I may have stumbled on the best Beef Rendang in town…
Located in an inconspicuous looking strip mall at the edge of McKnight Blvd/32nd Ave’s industrial area (this place is in a super sketchy area which may be the reason it is only open for lunch; the hours are 10AM-5:30PM and they’re closed Sundays) Tropical Delight Noodle House looks like your typical HK café (i.e.: plastic utensil and condiments on the table and a one page menu) but its dishes are exceptionally delicious. I usually come here for the Wonton Kolo Mee, Laksa and Nasi Lemak—these are flavors from my childhood so I have a specific soft spot for Malaysian cuisine. Tropical Delight Noodle House happens to be one of the few remaining Malaysian restaurants in Calgary so despite their short comings, as long as (most of) the food still tastes the way a hallelujah chorus sounds, I will keep coming back.
There are eleven tables total at Tropical Delight Noodle House (each can seat about four—larger parties will have tables pushed together and metal folding chairs added to the mix). The floors are carpeted (and in dire need of vacuuming) and the washrooms are located right in the middle of the room (just hold it. You don’t need to know what horrors are within). The owners of this establishment are really nice—they are a husband and wife duo that can speak English, Mandarin, Cantonese and Malay (judging by regional accents I’d guess they are from Brunei). On my most recent visit my table ordered the Wonton Kolo Mee, Laksa, Roti Canai and Nasi Lemak with Beef Rendang.
My thoughts on the Wonton Kolo Mee was that it was just a basic wonton soup with the addition of egg noodles and chicken broth on the side. I thought that the pan fried wontons with minced pork filling was tasty, but this was so full of MSG that my tongue felt tingly for the rest of the day. Overall this dish was a pretty standard wonton noodle soup; not overly salty and I appreciated the balanced contrast between the crunchy deep fried wontons with the soft noodles. My table’s order of Chicken Roti Canai (“Canai” in Malay means “to roll out dough;” with this dish you have the option of choosing “Curry Beef” or “Curry Chicken”) came at the same time; we opted to share this knowing that our individual orders were already very carb heavy. I didn’t feel that the Roti Canai here was anything special—while tasty, our dish was very oily; perhaps the excess oil wasn’t cooked out enough when the folded dough was grilled? The sauce that accompanied our flat bread was overly spicy for me (but not for my eating companion; he quite enjoyed the Roti Canai for the heat factor). I did not care for this dish as I felt that the spices and garlic flavours were too heavy handed.
The Laksa rich was a rich coconut curry broth with fish balls, tofu puffs, imitation crab meat, half an egg and steamed lettuce; served with a traditional side of Sambal (Malaysian chili sauce made with fish/shrimp paste). I would describe the coconut soup as being creamy, but not too heavy. I liked how nuanced this dish was; I especially liked the sweet and spicy kick from the oils of the curry paste—which was the most prominent flavour in the soup. When you order the Laksa you have the option for “rice noodles” (thin rice noodles) or “Lai Fun” (thick rice noodles). I opted for Lai Fun; my attempts at scooping and slurping the noodles out of the bowl was messy, to say the least. This dish paired perfectly with the provided Sambal condiment, as it provided an enhanced heat and carried more flavours through the broth.
The Beef Rendang was a well composed dish that allowed the flavors of coconut and galangal (a root that is closely related to ginger, but tastes more like a pepper/has a pine like aroma) to sing. Tropical Delight Noodle House’s Beef Rendang has sharp, punchy flavors that explode on impact with your taste buds. This dish is paired with a hearty serving of coconut rice, which was luscious and rich enough to provide some relief from the heat of the Rendang spices; the addition of the dried anchovies added a necessary crunchy texture and added a nice touch of saltiness. I adored how the beef was perfectly cooked and tender to the touch (the texture of how a well braised brisket should be.) This dish was so wonderful I am already making plans to come again over the weekend for round two! Also, keep in mind that this place is cash or debit only—additionally it can become overcrowded on Friday and Saturday (this restaurant is on the small side), but this can be resolved by opting for takeout instead. Also keep in mind that it is not the most efficiently run restaurant: your food will not come out all at the same time, resulting in many members of the party picking at the unlucky person’s meal that was served first. I guarantee that this will happen even if it isn’t busy and yours is the only table seated—the dishes appear to be cooked to order, no cuts, no buts, no coconuts (this is a lie, there is a lot of coconut involved in the making of the food). Just remember to go with only your friendliest and kind hearted friends on your first time, and there will be no issues here with the odd meal pacing. Most importantly: drive your beater car should you decide to come here. Not only is finding parking difficult (if you go on the weekend) trying to park is fifty shades of WTF. I’ve heard of people having their rims stolen while in the area—while I cannot attest to being rim robbed, I can say that I’ve seen tons of cars being recklessly backed into and have experienced more than my fair share of door dings (you have been warned).