claudia kwan/for metro vancouver


For two more days, New Westminster’s Tamarind Hill will let you sample dishes like this for just $15.


Tamarind Hill

103-628 6th Ave., New West


Open for lunch and dinner daily

Zest of New West until May 27

Dinner for two, including tax, tip and drinks: $42

**** (out of 5)

The Zest of New West restaurant festival may be a 10th of the size of the Taste of Vancouver celebration, but look carefully and you may still be able to find some great dining experiences this weekend.

It takes a little bit of searching (better signage please!), but it’s worth seeking out Tamarind Hill, where South/Southeast Asian cuisine is being offered up at stupendous value — three courses for $15. You can also order off the regular menu full of intriguing items priced from $3-17.

A small mountain of green papaya mango salad comes first, followed by fluffy roti canai bread perfectly suited to soak up the accompanying chili-spiked sauce that’s perked up with a hint of sour. How can we be almost full only one course in?

We soldier on through impossible to resist tiger prawns stir-fried in a mountain of garlic and curry leaves.

The 20-strong lineup of dinner bargain hungers at the door perks up noticeably as it wafts by, and the sambal green beans and shrimp in chili shrimp paste demands its share of attention too. The beans and the broccoli served on both plates could use just another moment or two of cooking, but it’s almost imperceptible by a palate still wowed by the punch of spices and herbs.

The chef — formerly of the Banana Leaf mini-empire — has trained the kitchen well when it comes to moderation of oil and salt in favour of flavour.

The coconut pandang crepe in coconut milk and pandang cassava root cake are lovely, but there’s simply no room in the belly left, and there’s a lot of hungry people waiting for the table.

It will take a return visit — hopefully when the staff isn’t quite so busy hustling around — to fully appreciate the menu and to admire the intricate woodwork on display in the open rust-coloured room.

Tamarind Hill is exactly the reason why restaurant festivals are held — so that diners can discover true gems.