Despite hearing so much good things about Tamarind Springs from friends and acquaintances, the inclination just wasn't there for me to seek out this destination restaurant. As we hurtle towards Ampang/Ulu Klang on the elevated highway, I really have no idea what to expect. Of course the dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon didn't help alleviate my apprehensions.
It was almost twilight when we located Tamarind Springs. Its wooden gated doorway reminded me of a luxury resort entrance - as we stepped over the threshold, it was as if we had entered into a completely different dimension. Surrounded by lush garden greenery and a descending white pebble walkway set with wooden steps and flanked by twinkling tealights on both sides, it was indeed a sight to behold. Romantic, dramatic and mysterious were what came to mind immediately.
As we made our way to the restaurant proper, we passed a large pond filled with water lilies and a tinkling fountain. Above us the trees are aglow from the cocoon-like lanterns suspended in midair. Staff dressed in traditional Indo-Chinese attire welcomed and ushered us to a semi al fresco verandah, overlooking the verdant jungle nearby.
Tamarind Springs was aptly named after the waterway that winds through the restaurant's property. While its sister outlet Tamarind Hill specialises in Thai cuisine, Tamarind Springs serves modern, refined interpretations of Indo-Chinese cuisine by Executive Chef Somkhuan Wandee. This Chiang Mai native who acquired her culinary skills from her mother, is greatly inspired by her grandmother who once had the honour of serving the King Of Siam.
The Indo-Chinese menu comprises a repertoire of Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian cuisines. Laotian food share many similarities with Thai cuisine for its robustness and liberal use of spices while Cambodian food is influenced by Chinese and Vietnamese cuisines.
As one of the participanting outlets in the Kuala Lumpur International Gourmet Festival that will be held from November 10 to December 8, 2005, Tamarind Springs has planned a special Festival Menu priced at RM280++ for 2 persons. But do check out their a la carte menu too which is just as exotic and exquisite.
The visual and palate-pleasing Tamarind Springs Platter comprising hor d’oeuvres of omelette rolls, meang kam, steamed mussels dressed and tomato stuffed with minced chicken. Each of these appetizers teases the tastebuds with their varied nuances but the miniature meang kam parcels of crushed peanuts, finely diced shallots and ginger, dry-fried coconut, diced fresh lime and dried shrimp wrapped in betel leaves are particularly outstanding.
Another appetiser of Salmon Sashimi and Water Chestnut with a distinctive Laotian house dressing is equally memorable for its concoction of briny fish sauce, fresh lime juice, grated ginger and bird’s eye chillies giving added zing to the succulent raw salmon. Tempered by the gentle sweetness of sliced water chestnuts, this sublime salad is given a refreshing lift with sprigs of fresh mint.
For main course, the Khmer Sea Crabs and Banana Blossom Curry is a rich, creamy and subtly spicy curry mixed with minced crabmeat and chopped banana blossom. This delectable creation came served in two crab shells accompanied by yellow glutinous rice.
The Barbequed Beef Rolls in Sugarcane exemplifies the rusticity of IndoChinese cuisine perfectly. With a sprinkling of cracked pepper and the sugarcane’s inherent sweetness clinging coyly to the grilled thin beef slices, this simple, homely dish tastes utterly divine.
Even the Broccoli and Tofu (beancurd) in Spicy Almond Sauce exudes its unique Indo-Chinese trait with the inimitable fish sauce making its presence felt in the light, spicy sauce which tops this combo of diced beancurd, broccoli florets, fried cashew nuts and shallots.
Saigon Buo Loy or glutinous balls in ginger syrup concludes this menu on a high note.
Tamarind Springs is definitely one destination restaurant that we reckon will be worthy of your time and money. Dinner is definitely more popular due to the outlet’s ethereal and romantic ambience, so prior reservations are advisable.
TAMARIND SPRINGS (pork free)
Menara Indah Clubhouse
No 1 Jalan Kerja Air Lama
68000 Ampang Selangor
Business hours –12 noon to 3 pm for lunch; 6 pm to 10.30 pm for dinner. Closed on Mondays.