For someone who's eaten more than their fair share of satays I'm not the biggest fan. My biggest gripes are chewy meat and overly sweet sauce. I like my meat tender, my sauce with a strong peanut flavour and a slight spicy kick. SatayBar is one of those places I'd walked past many times and it appeared to be popular, and this week it was time to give it a try.
First thing to say about SatayBar is that it's amazingly small. It managed to feel crowded with three people lined up to order and two sitting down eating inside, and it only has three additional tables for eating outside. Fortunately it appears geared to the takeaway crowd, so that we were able to get a table inside, even if the table felt designed more for umpa-lumpas than lumpy office workers.
Ordering is made easy by their meal pack options. Depending on the option you choose you get two or three skewers and side dishes, either from the regular menu or the daily specials. Snooze went for the small meal pack with chicken and lamb skewers, and rice and achar. I went for the spicy tofu, prawn and kangaroo skewers, with rice, achar and krupuk.
Snooze's lunch box with chicken and lamb skewers, rice and achar.
Traditional satays are cooked over charcoal fires, something obviously not possible in such a small shop without asphyxiating the customers. Instead like most shop satays they are cooked over the grill.
Sataybar promotes itself as making its sauce fresh everyday using 'Grandmother's secret recipe'. While this sounds promising it's probably less of a plus than using packaged or brought in prepared sauce would have been a minus. I mean, can you imagine a specialist satay shop which didn't make its own sauce? I do like Grandma's recipe though. For me it could have been a little spicier, but I did very much like the way it wasn't too sweet.
The satays themselves were a mixed bag. The kangaroo and prawn were both very good. The flavour of the sauce didn't overpower the natural sweetness of the prawns, and the kangaroo was strongly meaty and very tender. In contrast the lamb and tofu were both a little chewy, with the 'spicy' tofu lacking flavour. I don't think I'd order either of these satays again. The chicken fell somewhere in between, nice moist meat but lacking the slight charring on the outside which can add texture.
Big Fil's lunch box with prawn, kangaroo and tofu skewers, rice, achar and krupuk.
The sides definitely play second fiddle to the skewers but didn't let the meals down. The achar is a simple mix of vegetables lightly pickled, the rice was fluffy and the krupuk (little crackers) nice with the excess sauce. One of the specials we'd wanted to try was the brown rice, but they sold out before 12.30 so we missed out.
Two other things worth noting. The background music was quite loud but the choice was good, avoiding the muzak trap. And despite being very busy I appreciated the way that one of the cooks took the time to ask whether we enjoyed our meal and to say goodbye as we were leaving.
Cheap and convenient, SatayBar is one of those places that provides value for money. Not really somewhere to meet and catch up with old friends, more somewhere for local office workers looking for a good quick lunch which isn't the typical sandwich or salad.
Food - 7
Ambience - 5.5
Service - 7
Price - 7.5
Cnr Flinders Lane and Custom House Lane
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9629 1466