Restaurant: Simba’s Grill
Last visited: September 3, 2009
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson Street/West End)
Address: 825 Denman Street
Transit: SB Denman St FS Robson St
Phone: (604) 974-0649
Price range: $10-20 ($14-17 mains)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
- African/African fusion food
- Popular and known for grilled meats
- Similar to Indian food, but lighter in spices and richness
- Curries are consistency of Persian stews (thinner)
- Good amount of meat in curries
- I’m not a professional in African cuisine –
- but Simba’s is East African cusine qith some Central African influence
- A bit overpriced, but everything is shareable
- Big portions, meant for sharing
- Busy for dinner on weekends
- Photos of food available at restaurant
- Closed Monday
**Recommendation: Grilled entrees, Chicken Kebab, Ugali (not necessarily good, but should try it)
I’ve only been to the Simba’s on Denman Street and this is where the owner spends most his time. The servers are all international Asian students (common in the area) and the clientele was mainly Westerners, so I questioned it’s authenticity right away. The owner is African though and he manages the operations and keeps a close eye in the back unless it’s so busy on the weekends that it requires him to be up front. I’m not sure how “authentic” the food is, but I’ve had African food before and it has Indian influence. Relative to other African restaurants I’ve tried (not many) I find Simba’s is more fusion-inspired.
Generally African food is not as heavy as restaurant style Indian food because they don’t use much dairy (lack of dairy in Africa). The curries are not thick or creamy and they don’t use as many spices giving dishes a lighter flair in terms of flavour. The complimentary chutneys they serve are a combination of the Northern Indian chutneys (the reddish brown one served with pakora) as well as Southern Indian chutneys (the coconut one served with dosas). They also have really spicy ones that remind me of the Asian sambal chili sauce. Simba’s serves good African fusion food, but just don’t expect authentic.
On the table:
**Chicken Kebab – 5/6
- Marinated and grilled chicken skewers served with rice – $22
- This is more typical and doesn’t sound as “authentic” African, but I had to try it because Simba’s has a reputation for serving excellent grilled meats.
- They were tender, juicy and nicely marinated and grilled with a great use of spices.
- It’s a big portion served on a large plate with a bed of rice.
- Eat these skewers with the chutneys, otherwise it feels like eating a kebab that could be from almost anywhere.
- This is a staple starch common in East African cuisine made of maize flour (
cornmeal) and water.
- I recommend people to try this because it’s traditional East African.
- You may not necessarily like it, but it’s worth a try.
- It looks like mashed potatoes, but it’s plain and not supposed to be flavourful – kind of like plain rice.
- It’s the texture of thick and sturdy mashed potatoes mixed with cornmeal – gritty, but soft.
- You can stick a spoon in it and it will hold.
- It is eaten with curries and you take a chunk, roll it into a ball, and dip it in the sauces.
- I like to mash my curries into it and then roll it into a ball, and then dip it in the chutney – but that’s not the traditional way of eating it.
- A tomato based reddish brown curry mixed with spices.
- We had it with chicken breast, and you get quite a bit of chicken.
- I don’t think there was dairy in this so it had a little soupy thin texture. It was a bit spicy as well but I enjoyed it.
- There were no other veggies in it and it was quite repetitive if it was the only thing you got.
Jumbo Prawns with Spinach Curry – 4/6
- Spinach curry with added prawns. About $16
- I don’t remember what it’s called on the menu and it’s not on the website.
- It’s a spinach based tomato-ish curry mixed with spices.
- We had it with jumbo prawns, and these prawns were actually quite large.
- It came with 5 jumbo prawns and they’re cooked perfectly – nice and crunchy.
- This was the thickest curry we had. It was not really saucy, but the thickness came from the sauteed down spinach.
- It was like a sauteed spinach stew. This wasn’t spicy.
- This wasn’t very good. It was pretty watery and bland.
- It was the thinnest curry out of the bunch and it really lacked flavour. I couldn’t pick out any spices.
- It wasn’t really spicy, just really bland. Again you get a good amount of chicken, but it’s all flavourless.
- There’s no other veggies in it, so you would get tired of eating this just for one.
- There was only one kind of naan and it came buttered. I’m not sure if the naan is made in house.
- It was okay naan and I’ve enjoyed naan from some Indian restaurants more.
- **Coconut Chutney – I have to give a shout out to this chutney. It’s amazing!
- I used almost the whole thing for myself – there’s flaked of shredded coconut in it – not really sweet, but gives the food a great texture and unique flavour.
- Reddish-brown chutney – a thin sweet and sour chutney similar to the chutney served at Indian restaurants used to eat pakoras.
- Yogurt Chutney – Really thick plain yogurt. Almost like sour cream, but it’s yogurt.
Mango Lassi 3/6
- This was quite good, but I don’t think it was all real mango.
- It was really thick and heavier on the yogurt flavour than it was on mango flavour.
- It was tangy with some yogurt too.