Holloway Road laksa hotspot Sambal Shiok will repurpose its next door Malaysian economy rice takeaway, Nasi, as Sambal to Go — blending the original restaurant’s most-loved dishes which those which proved a hit in Nasi’s short life. Founder Mandy Yin, who confirmed the change via Instagram on Saturday 27 March, told Eater that “Nasi just wasn’t working,” but added that she was hopeful for the possibilities offered by a hybrid of the two brands.
Nasi, which became known for its curry puffs and eponymous rice dishes, was open for just two days before Covid-19 forced both it and its longer established sibling, Sambal Shiok, to shut its doors. The latter, which had never done takeaway before the pandemic because of the impossibility of managing both demand and the experience of sit-down guests from one kitchen, will now be able to put out its much-loved laksas, fried chicken, and other snacks — “super-popular, all the time” says Yin — while repurposing the main restaurant for a slightly different experience to what diners have had before.
Yin says that while she’s yet to finalise the reopening menus, it will be “more of a sit-down, short tasting menu” dinner, which both makes it distinct from Sambal to Go and allows her to achieve the higher per-head spend she will need at reduced dine-in capacity from 17 May. Meanwhile, Nasi’s curry puffs and rice boxes, which proved a hit both in its short early life and more recently, will keep their place on the takeaway menu under its new billing.
She told Eater that:
The takeaway kitchen will predominantly focus on the laksa, rice boxes, etc., while the main restaurant kitchen will change — so customers can book in and buy in to this short tasting menu version of Sambal. The takeaway side, it’s more informal, more like street food, and coming full circle to where I started as a street food business — especially with the outdoor seating we’ll have. We used to turn tables like crazy [at Sambal Shiok] but the attention now, we’ll be able to give customers much longer to sit down and enjoy their dinner while the takeaway side does its own thing.
She also hopes that this will play well with diners’ needs as they return to restaurants — that it will “help people get comfortable” in returning, while crediting the newest round of government grants for putting her in a position to make the change. “I didn’t have anything to play with before ... The grants let me redesign the space, take out some kitchen kit, repurpose it. Nasi was just unfortunate timing, and we haven’t lost it completely — it’s still there in essence. I’ve just found a way.”