Sambol is a restaurant I would never have discovered without social media. Tucked away and invisible from the main thoroughfare, Sambol has nonetheless gained a number of fans online. Along with Grandma Male, who is always up for a taste adventure, Mack and I headed to the south side to give this hidden Sri Lankan gem a try back on a Saturday in May.
The interior is modern but cozy, with warm lighting, wood surfaces, and comfortable cushions. When we entered, we were the first party in for an early supper, but were soon joined by a young family and a group of regulars.
Champa Pathirana, the proprietor of this family-run restaurant was welcoming, and in some ways, it felt like we were having dinner in her extended kitchen. She explained that they had moved to this space after closing Razzelberries, a restaurant located downtown on 104 Street. She was patient with our menu questions, and we were definitely intrigued by a few dishes that we had never encountered before, including the interestingly named string hoppers (cooked rice pressed into noodle form, then steamed and served with a sauce – see how they’re made here). Their menu offers the best of both dining worlds – small plates perfect for groups to share, and one bowl wonders for those on their own. We decided to sample from all of the above.
Of course we had to try the string hoppers ($5). Even with the apt description we were provided with, I’m not sure I fully expected the noodle "patties" that arrived, slightly pink in colour and accompanied by a coconut gravy. Although the textures were interesting, the flavours weren’t particularly pronounced. They were fun to eat though, dousing the porous hoppers with sauce.
The lentil patties, deep fried and served with a mint sambol, were a nice surprise. I loved the refreshing mint accompaniment, which tamed the heat level and served as an addictive dip on its own.
Mack couldn’t get enough of the stuffed roti ($8), pan-fried packets of spiced beef and potato. It is the perfect street food – portable, easy to eat, and packed with flavour. They were so good we briefly considered buying another order to freeze at home.
We also ordered two bowls to sample – the banana leaf bowl ($18) and the chicken biriyani bowl ($15). No question, the portions are beyond generous; Grandma Male barely made it halfway through before calling it quits and packing the rest for home. Mack and I particularly loved the rice, and ended up shredding the chicken leg and mixing it in to allow for more seamless sharing. We also packed some of this for lunch the next day, and it was still fantastic reheated.
Banana leaf bowl
Chicken Biriyani bowl
I hope Sambol doesn’t remain under the radar – the food is excellent and offers great value. It’s a restaurant worth seeking out – not only for the food, but for their warm hospitality as well. We’ll be back for the roti soon enough.
9261 34 Avenue
Wednesday-Thursday 11am-8pm, Friday-Saturday 11am-10pm, Sunday 11am-8pm