To wind up my 4 part Malaysian restaurant review stint for Malaysia Kitchen, we decided to try out Sambal in a suburb called Macquarie Park in Sydney’s north. Conveniently located outside Macquarie Park station, Sambal is very popular amongst the locals for a quick dine in meal or even faster takeaway.
Because we were going on a Sunday afternoon, we called in and booked a table for four. We knew it would be crowded, but had no idea how crazy and chaotic it would be when we arrived. Finding no parking within the restaurant complex premises, we parked on the busy road outside. Walking through the empty outdoor courtyard (which would be wonderful to dine in if it wasn’t raining), we stopped short at the door as there was a queue snaking out from the counter. There were people waiting to be seated and people waiting for their takeaway orders. After waiting for 5 a minutes, I went up to the counter and told them about our reservation. We were directed to a cosy, lone table for four at the back. The place was packed tighter than a can of sardines. It was 1:15pm and peak lunch hour.
We seated ourselves and began the waiting game. We saw waitresses zooming by with food. We saw more people arriving and being seated, given water and offered menus; something that had still not happened at our table. After waiting for 15 minutes, the boys started getting fidgety, the kind little boys get when they wait for too long without doing anything. So Nick and I handed them our iPhones and they instantly calmed down as they began playing Angry Birds. We sat up a tad taller in our seats, hoping someone would notice that they had forgotten us. I think it was the owner who spotted me trying to get some attention nearly 20 minutes after being seated. He was onto us in a flash with some menu cards.
We ordered a few dishes, after changing our order several times as they had run out of a few things. We then sat back to take in the decor which was simple and pleasant with dark mahogany tables, comfy chairs, orange pendants suspended from the ceilings, a big fish tank brimming with fat goldfish and a couple of Malaysian wooden artefacts and paintings.
Our Coconut Drink ($3.50) arrived first. It looked great in frosty glasses with juicy white coconut flesh swimming amongst the hollow ice cubes. On sipping it, we realised the natural taste might have been tampered with, by adding extra sweetness. Maybe it was from a can? Nonetheless, it was refreshing and we enjoyed it.
The Mamak Rojak ($12.30) was next. Rojak is a savoury fruit and vegetable salad, a mash up of this and that. The Rojak we had was a mash up of many things. There was crispy fried prawn, crunchy julienned vegetables, boiled egg and a thick sweet but quite bland sauce covering everything. The sauce overpowered everything else and lacked seasoning. I didn’t like this Rojak very much.
The Otak Otak ($13.80) was good. There were two triangular banana leaf parcels on the plate. On unraveling the parcels, we discovered perfectly seasoned fish meat cooked with lemongrass, spices and coconut milk. It was tender, delightfully savoury and instantly sated my craving for Otak Otak that I miss so much after my Singapore days.
The Loh Bak($8.50) was a surprise. It is a Chinese five spice pork roll rolled in bean curd skin and deep fried. The pork filling was juicy, the bean curd skin crispy and not too oily. The boys enjoyed this fancy spring roll a lot too.
The Choon Piah ($12.80) was a hit too. A luxuriously rolled spring roll of pork, crab meat and vegetables, it received a big thumbs up from the boys which is saying a lot. It it can please a 7 year old and a 3 year old, it has to be good right?
The Char Kway Teow ($11.30) was passable. I detected a hint of a bitter after taste, maybe from too much charring? Again it lacked seasoning in my opinion. It was by no means a spectacular dish and I have had numerous versions of this in the past.
The Kapitan Chicken ($17.80) was swimming in oil, literally. There was at least a half a centimetre layer of fat. It tasted good though. I think it was my 7 year old’s most favourite dish of the meal. We had it with the Plain Rice ($2.50).
The Ice Chendol ($5.00) was lacklustre. It lacked some sweetness in mine and was too sweet in Nick’s bowl. It was also hastily put together and had noodles spilling out and stuck on the outside of the bowl.
The owner came over a couple of times to make sure everything was alright. He was friendly, sweet and chatty. I don’t envy his job when hordes of hungry people descend on his restaurant in the weekends. I felt like he managed to keep everything going well. Overall, the food was strictly okay. Maybe we didn’t sample their best dishes, but I felt that a lot of the dishes lacked seasoning. I saw many diners, add salt to their Nasi Goreng and Noodles. The presentation was really lacking, the food’s appearance was hasty, slapped on a plate and unadventurous. Food court style! The lunch madness abated by 2.30pm and we finished off our meal in a more quieter environment. Even though we enjoyed our family time in that quiet corner, I felt the food was passable at best for the price we paid and the service we got. I will probably look elsewhere to satisfy my Malaysian food cravings next time.
Sambal, Sydney Details
Cuisine - Malaysian
Website - http://www.sambal.com.au
Address - 285-297 Lane Cove Road, North Ryde, NSW 2113.
Phone - (02) 9889 7977
Disclaimer : Cook Republic dined at Sambal as a guest of Malaysia Kitchen.
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