Simply Simbal…

Simbal Restaurant
Simbal Restaurant

I adore Southeast Asian food.

I am always searching for another Slanted Door which is an amazing Vietnamese restaurant in San Francisco.

I haven’t found an equivalent in New York City, but Eureka, I found Simbal, a Southeast Asian gem nestled in downtown LA’s Little Tokyo.

Chef Shawn Pham
Chef Shawn Pham

Simbal, which stands for Simple and Balanced, is the creation of Shawn Pham, a fabulously innovative and creative chef. His credentials are impressive having worked for Thomas Keller at the French Laundy, Tom Colicchio at Craft and Jose Andres at The Bazaar.

He is Vietnamese and planned a month long trip to his family’s homeland. Pham ended up living in Vietnam for four years and traveling throughout the Far East.

Patrons of Simbal are the beneficiaries of some amazing interpretations of traditional Southeast Asian dishes.

Simbal Kitchen
Simbal Kitchen

His staff is impressive and manager, Patrick Hotchkiss, the former GM at Century City’s hinocki & the bird is a marvel.

There is a 14-seat kitchen counter and 109 seats line the concrete interior designed by Studio Unltd. I covet the garage door windows in the sleek industrial-chic space.

Almanac Beer & Champagne
Almanac Beer & Champagne

David ordered an Almanac Saison beer from San Jose ($9.50) and I selected a Champalou Vouray ($14.50). We toasted our new puppy, Finn.

Dim Sum Cart
Dim Sum Cart

We started off with dim sum from the cart that is rolled table to table.

Chinese Sausage Spring Roll
Chinese Sausage Spring Roll

We sampled the Chinese sausage spring roll with egg, jicama and a divine oyster dipping sauce with peanuts.

Mushroom Salad
Mushroom Salad

We also selected a delicious assorted mushroom salad with a little heat ($7).

Tuna & Tofu
Tuna & Tofu

Next on the hit parade was the tuna and tofu. It was sensational, basking in a divine ponzu sauce with sesame and scallions…truly the best tofu I have ever tasted, made by a local Japanese family ($9).

Marinated Squid
Marinated Squid

The marinated squid followed prepared with cilantro root and chili sauce..simple and delectable ($11).

Chili Jam Mussels
Chili Jam Mussels

The chili jam mussels with galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime and Chinese doughnuts are out of this world. These mussels are on my top 5 list and the sauce is what makes them sing…simple yet tantalizingly unconventional ($17).

Seasoned Rice
Seasoned Rice

The seasoned rice, chili jam, salted duck egg yolk, bonito powder and crispy garlic was a great side. We even added the chili jam marinate from the mussels because that sauce should never go to waste.

Grilled Pork Ribs
Grilled Pork Ribs

I always spring for one meat dish and the lemongrass grilled pork ribs just fell off the bone and melted in your mouth (2 ribs/$8).

We enjoyed a lovely Protea 2012 red blend from David’s homeland of South Africa. The wine was smooth and velvety ($13.50).

My laundry list for my anticipated next go round at Simbal includes the crispy sweet breads with fish sauce glaze and pickled chinese mustard greens ($15), the bone marrow ($15), the bahn mi deconstructed salad with pickled daikon, carrots, vietnamese sausage, head cheese and cucumber ($11) and caramel braised shrimp, congee and rice paddy herb ($15) …so many edible temptations.

Chinese Doughnuts & Vietnamese Coffee Cream
Chinese Doughnuts & Vietnamese Coffee Dip

Dessert of divine sugared Chinese doughnut and Vietnamese coffee dip reminded me of the famous French Laundry dessert, “Coffee and Doughnuts.”

Tofu
Fresh Tofu Dessert

The fresh tofu with osmanthus syrup and salted plum was very unusual and refreshing (all desserts $7.50).

We had a lengthy conversation with Chef Shawn. What an interesting, bright and informed gentleman and a fabulous chef, to boot.

Simbal is uniquely wonderful and definitely worth an excursion to downtown Los Angeles.

o

Simbal 319 East 2nd Street Suite 200 Los Angeles, California. Entrance at 120 San Pedro Street. Simbal is a bit tricky to find. Open Tuesday-Saturday 6-10pm. A 20% tip is automatically added to every check. $10 valet parking, metered street parking and a $7 parking lot directly across the street from Simbal.

One Comment

  1. You always hit the best ones without me! Cannot wait to try Simbal!

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