Safari Grill is the only sit-down restaurant in Short Pants Plaza. Decked out in earth tones, zebra print and Bollywood videos on the flat-screen, it’s a comfortable space for sharing east African and east Indian food. On the night we were there, two boys kept re-enacting their favourite dives from the World Cup while their parents sat and chatted.
For first-timers like us, the servers were really friendly and eager to tell us the house specialties. An easy indicator on the menu are the black boxes that highlight what Safari Grill does best.
A must-order are the beef ribs ($13.99), a plate of thinly sliced, tender beef marinated in a wet rub of spices and quickly grilled. We got them as “medium,” which were nice and smoky with just a hint of spiciness. Next time, we would definitely upgrade to “hot” (but likely not “suicide.”)
We also ordered the pilipili chicken ($22.99) which is dipped in spices that include pili-pili (or peri-peri, or piri-piri) which is the African bird’s-eye chili pepper, and then deep fried.
The chicken was flavourful but not as spicy as I would have expected. Also because it’s fried without any batter, the texture is a bit dry on the outside. Next time, I would try the chicken mishkaki instead, which are tandoori-style skewers.
However, the gigantic pilipili platter took my breath away. It literally was a whole cut-up chicken with a side of corn and masala fries. Now, the masala fries I couldn’t stop gobbling up. They’re thick potato wedges — crispy on outside, soft on inside — dipped in Indian spices with crushed tomatoes.
With so much meat, we did get a veggie dish of okra (bhindi) which comes with rice and roti ($10.99). It arrived in an attractive container kept warm by a tea light underneath. I love Indian-style, stir-fried okra like this because it’s got such simple flavours that come through and it’s never slimy (gross!).
After all that eating, I got a lovely masala chai to sip and digest.
The three dishes were way too much food for two of us, and even then the total bill was just over $50. Packed up to go, the leftovers made more than enough for another full meal.
Safari Grill also offers east Indian standbys like butter chicken and curries but I’d recommend going with their east African specialties for something different.
If you work/live in the area, Safari Grill has lunch specials Tuesday to Friday including combos that average only $8.99.
Safari Grill, 225-28th St. S.E., Unit 100, Calgary, (403) 235-6655. Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday to Thursday 11:30 a.m.-10 p.m., Friday 11:30 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday 1-11 p.m., Sunday 2-10 p.m.