Tuesday, May 4, 2010

DIne Out Vancouver 2010 - Nyala

Our third dine out is Nyala, an African restaurant on Main Street. A friend of mine used to work there as a line chef, and she said the food is authentic and reminds her of true home cooking. The only problem with is that you have to be pretty patient, because the kitchen is slow to churn food out. Also, the owner/chef has a pretty mean streak and has a tendency to yell customers he finds difficult to serve. We were intrigued and also desperate to get away from Western cuisines for a change. $28.

Food: (3/5)
For appetizers, the Vegetable Pakora were served timely. It came with a magical chutney and hot sauce. The table wasn't very impressed with the pakora, but Dennis, who is an experienced pakora eater, gave it (3.5/5). He explained that the pakora had the right texture and was not deep fried and soaked in grease. However, it was presented poorly.
After the pakora, we waited an hour to get the other appetizer, Boerewos Kobab. The actual sausage was good, but the grilled bell pepper were magical. The flavours were unfamiliar but delightful. It had inspired my interests in African cuisine. Again, there was no thoughts to presentation. (4/5)

We waited another hours to be served our main course. However, it was well worth the wait. First was the Prawns Puri Puri. There were generous amount of large prawns and puri puri sauce. It was delicious, but unmemorable. (3.5/5). Second was the Lamb Tagines with Rice. (The couscous is a lie). The dish came in a Tagine and was ceremoniously opened in front of us. The the leg of lamb was huge, falling off the bone. Although I had better lamb tagine at Chambar, this lamb is damn good for the price. The waitress informed us that the owner handmade all the tagines himself (4/5). The star of the night is Ingudi Watt, a vegan dish with peas, mushrooms, and spinach stew served with injera, ethiopian flat bread. You eat it with your hands. The portions were big enough for a table of 4. Although it wasn't mind blowing, it was very enjoyable and fun. I also appreciate a good vegan dish. It's a lot more challenging to make than a good French dish (4/5) .

The dessert is nothing to write home about. Cheesecake with Mango Sauce and Pecan Brandy Tart was unmemorable at best: a waste of calorie intake (2.5/5). Dennis, an expert in Baklava, gave the dish a failing grade. "Below average, but not horrible" (2/5).

Service (3.5/5):
We sort of feel bad for the one waitress they have. They had a full house, there were only 1.5 servers (the guy was totally slacking), and the kitchen was behind. She served everyone to her best ability, filled their water glasses timely, and apologized about the wait repeatedly. Most impressively, she went into the kitchen and helped prepare the food. The restaurant would not have be able to served everyone without her. If I have a restaurant, I would want to hire people like her.

Ambience (2/5):
The decor of the restaurant was pretty ordinary. Dennis found it a little cheesy. "Like decorating a Chinese restaurant with stuffed pandas and a gong". The table was wobbly and the washroom had no lock. Never bring someone there for the first date, unless you want to weed out dates with small comfort zones.

Overall Experience (2/5):
I will most likely not go back again. The whole dinner took 3 hours to complete. There is another Ethiopian food on Commercial Street that is much faster and offers similar food. I rather pay extra money to have better Moroccan food at Chambar. However, this is completely a management issue. The food was good and well priced, but I did not appreciate the chaos, the wait time, and the lack of attention to details.

Total: 10.5/20

Nyala on Urbanspoon


  1. I thought Chambar is belgium, no? sorry if this is off the wall. Only because I am planning to go on thursday and I can't decide if I should go to chambar.
    BTW, thanks for the detailed review

  2. Chambar is sort of a Belgium and Moroccan fusion. Chambar's Tajine d’aziz à l’agneau - Braised lamb shank with honey, figs, cinnamon & cilantro, served with cous cous and zalouk. (harissa & raita) is the Moroccan lamb shank served in a tagine. The famous mussel dishes also incorporates Moroccan spices.

    Chambar is great! It's definitely one of my favourite restaurants. It was booked full for Dine Out a week before the event started, and we couldn't get a table for 6. They have an extensive wine and beer list. They are famous for their mussels and the lamb dish I mentioned above.

    Have a great time! Thanks for visiting my blog!

  3. Hi Thanks for the reply!

    I went to Chambar yesterday!!! I actually booked it just a day before for 5:45pm. I know they don't accept online reservations, so I tried booking by phone. No problem at all for I actually changed the reservation time once. Maybe it's your size of party? I saw plenty of empty tables at 6pm. Noticed 2 big empty tables for 5 and up even after 6pm. Breaking up the big party into 2 smaller parties might have helped. Anyway, now that dineout is over it's all moo point lol, but there is always next year right? :)

    As for the experience. I really liked Chambar, my first time there. I've had mussels at Belgium, the best ones I've had. Chambar's was pretty good as well (would've liked them better if the white wine in the dish was reduced more). My friend had Morrocan shortribs. He said the sauce is a little heavy on the side and couldn't finish it all. He also ordered Foe Gras that he had trouble finishing lol. I loved their mushroom soup and carpaccio, and their passionfruit parfait. Halibut entree was very good. I would say it's better than the lingcod dineout entree at Cincin.

    Will definitly go back again.