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Spice Cafe- Malay Wok resurrected (sorta) in Calgary

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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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  1. I used to work in Vintage (as of two months ago) and I have to say, the malay food served at the Secret Cafe (its still called this) was decent, but nothing i would really write home about. Its really really pared down, to just a few Malay items curry soups, and the rest is regular soups/sandwiches that are...(sorry, awful...the chicken noudle soup tastes like dish water). The owner is in there alot. The old restaurant reviews are certainly still up too! My only complaint is the broth was a bit too thick for my liking, and they could be more generous with the cilantro. However, very flavourful and I would suggest it as a place for lunch for anyone who works in the area who feels up for a bit of spice. Its small inside, and mostly eveyrone is ordering tuna sandwiches..and its decorated in a Parisien theme, which must be from the previous establishment.
    They do however make a great breakfast special egg sandwich that was my saviour when i was hungover! :-)
    PS - i think he is also selling his curry paste retail?

    1. misscheeks- do try the curry and rice- it's very decent!

      I also noticed most people ordering from the western side.

      Yes, he's been selling his curry paste and soup base for quite a few years now, in fact it's all over North America.

      1. I used to work by the Vintage building and went to Spice Cafe very frequently. I think their food was great there, and their soups and malaysian curries are my favorite. They don't use m.s.g. and i'm always down for good food without all that added m.s.g.

        I don't work by there anymore, but last time i went back, the owners and name changed, and the food is bleh.

        I tried the Spice Cafe beside broken city and the bridal store.It's open business hours only now. It was really nice inside and it was a full house for lunch plus a line-up. They do make the curry Laksa soup there on certain days, but I had their curry chicken because i was soo craving for it and as usual, it was wonderfullll.

        They have a location in Kensington now, which is where i normally go to now. On the corner across the street from the italian resturant. They have the Best bubble tea and their menu is HUGE. The drink itself is good and the tapioca is chewy too. I had a hot honeydew milk tea with pearls (which were still chewy) the other day and i must say, it was soooo yummy and frothy. I had a thai tom yum noodle soup and it was perfect...met my expectations. It was a saturday afternoon and it was busy. Everyone was having a noodle soup or malaysian curry and quite a few were having their hot milk tea drinks.

        I love it there! It's my new favorite place to go now.

        1 Reply
        1. re: trish_wong_wai

          thanks for the update!