DTLA: Modern Southeast Asian Food at Simbal
We started out with some plates from the cart that was roaming around the restaurant. It’s not dim sum though it’s easy to think of the cart way. It was piled with easy starters and we probably would have gotten more but we also wanted to try some plates from the menu.
I was with a friend who’s allergic to shellfish so I had the prawn and pomelo salad all to myself. Being a fan of grapefruit and in particular pomelo and oro blanco grapefruits, I loved this salad.
Currently Simbal doesn’t have a full liquor license (that should be coming next month). In the meantime, don’t let it stop you from ordering the fashionably trendy low-ABV drinks made with sherry, sochu and more. My vodka-loving friend was super into the Green with Envy while I started with the pleasing Early Summer. I’m a big fan of sherry and sherry drinks so Simbal’s drinks are right up my alley. I like the Asian spin to these drinks as well. Bonus, they’re good with the food.
Green with Envy – Manzanilla sherry, sweet vermouth, lemon, palm sugar, mint, carbonated green tea
Early Summer – Oloroso sherry, fino sherry, lemon, kumquat, shiso, sochu
A must-order should be the peanuts and anchovies. Plenty of umami and it revs up your appetite for more.
The sausage roll with jicama and egg was great. I liked the crunch of the roll. Unfortunately my friend who’s allergic to shellfish discovered the tiny dried shrimp too late.
Our server recommended the mustard greens roll which I was a bit hesitant to get at first since I knew we had a lot of food coming. Make sure you eat this with the provided sauce as the meat tended towards the drier side.
While my friend went back to Green with Envy, I ventured over to Jade of Hearts. The sochu based drink also featured a fortified wine and those refreshing Asian flavors like Thai basil and lemongrass.
Jade of Hearts – Sochu, Cocchi Americano Rosa, lime, Thai basil syrup, lemongrass, salt
I knew I wanted the banh mi salad right away. It wasn’t quite what I expected though I don’t know what I expected. Generally speaking I’m not a fan of croutons but those who are will love this salad. For the most part, I ate all the greens and the lovely pate balls.
We really enjoyed the lemongrass-grilled ribs. They were so juicy.
“Did you have soup today?” I hear this almost every day and yes, I love soup. So it’s no surprise I ordered the tamarind fish soup. It’s not quite what I thought it’d be– a big tureen of soup. Instead, you get a dish just enough for one (hands off!) and a couple nice pieces of salmon.
I’m a eggplant fiend and will order it just about anywhere I see it. I was warned by the server this dish is room temperature but it’s actually on the colder side. We got this towards the end of the meal. I feel it should be served in the beginning, as an appetizer. Our server said he was going to course our meal out so hopefully they consider moving this to the beginning of the meal.
We loved the pork in the crispy black egg and pork dish. The flavors really reminded me of Thai food. This is the first time I’ve seen a century (or thousand-year-old or 100-year old egg) cooked like this. Usually I find it chopped up in porridge. This would have been great with plain rice or noodles.
Our seasoned rice came well ahead of the other dishes. My friend saved some of hers to eat with the meaty dishes though the rice got cold by then. I wished this was served towards the end (and that eggplant first!).
How can you not order something called heavenly beef (that is, if you eat meat)? The tender cubes were well spiced and I wished again for plain rice to go with the dish. Or perhaps some greens to wrap the beef in.
Our server recommended the Plum Luck which sounded good to me since I generally like any drink with egg whites. It’s essentially a sour with both Byrrh and plum wine as the base.
Plum Luck – Byrrh Quinquina, plum wine, lemon, salted plum syrup, egg white, soda
The neighboring table got a big wedge of guava cake and for 25 minutes that’s all we could think about. Luckily for us, we got the last slice. I like Asian-style desserts because they aren’t too sweet and this was perfect.
Simbal plans eventually for brunch and I hope weekday lunch!