Sate Kampar: East Passyunk’s Newest Game Changer
A funny thing happened back in October while I was walking around the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, sampling all kinds of dishes from around the world along with thousands of others who traveled from far and wide to be there. I found myself longing to go home and grab a bite on East Passyunk Ave.
The variety of dining options along the Avenue these days is truly unlike any place else in the city. In the past year, Passyunk has seen the quick rise of Bing Bing Dim Sum, an Asian spot that plays by its own rules, and Stargazy, the incredibly addicting British pie shop. Add Satè Kampar to the list.
Located at the former address of The Bottle Shop, Satè Kampar debuted this past week and offers something quite different: affordable Malaysian street food in a chic setting. Not only is the flavorful cuisine something you don’t get to experience every day in Philly, so are the price points. You can take a gander at the food and drink menu here.
I popped in to grab a table for two around 8 p.m. on the first Saturday the restaurant was open. Satè Kampar holds around 50 diners and is first-come, first-serve. The place was near capacity and buzzing that night, but we were greeted warmly upon entrance and seated quickly.
It is BYOB, although the centrally located coffee and tea bar serves up specialty drinks, from pulled teas to “kopitiam” (house coffee) and fresh Malayan coconut drinks with straws. Also offered are mix-your-own Ribena sodas, Milo (chocolate malt drink) and a shaved iced lime tea called Teh-O-Ais-Limau, which was particularly delightful.
At the back of the house is an open kitchen where all of the magic happens on the grills. They have a separate halal grill alongside the one for the namesake Malaysian satè: meat that is marinated overnight in co-owner Ange Branca’s house-made spices and then grilled over coconut shell briquettes, as is tradition, and served on bamboo skewers. That’s right, compressed coconut charcoal imported from Malaysia.
As for the menu, think Asian fusion comfort food with shareable plates, aka “Lauk.” One of the dishes we shared was the Rendang Daging ($12), a deliciously braised beef that is slow-cooked for six hours and infused with mixed spices and coconut cream. The other was the Ayam Kurma ($10), a braised chicken course that reminded me of a homemade curry dish my old college roommate’s Indian mother would make for special occasions. Those two plates served over rice were plenty, but we also had to try some satè, of course.
One style is the Satè Kajang, a classic Malaysian satè served with spicy peanut sauce and cucumbers. The other is the Satè Melaka, a Straits Hainanese-style satè with a sweeter pineapple peanut sauce and cucumbers. The satè is priced around $2 per stick or between $15 and $20 for 10, with proteins ranging from chicken or beef, to pork or goat and even tofu, one of several vegetarian options on the limited menu.
As an added side, we each tried a Ketupat, which are rice dumplings steamed in a woven coconut leaf packet ($2.50 each). They got sopped right up in the peanut sauce, and any leftover sauce wound up getting tossed with the Lauk for a delightful smorgasbord of flavor. The table next to us ordered what’s dubbed on the menu as “the ultimate brain food,” the Otak-Otak Nyonya ($8). Opening the banana leaf pouch resembled opening a neatly wrapped present, of steamy delicate fish.
Our dessert special that night was essentially a dulce de leche toast sandwich, which topped off the meal just right. In fact, from start to finish, I hardly remember taking a breath in between bites. Although the service was quick, for those who don’t wish to dine in, Satè Kampar also offers takeout.
The entire dining experience impressed, but the cherry on top: I spent a grand total of $50 (including 20-percent tip) on dinner for two, with leftovers to bring home. Good luck finding a better date night.