Thursday, February 14, 2013

Malaysian Thrill at Tamarind Hill

With the tastest Char Keuy Teow!
Born in Singapore and raised in Vancouver, I spent a better part of my childhood enjoying a delicious array of Malaysian food. Singapore and Malaysia were once a united country but remain close neighbours separated by the narrow Straits of Johor, so naturally there would be some Malaysian influences in Singapore's food.
With talented Chef Robert Phua!
To the delight of my taste buds, Tamarind Hill Malaysian Cuisine was highly recommended by my older brother and his good friend - both regulars at the New Westminster's location. With another location in North Vancouver, owner Louis Leung and highly respected head chef Robert Phua (former chef at the Banana Leaf restaurants) are the creators behind Tamarind Hill's authentic Malaysian dishes since its inception six years ago.

As we walked into the restaurant, we're greeted with an elaborate and impressive teak door positioned next to the bar. While glass chandeliers sparkled accents from the Asian decor and handicrafts, creating a warm and inviting family atmosphere to a full restaurant. We had a fairly large group dining for lunch so I knew we'd be in for a delicious feast! We would all have the chance to taste many of Chef Phua's signature dishes because we were dining family-style, where meals are shared communally with everyone at the table.
Roti Canai
We started with a few orders of roti canai, which are specially made-in-house. Just thinking about dipping this light and flaky sweet bread in its mild curry gravy makes my heart sing! 
Soft Shell Crab
The soft shell crab coated in a fluffy tempura batter was packed with meat and its flavours danced in my mouth with delicate sweet notes of Indian black peppercorns and garlic butter sauce. 
Crispy calamari rings dipped in tangy tamarind flavoured "house sauce" crunched their way onto all of our plates and into our bellies with little effort. We finished our round of appetizers with grilled chicken satays on bamboo skewers, topped with a scrumptiously thick peanut sauce. 
With the lunch crew!
Taking a small break to digest our appetizer course, conversations were aplenty and I learned about my brother's friend's apparent affinity to Tamarind Hill. The New West location was where he met then later proposed to his wife! Now with a baby girl in tow, the young family sees the restaurant like a second home and its staff like family. 
Char Kuey Teow
As the main courses arrived, I could hardly contain my excitement to dig into two of my favourite childhood dishes, Char Kuey Teow and Hainanese Chicken Rice. After one bite of Chef Phua's Char Kuey Teow, it can be easily labelled one of his master pieces! A must-order, the Char Kuey Teow is a mouth-watering medley of stir-fried flat rice noodles, glazed in sweet soy sauce, with generous portions of scrambled egg, fish cakes, sprouts, shrimp and cuttlefish. 
Hainanese Chicken with rice & side sauces
The juicy Hainanese chicken is best when dipped with its side sauces, ginger & green onion and homemade sweet chili, then eaten with its jasmine rice cooked that has been cooked in Hainanese chicken broth.
Beef Rendang
Fragrant Coconut Rice
Another must-order dish is the tender Beef Rendang paired with fragrant coconut rice. The richness of the red curry with the melt-in-your-mouth chunks of beef had a complex depth of spicy and sweet flavours that kept me wanting more! 
Coconut & Pandan Crepes
Of course, a large feast is never complete without a sweet ending. If there is one dessert worth ordering, it's the coconut crepes. These little bundles of bright green, aromatic pandan-flavoured crepes are stuffed with toasted shredded coconut and the perfect light treat after our colossal lunch.

Located next to New West's Royal City Shopping Centre, you'll find free parking in the mall and behind the restaurant  However, do make reservations if you plan to dine during weekend evenings to avoid line-ups. The food is fresh and flavourful and the service is fast and friendly. So make the trip to the New West or North Van's location to enjoy the authentic Malaysian thrill of Tamarind Hill.

Candice's Recommendations:
Roti-Canai (2 pcs) $6; Soft Shell Crab $8.95; Calamari $8.95; Satay Skewers (5 pcs) $6; Char Kuey Teow $10.95; Boneless Hainanese Chicken with Hainanese Chicken Rice $13.25; Beef Rendang $13.25; Coconut Crepes (4 pcs) $6.

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