Friday, June 8, 2012

A taste bud trip to Tamarind Hill

It had been a while since my last dinner meet up with my "Butter FC" teammates, so we made plans to have a Monday night dinner. Then we asked some other friends to join (including an old friend and new teammate). They asked me to pick the place, somewhere they'd never been or never heard of to try something totally new, ideally in North Vancouver. My brain scrolled through North Van dining options and I had a meal flashback......and remembered the gorgeous work lunch I had when filming in North Van one day at Tamarind Hill a few years ago. Any restaurant that creates a drool-worthy meal memory is worth a re-visit and I was confident that my dining posse would love Malaysian eats.

Tamarind Hill has two locations: one in New Westminster and the other on Lonsdale Ave in North Van. The restaurant is cozy (I would guess it seats 25-30) with warm dark colours, rich wood furniture and beautiful beaded lamps, and beaded curtains. It is dimly lit and feels very inviting and warm. 

The menu is quite extensive and most of the girls found it hard to decide because everything sounded so good, and because for the other ladies, this was a brand new type of cuisine. 

To start, we shared the Vegetarian Spring Roll ($6) Marinated vegetable rolls deep fried to golden perfection, served with spicy house sauce. This was pretty standard and a good starter to share. They spicy house dipping sauce was amazing! Tangy, ever-so-slightly sweet with a spicy kick that was subtle and not overwhelming. I could've licked the bowl. 

Bree ordered the Hokkien Mee ($10.25) Stir fried egg noodle, rice vermicelli with black tiger tiger prawns, egg, bean sprouts, chicken and cuttlefish. This former picky eater went for this Malaysian spin on noodle stir- fry. She polished off this plate and said she absolutely loved it- noting that everything was well cooked and the flavours were wonderful. 

Jayme and Gabby decided to split two dishes. The Sirloin Beef with Asparagus ($13.95) Stir fried with ginger, garlic and shallots with a touch of Sambal. This was a good looking plate full of rich and bright colours. They both loved this dish but let me have a bite. The beef was tender, the sauce was rich (and kind of thicker in consistency), but not heavy and extremely aromatic and full of flavour. The fresh asparagus and tomato slices were beautifully blanched so they were cooked but still bright and crunchy. 

They also really enjoyed their shared order of Nasi Goreng ($10.25) Malaysian style fried rice with beef, shrimp, egg, tomato, onion, and green bean. 

I didn't have any struggle on what to order, I knew I had to get me some Laksa. Jess decided to get a bowl of Laksa too. Tamarind Hill offers three different types of Laksa; Malaysian ($9.95 spicy curry broth), Singaporean ($9.95 spicy coconut milk broth) and Assam Seafood ($10.95 spicy tamarind flavour with fresh mussles, clams and cuttlefish.) All three styles include rice vermicelli in a hearty flavoured soup with dried shrimp, tiger prawns, chicken, fresh beans sprouts, egg and fish cakes. 

Our Laksas arrived and our eyes widened at the huge bowls of delicious-ness, smelling and looking fantastic. Jess ordered the Singaporean Laksa, which the server said was the most popular. It was more yellow in colour, creamy, with a rich flavour with a slightly indian curry influence, and bright springs of cilantro. 

I ordered the Malaysian Laksa which was slightly spicier, less creamy, and a bit more earthy tasting. They were both delicious and really filling- this soup is JAM PACKED with tasty fillings.

One complaint! I ordered a club soda and after finishing my first glass, the server asked if I wanted a refill. I did, and she took my glass to fill it. A little bell "ding-ed" in my head, and I asked "are re-fills free?" She said that they were not and I cancelled my re-fill. But I was really not pleased with that move. What if I never asked? I would've easily added another $10 to my bill ($2.50 for a single glass of club soda!) Not cool and frankly, a little shady. But overall, everyone enjoyed their meals and everyone agreed that the prices were reasonable with good portion sizes. 

Tamarind Hill (North Vancouver) on Urbanspoon

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