Sabar Menanti Restaurant

A jaunt into the historical Kampong Glam district is not complete without stopping by some of the eateries the vicinity is famed for. Step into Kandahar Street where Sabar Menanti is located. Featuring authentic Minangkabau dishes, its Nasi Padang is known far and wide as one of the best in the area. Numerous local and international celebrities have sampled this dish, with the most recent being celebrity chef and traveler, Anthony Bourdain. Such are the accolades that pepper the walls of this quaint restaurant which is housed in a pre-war shophouse.

The Vibe
Sabar Menanti, alongside neighbours like Warung Pariaman, has been around for decades. The family-run restaurant was formerly located at the corner of Kandahar Street before relocating to its current premise. Sabar Menanti II, its sister outlet, is located at Jalan Pisang. Sabah Menanti translates to mean “wait patiently”, and is indeed aptly named, as business during lunch is brisk. Simply decorated with wooden tables and chairs, the restaurant sports outdoor seats, which seem to be popular with the lunch crowd, as well as air-conditioned seats on the second floor of the shophouse.
The Food
Stepping into the restaurant is an eye opener and is bound to leave you drooling especially if you are patiently (or impatiently) queuing for your turn. Just behind a glass counter is a dazzling array of more than 50 varieties of dishes to pick from. Nasi Padang is a dish where customers literally customize what they want to eat. A set meal of steamed rice, one main dish and two side dishes is priced at $4. Customers usually pick more from the array and have it “packet” or “eat in”. As Mr. Ahmad Tarmizi puts it, Nasi Padang is “fast, fast food”. Customers pick and choose from the varieties on display and the food is served hence. While the gravies are heated, the dishes are often served at room temperature.For a taste of the famous Nasi Padang Sabar Menanti is renowned for, Mr. Ahmad Tarmizi recommends the “essentials” to bring out the taste and flavour. Rendang, or meat cooked in a thick coconut milk, is the cuisine’s most famous accompaniment. The rendang at Sabar Menanti comes in beef and mutton varieties, the latter to cater to Singaporeans’ palate and is cooked with fresh coconut milk. Tastewise, the beef is indeed moist and succulent, spicy but not hot enough to leave a burning sensation down your throat. For a taste of tangy beef, go for the popular dendeng belado (fried beef splattered with red chilies), which goes well with the array.

Another must try item is the ikan bakar (charcoal grilled fish) which is usually sold out by lunch time. A house special, the fish is marinated and basted with a special sauce till it permeates into the flesh. ‘Succulent’ and ‘fresh’ are words that come to mind when eating this fish. For an extra “oomph”, add on the sambal belacan or sambal belado .

The Ayam Bakar (grilled chicken) is a treat for chicken lovers. Served with gravy, the chicken is succulent and delicious and goes well with the steamed rice and side dishes. Popular side dishes include pergedel (potato cutlets), which is not oily and simply melts when chewed, and the crunchy kacang – ikan bilis (peanuts and anchovies). Or try sambal goreng, which is a mixture of spiced fermented soybean with beancurd, which while spicy, adds on the texture and flavour of Nasi Padang. If you are someone who likes your rice drizzled with lots of gravy, opt for the opor nangka. The achar (cucumber pickle) and vegetables, thankfully, add a welcome respite to the richness of each mouthful.

The Minangkabau are known for being chili lovers which explains their fiery dishes but wash down all the spiciness with a flute of ice chendol – green bean jelly in coconut milk ($2), a perfect finale to a satisfying meal. Or choose to go with a tall glass of icy lime juice ($1.50), a lethal combination of helping to quench one’s thirst and “washing down” all the spicy curry.

The Service
Helmed by a team of experienced and efficient hands, lunch, which is always a hectic time for Sabar Menanti, goes smoothly. Food will be served to the customer’s table but some customers, mainly regulars, choose to carry their own trays, as they are familiar with restaurants staff.

The SD Food Advisor’s take on Sabar Menanti
As someone who loves food served piping hot, it takes a little getting use to food being served at room temperature. Nonetheless, the quality is not affected, rather enhanced. Nasi Padang as a whole is a dish meant for chili lovers and at Sabar Menanti, the spiciness has been tailored to Singaporean’s palate. For those who need the extra dose of chilies, there are always the additional sambals to go for.

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