Restaurants & Bars

Spice Cafe- Malay Wok resurrected (sorta) in Calgary


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Spice Cafe- Malay Wok resurrected (sorta) in Calgary

John Manzo | Aug 14, 2006 09:40 PM

I did a lot of walking around downtown and the beltline this past weekend with the plethora of free and free-ish stuff happening (Taste of Calgary, Korean Fest at Shaw Millennium Park, Fringe Fest, Marda Gras) and on one jaunt came upon Spice Cafe on 11th Ave a few doors east of Heavens Fitness- it's in the same building as artfirm gallery and Bridal Hehilya.

I actually went in to get one of those Seattle's Best frappuccino things (there's not much SBC in Calgary, aside from drip at Mac's, and SBC sells a really good frozen blended drink), and I stepped inside- clean, spacious place, nice sound system... I actually spotted a good espresso setup w/ Espro tamper so I got an espresso instead, and it was very decent (though I'd prefer a local roaster like Big Mountain, but anyhoo). I had a chat with the owner and expressed my intrigue at his menu- typical coffee house panini and such, but also a HUGE, and I mean HUGE, menu of bubble tea (choose tapioca, coconut jelly or grass jelly) and juices, incl avocado... and several malaysian dishes: beef, chicken, and veg curries and sate soups. No laksa and no roti canai but I had to say that I was pleased to see Malaysian on the menu (especially as this is a nice walk from home for me, and is open late Mon-Sat).

SO I was checking out more mellow fringe crowds today and decided to walk over for lunch. Good sized crowd, most tables filled, and I ordered a malaysian chicken curry. Order at counter, food comes within 10 mins, a decent sized bowl ($6) of chicken and potatoes in a sauce that is clearly not Thai or Chinese... it tastes really good, spicy and warming with great depth of flavour, nice bit of peanut, only quarrel is I could have eaten more. Thing is- this tastes familiar, and I see by the counter an ancient (seven years old) review of Malay Wok- the hole in the wall in Chinatown that I discovered after one day in Calgary back in Aug 2000. SAME OWNER. He was the fella I'd spoken to the other day!

The emphasis here is not the malaysian but I will not shy away from ordering it again and again- it's wonderful. Turns out they have three locations (an emergent empire- very interesting, they have put some effort into corporate identity, so fast too): one is where "secret cafe" was by Vintage- this one is strictly "biz hours" for people in those office bldgs, but it might be worth a visit because that one does serve laksa (malaysian curry soup). Other is opening soon on the main level of Five West condos.

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