I confess, when I first saw the beginnings of Sambal Kampung at the edge of the Edgewater estate in Maribyrnong, I didn't get my hopes up. Of course there are exceptions, but it seems the further restaurants take up digs from their cultural epicentre (Vietnamese, Footscray/Richmond/Springvale; Malaysian, city or maybe Flemington; Thai...Sydney?) the less likely they are to be impressive. It's often a case of trying to anticipate the tastes of the local residents, usually meaning leaving out the really authentic touches and/or chilli in favour of more "friendly" flavours. All too often it ends up being like one of those awkward dances you get into when trying to pass someone in a tight corridor - you step left, they step right, so you step right, they step left, til you end up bumping chests. In trying to second-guess the other party's move, you get it wrong.
Sambal Kampung already has a branch in Little Bourke Street. I was chatting about it with Jo and Bryan, and Jo said the fried rice was "quite nice". If you don't know Jo, this is like me saying, "Oh my god, I ate that fried rice and fireworks went off in my mouth. I saw stars - it was the best fried rice of my life!" Kidding - I love Jo, because if she says it's good, you know it's bloody amazing. So my interest was piqued.
Inside is quite classy, while outside there are some simple boxy table settings which would be quite delightful to perch on if these autumnal evenings can keep up. The menu (see takeaway version below) has lots of hawker classics, as well as standard Chinese takeaway options. They're licensed and even have a full-page cocktail menu.
Roti Channai with Beef Rendang, $8
Fried Kueh Teow, $10
Great char kway teow, with al dente fresh rice noodles licked with just a little sweet soy. I think of this as Malaysian burger night, in a way - there are only token vegies but that's OK once in a while, especially when it tastes this good. Fish cake, big prawns (only two) and sweet Chinese sausage were tangled throughout, along with a smattering of bean shoots and garlic chives. It was hot, smoky and so yummy.
What a delightful surprise! This might have been a lucky combo - Temasek has checked them out twice and had a couple of misses with the hits. But at least on this visit, there was no awkward "but we thought you didn't like spice in the suburbs" corridor collision...more like a chest bump of "yeah baby!" proportions.
4/36-48 Edgewater Blvd, Maribyrnong
Phone: 9317 7171
Hours: Tues-Sun 10am-3pm, 5-10pm
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