Finally, my first restaurant review for a non-Japanese restaurant!
My dentist’s office is in Marpole, right across the street from a Malaysian cafe called Penang Delight, and it had always intrigued me. I recall smelling wonderful scents from their establishment as I came and went from my dental appointments. Curiosity got the better of me, so my wife and I recently decided to invite her mom and brother for a special early Mother’s Day lunch. My mother-in-law grew up in Brunei and is very familiar with Malaysian cuisine, so this seemed a natural choice for the occasion.
My wife made a reservation for 12 noon, but we arrived about ten minutes early, and the place was still pretty quiet. We were quickly seated in a comfy, wooden booth with nice batik cushions on the benches. The decor was very tasteful and modern, giving a visitor a sense that one had somehow traveled across the Pacific to Malaysia by crossing the restaurant’s threshold. Even the signs inside and outside were in Malay and English, right down to the “No Smoking” sign. The menu options were quite plentiful and appetizing, so it was hard for me to decide on what I wanted to try. I finally settled on the Char Mee Hoon, a fried rice vermicelli dish with prawn, chicken, bean sprouts, and lettuce. My wife ordered the Tofu Goreng, a deep-fried stuffed tofu with bean sprouts, cucumber, and jicama, topped with peanuts and sweet sauce. My mom-in-law picked the Nasi Lemak, coconut rice with boiled egg, peanuts, cucumbers, fried small fish topped with a crispy papdaum-like wafer. The deluxe curry platter was my brother-in-law’s choice. We decided to share each dish, so as to give all of us a chance to sample everything.
Although it seemed to take a while to place our orders, our food arrived very quickly. The first dish to arrive was mine, the Char Mee Hoon. I’d never had it before, but I wanted to try something not too spicy with a good balance of protein and starch with some veggie content. I was very happy with my choice. The combination of flavours and seasonings was extremely pleasing. It reminded me a bit of some of the stir-fry rice vermicelli that my mom often made when I grew up but with very interesting spices that we didn’t have access to on the remote East Coast. My serving came piping hot and was quite satisfying.
The next dish to arrive was the Nasi Lemak. Like the other dishes (except for the curry), I’ve never had this one before, so I really didn’t know what to expect, but it was also very nice. Once more, I was surprised at how I was again brought back to more childhood memories, as the little fried fish and peanuts reminded me of a snack that my mom often made. The crunchy, salty crispiness of the fish combined very well with the peanuts, cucumber, coconut rice, egg, and sauce. I enjoyed it, but not as much as the Char Mee Hoon. My only criticism is that I found the portion rather small for a main course.
Next up, the deluxe curry platter. It featured beef, lamb, and chicken curry. All of the meat was extremely tender and succulent and very well seasoned. The flavour of the curry sauce was absolutely outstanding and not nearly as spicy as I had expected it to be. Of all of the three meats, I would have to say that I enjoyed the chicken the most. In general, I like all three meats, but I found that the chicken was particularly moist and held the curry flavour the best. Being an all-meat dish, the price was double that of the Char Mee Hoon, which was not surprising. As a shared dish, it is definitely worth the extra expense.
Last, but not least, was the Tofu Goreng. My wife remarked how odd it was the that appetizer should be served last. Timing aside, it was a most welcomed dish. My wife is a big fan of agedashi tofu, so she wanted to try something similar. The texture was very light and airy and much crispier than agedashi. The stuffing was a welcome change for me, as I found it more substantial and introduced a more robust taste with the vegetables and sauce. We all enjoyed it, but my wife, by far, loved it the most.
Based on the information on their website, the Marpole location has been open for just over a year (January 2013). Although it is definitely tucked away in an otherwise insignificant corner of town under the Arthur Laing Bridge, I would have to say that this is certainly a hidden gem that needs to be explored further. All of us in my group agreed that we will certainly come back again to try more dishes. Apart from the delay in taking our orders, the servers were very helpful, patient, and courteous.