Jungle-luxe Dining in the City
My heart skipped a beat as I drove up the hilly, secluded road in the heart of Ampang. Up past Kelab Darul Ehsan, past the golf course and into the jungle. The idea of having an exotic Indochinese meal in the jungle, right here in the city, took me to new heights of excitement.
We parked and strolled down a candlelit path, the serenity ruined only for a moment by my yelps of shock as a frog leaped out in front of me. Taking a deep breath, we laughed and continued our journey to the main entrance of Tamarind Springs, where we were ushered to the lounge for an aperitif; Tamarind Spring’s signature cocktail, the Tamarind Martini.
This was a special concoction of Vodka, Martini and Tamarind juice shaken over ice and garnished with a juicy, sweet and sour tamarind on a stick. Delicious.
In quiet, hushed tones, the polite staff showed us to our table which was elegant and impeccably set, with soft lighting radiating from the candlelit centerpiece.
The tasteful décor and chirping of crickets from the lush greenery behind me put my mind at ease, and set the mood for the feast to follow. The subtly bustling atmosphere was conducive for intimate conversations or livelier banter, complemented by the traditional Indochinese music in the background.
Our starters were a unique combination of fresh ingredients that came together nicely. We sampled the Laotian Watermelon Salad tossed with Chicken and Prawns. Taking a bite and letting the flavours work their magic in my mouth, I could see why it was the restaurant’s best selling starter.
Cool and fresh, originally a peasant dish, it has evolved from using only the watermelon rind (the crunchy white part) to include the juicy red part of the fruit. The unique flavour of the salad comes from a blend of tamarind and roasted rice powder that lightly coats the ingredients in the salad.
Owner Maple Loo informs me that Executive Chef SomKhuan Wandee hails from a village near the Northern Thailand and Laos border – the E-san Province. Finding inspiration from her grandmother, who once served the King of Siam, she began cultivating skills under the tutelage of her mother. She uses only the most authentic and freshest ingredients, both local and imported, never compromising on quality.
The Vietnamese Pan Fried Salmon Parcels with Asian Pesto was beautifully presented, light and deliciously well textured.
A must try is the Laotian Chicken and Coconut Soup. Similar in taste to the traditional Thai Tom Yam, it was sweeter and more subtle in spice, with tender slices of young coconut that added bite.
Moving on to the mains, I was pleasantly surprised at the Laotian Yellow Chicken Curry with Wild Bananas. You will not believe wild bananas taste like this! Soft, but not mushy, reminiscent of a perfectly cooked potato that gelled together with the rich and creamy Yellow Curry.
The highlight of the meal was the Steamed Snakehead Fish Roll Crisps. This dish requires a lot of preparation. The fish is first skinned and de-boned, chopped and made into paste-like rolls then wrapped with the skin.
They’re first steamed then deep-fried, hence the name. Eaten together with Steamed Fragrant Jasmine Rice and the rich and smooth Vietnamese Duck Egg Omelette, it was a well rounded, scrumptious meal.
We rounded off the meal with a selection of desserts that had an interesting combination of flavours. Try the velvety Pumpkin Pudding Steamed in Banana Leaf, or the rich Chocolate Lemongrass Mousse, or the robust Pan Fried Banana with Grand Marnier served with Ice Cream.
There couldn’t be a more pleasant way to walk off all that wonderful food by taking a stroll around the property, where we discovered the other two restaurants than made this location a 3-in-1 Jungle-luxe dining location. Maple explains to me that it’s a hideaway location within the city which to her and her husband, and to many, is a luxury. The jungle-luxe dining experience became more significant when Il Tempio (Contemporary Italian) and Mandi-Mandi (Fine Thai-Malay) came about 2 years ago. I felt at ease, enjoying the holistic dining experience.
With two more restaurants to try, all in the same place, I now had three reasons to go back. Not that I needed more! The fine Indochinese cuisine at Tamarind Springs was reason enough…
Tune in to the Big Red Food Review with Aly for your chance to win RM100 vouchers to Tamarind Springs, Jln 1 Taman T.A.R, 68000 Ampang, Selangor D.E.
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