Friday, March 25, 2011

Simba's Grill....Dine Out for Life African Fusion Style

As mentioned in my previous post, this Thursday was Dine Out for Life, an annual event where participating restaurants donate 25% of their proceeds to A Loving Spoonful/Friends for Life, two agencies that help people living with HIV/Aids. I had a dinner date with an old friend that I hadn't seen in a long time planned for this week, so we booked it for Thursday and after perusing the list of participating restaurants, I called and made reservations at Simba's, an African fusion restaurant on Denman.
Things got off to a good start when the sous chef and I scored free street parking a block away- Boo Ya! It's definitely not always easy to get that in the busy West End.
I was pretty pumped walking into this restaurant- we were welcomed warmly by Kurshid Khan, the owner/manager of this family restaurant and shown to our table. It's a cozy restaurant and it was about half full when we arrived. The walls are covered in african masks and paintings of african animals, the menus are leather with the restaurant lion logo, and intense african drumming music was playing over the speakers. Food is served on plates with lions and elephants on it. I didn't quite feel like I was on the pridelands, but I love a them, and I was definitely digging it.

Khan is a one-man show, he's greeting people, making recommendations, explaining the cuisine, taking orders, and checking in. He's not super warm and fuzzy, but he is friendly and clearly he is passionate about his food and his restaurant, and wants you to be satisfied. He has a staff of female international students wearing dashiki's that bring out the food and do a fantastic job of keeping your water glass re-filled.

When Devon arrived to meet the sous chef and I, we poured over the menu and debated what to order. I knew I wanted to try Mufogo after seeing it featured on the food network, but wasn't really sure what else. I've eaten ethiopian food before- but this food was East African fusion and reading through the menu, things seemed to have an heavy Indian influence.

 Devon had never eaten any kind of african food before so she didn't really have a clue what was going on with the menu "this is waaaay out of my comfort zone- I can't even pronounce anything", I was a bit indecisive, and since the sous chef is a vegan- we consulted Khan for some guidance. We went with his vegetarian recommendation- not on the menu- a 6 mushroom King Bryani, Jungle Prawns, Mufogo and Naan.

Mufogo- deep fried cassava root (6.95)
We were starving and thankfully, this dish came out quite quickly.
I would call these African thick-cut fries. They are super starchy but nice and crispy. Mufogo doesn't have that much flavour except for the light dusting of chili powder. They are a wonderful vehicle however for the delicious assortment of complimentary chutneys and sauces that come along with every order.
Chutneys and Sauces (come with the meal)
Coconut chutney- amazing texture with shredded coconut, thick but not too rich and suprisingly not too sweet.
Mango chutney- spicy and full bodied, too hot for some, just right for me!
Yogurt chutney- really thick plain yogurt, good to cool down anything that people might find too spicy
Tamarind Juice- sweet and tangy, I didn't really use this other than mixing it with the yogurt to make a yummy mixed dip
6 Mushroom King Biryani (21.95)
Pretty pricey for a vegetarian main but this was a heaping plate of mushroom/rice goodness that we all shared. It came garnished with crispy fried onions and a hint of saffron. This was an awesome addition for texture and flavour. It was well- balanced, not particularly strong in terms of flavour in the rice, but the mushrooms were well-cooked, meaty-tasting and delicious.

Jungle Prawns (14.99)
This dish was really really good. The dish was 7-8 large prawns cooked in a thick, rich tomato curry. I pretty much loved this sauce and was licking the bowl when we were finished- the spice balanced perfectly with the tomato and I loved its thicker almost curry-paste texture. This doesn't come with rice- and as tasty as it was, I gotta say, I think it's priced too high.

Naan (1.99) for a piece cut into 4
Pretty decent Naan- quite buttery, a little garlicky, a bit thin and crispy- nothing to rave about, but another good vehicle for the sauces and chutneys.
All in all, a delicious meal and great dining experience (although price point is a bit steep)- I will be back.
A big shout out to Simba's and any other restaurant that partipated in Dine Out for Life...It provides an easy and delicious way to support an important cause.
Also, a big shout out to Devon for eating out of her comfort zone and really enjoying it, more people should take a page out of her book and try new things!!!
Simba's Grill (Vancouver) on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Gloria said...

They have cassava fries!
I almost forgot about Simba's Grill.
I like their "green curry", would recommend it.