Wednesday, October 28, 2015


319 E. 2nd Street, Suite 202
Los Angeles, cA 90012
Tel: 213.626.0244
$$ ($15-$30)
Cuisine: Vietnamese/Thai
Fri, 10/09/2015, 7:00pm reservation
    (4.5 Piglets)

Being Chinese, Asian is probably my cuisine of preference. I grew up eating Chinese food (and I'm not talking about the fast food kung pao chicken from Panda Express). My mom would sometimes spend hours just making one of her stews for us to eat for the following day. So, when I heard that there was a new restaurant that incorporated Vietnamese and Thai flavors with a hint of Chinese, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to check it out!  

Simbal is nestled in Little Tokyo featuring Southeast Asian cuisine. Chef Shawn Pham, who worked at Sona, The French Laundry and the Bazaar by Jose Andres, crafts simple Asian cooking with a piece of his heritage into his dishes. The flavors are unique, bold and pleasurable to the palate. Dim Sum carts roam around the restaurant for a few snack-able items before and during your dining experience.

The kitchen
The bar

The restaurant is industrial with a modern and contemporary feel. The bar is elegant but the main delight is the open kitchen with counter top seating. You can see everyone working hard, including Chef Pham. The manager Ron Carey is welcoming and is hustling to make sure everything is in order. And the food...delicious.

DEAL WITH THE DEVIL ($12.50): Blanc vermouth, port wine, lime, pineapple, ginger, peychaud bitters, soda. Sweet, with a hint of ginger. I'm not the biggest fan of ginger, but this actually works. I think for all ginger lovers, this is the drink for you! 
BRAISED PORK BELLY ($14.00): Braised pork belly, coconut juice, marinated egg. This reminds me of my mom's cooking and hence, I think it tastes Chinese than anything else. The broth had a lot of deep flavors and was probably my favorite thing out of the dish. The egg was cooked perfectly with the creamy, runny yolk in the middle. The pork soaked up all the flavors of the broth and was moist and had the right amount of fat to meat ratio. 
DIM SUM: SPRING ROLL : Chinese sausage, jicama, egg.  It's a spring roll manipulated! Chinese sausage? Egg? Jicama? Yup. It was good and the sauce was sweet. Definitely a nice deviation from the usual Vietnamese spring roll. 
MY FAVORITE DISH. BEEF TARTARE ($13.00): Larb seasoning, sesame bread. This dish is reminiscent of a Thai larb salad. It's spicy and the beef tartare was delicious. If you're afraid of trying raw beef, this is a good start dish for you since the lime slightly cooks the beef. The sesame was delicious and I could eat that nonstop, everyday! Super crispy and was yummy in my tummy. 
BROILED BLACK COD ($15.00): Turmeric, caramelized shallots, roasted peanuts, fresh dill. This was good. The cod was flaky but it wasn't one of my favorite dishes. 
SEASONED RICE ($9.00): Chili jam, salted duck egg yolk, bonito powder, crispy garlic. The rice was definitely different and not your usual fried rice. Get the lime and mix it in. It'll take it to a whole another level. 
SHORT RIB PIE ($16.00): Lemongrass, annatto, beef tendon. This is comfort food at its best. I love pot pies and the stew in this concoction reminded me of the stews my mom would make. It tastes very Vietnamese with the flavors of star anise in the dish. My only wish was that the crust was a little more flaky, ie. more fat and butter (cause you know...I do love my butter). 
A closer look at the short rib pie!
ROASTED BONE MARROW ($16.00): Grilled chili jam, scallions. Wow! This bone marrow is definitely a different take on the usual flavors. It was a little spicy from the chili jam and the scallions added a nice touch. It had strong Asian flavors and I appreciated their take on bone marrow. I also believe that this would be a good dish for those who have always been afraid to try bone marrow, especially if you like Asian food. 
COCONUT FLAN ($7.50): Tamarind caramel, coconut snow. I'm not the biggest fan of coconut, but I actually enjoyed this dish. My friend couldn't get enough of it and she kept thinking about it the next day. That's how good it is. It's sweet (but not overly sweet) and creamy. The coconut snow added texture and coolness to the dish. I would order this dish again. 

Overall, the food was pretty darn good for Asian fusion. I appreciate that Chef Pham stayed with his roots, but incorporated other flavors from Southeast Asia. The service was exceptional and made my dining experience that much more enjoyable. The only downfall is that the restaurant is hidden and could easily be missed. At the time of my visit, they were working on getting their liquor license, so many of the cocktails could have been modified. Would I come back? Uh...yes! 

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