UPDATE: Simbal closed February 2017. 😦
There’s another restaurant you must add to the top of your DTLA dining list! It’s called Simbal and it’s hidden in the Little Tokyo Mall, and I do mean hidden. It’s not the easiest place to find, but it is so worth the hunt. Even though our Uber driver dropped us off at the official address on East 2nd Street, we had to call the restaurant for help finding the place. I think a lot of people must have the same problem because the hostess was able to give us clear simple directions. Here’s the simple answer… it’s located on the San Pedro side of the mall, behind the Union Bank. Okay, enough about that… let’s talk about what really matters.
The space is quite modern with an industrial feel. There is a main dining room, a bar area and a chef’s counter that looks into the open kitchen. The friendly service started with the hostess and continued with our server. We started with a round of their signature cocktails: Spring Awakening (jasmine infused gin, orange blossom honey, lemon and orange bitters), Valerie’s Garden (La Caravedo Pisco, pineapple, Thai basil and lime) and something called the Spiked Shrub. It’s your choice of alcohol mixed with your choice of their housemade seasonal shrub sodas (strawberry black peppercorn, pineapple and pear & ginger). Cheers! The drinks were creative and original. once our meal started we ordered off their extensive wine list.
The food at Simbal is described as a “creative southeast Asian cooking that combines tradition and playfulness.” Because the dishes are small plates made for sharing, we ordered a parade of them. First out of the kitchen was the Grilled King Trumpet Mushroom Salad ($7) with pickled shimeji and sesame mushroom puree. If you are a fan of mushrooms, you are going to love this dish.
What I liked about Simbal is that as each dish is delivered to your table, it is presented with a brief description. Next to be presented was the Glass Noodle Salad ($12) with squid, shallots, chili jam and kumquat. Another masterpiece. Simbal is batting a thousand.
Up next was the Seasoned Rice ($9) that also featured the chili jam, plus a salted duck egg yolk, bonito powder and crispy garlic. As soon as it hit the table we dove our folks into it and shoveled it into our mouths. Um, what was this? It tasted like a wet dog smells. The three of us agreed and we pushed the plate to the far end of the table. What was that? I guess the staff noticed our reaction, because one of the servers explained that the flavor comes from the bonito powder and people either love or hate that dish. I can’t imagine anyone loving it… and I don’t recommend you order it. The server said he would take it off the bill. We would have never asked it be taken off the bill, so we appreciate the great service.
Okay, the food parade continued with more delicious dishes. The Roasted Bone Marrow ($16) topped with grilled chili jam and scallions was served with Chinese doughnuts. This dish rivals the bone marrow served at Bestia. I loved the paring of bone marrow with the fruity jam. It was pure perfection.
The Heavenly Beef ($14) made with coriander, garlic and dry aged beef fat was another hit. It was flavorful, tender and delicious. It was almost as good as my favorite dish in DTLA, the Shaky Shaky Beef from Little Sister. It was followed by the Caramel Braised Wild Shrimp ($14) served with congee and a poached egg. Except for that rice dish, we are loving the food… loving it!
Believe it or not, we ordered more food. The Wok Fried Long Beans and Bok Choy ($8) topped with chili crisps sauce and crispy shallots is a perfect pacer dish. It was clean and simple, and gave us a break from the decadent dishes. That break didn’t last long. Up next, our final dish of the night, the Pan Roasted Cod ($15) prepared with turmeric, caramelized shallots, roasted peanuts and fresh dill. Another delicious dish and the perfect ending to a great meal.
If you are looking for a new place to eat in DTLA, you need to head to Simbal. The food and service is excellent. We must mention the small print at the bottom of the menu: In hopes of providing livable wages and healthcare for our employees, a 20% service charge will be applied to all checks. Please let us know if you have any questions or if you would like the charge removed. This service charge is not considered the traditional tip, and standard tipping is still appreciated. Although the address is 319 East 2nd Street, you need to tell your Uber driver or navigation to go to 120 South San Pedro Street. There is parking in the lot above the restaurant. Simbal is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Make your reservations now before everyone finds out about this place and it’s impossible to get a table.
Simbal 120 South San Pedro Street (inside the Little Tokyo Mall) 213.626.0244 simbalrestaurant.com