortunately, service was pretty slow at the end of the meal and it took a long time for the waitress to take our food away and box mine up to take away. We ended up going to the counter to pay, but apart from the slow service, the food was actually very good and authentic to Malaysia.
I would happily order the Chicken Satay and Penang Char Kway Teao again at Sambal Restaurant. Prices are a bit on the pricey side, with mains around the $20 mark, but the food was good with generous portion sizes that we left happy and full!