Eat the Strip

Chahaya Malaysia

1690 Montréal Rd, Gloucester, ON K1J 6N5

August 15, 2023 10:57 AM

By: Danielle Jeffery


There is something special about being taken out for dinner when you need a little bit of cheering up. After a long, excruciating day of car hunting last year, this is how we discovered Chahaya Malaysia. While this esteemed establishment has been in Ottawa for many years—starting in the Glebe long ago before moving to Montreal Road—we were only lucky enough to discover it recently. Yet, the clientele has remained loyal and travel the extra mile for the sole Malaysian restaurant in Ottawa.

While browsing the menu, the kind staff bring fresh prawn crackers and a house-made chili sauce, called sambal, that can take many hours to prepare and offers quite a kick to your taste buds, if you enjoy spice.

On this occasion, we each chose an entree that suited our individual cravings. I opted for the fish in coconut sauce, or ikan masak lemak. Ameya wanted to try a Malaysian variety of his favourite protein: lamb curry, or kari daging kambing.

The fish was a pleasantly aromatic curry that provided exactly the mildness I needed after a long weekend at the cottage full of junk food.

Ikan masak lemak translated means fish cooked in fat, harkening to the rich coconut milk used to cook it
Ikan masak lemak translated means fish cooked in fat, harkening to the rich coconut milk used to cook it

As for the lamb curry, almost 48 hours later and we still can’t stop thinking about it. This may have been one of the best curries either of us have ever tasted and we’ve had our fair share of run-ins with curry.

The quantity of meat is worth writing home about, as sometimes you’ll get one with barely and meat on the bone. This was not such a curry. The succulent, boneless chunks of lamb soaked up the fiery sauce perfectly.

The curry itself was mystifying. We were sitting there trying so hard to identify each spice we were tasting, only to come up short. It gave me a deep sense of understanding that while I know a fair bit about food, there is so much more still to learn.

The fiery lamb curry was one of the few dishes on the menu that had three stars to indicate maximum spice
The fiery lamb curry was one of the few dishes on the menu that had three stars to indicate maximum spice

My taste buds were delighted and I left with a heightened desire to keep educating myself about other cuisines, their spice blends and myriad assortment of meats and vegetables used in their recipes. We might be making this a regular meal choice anytime we go.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end; the restaurant may be in its last few months of existence with the owners hoping for a well-deserved retirement after a nearly four-decade run. I tried to convince the owners half in jest, half seriously, to write a cookbook, but I’m not sure they will go for it. Therefore, we highly recommend that anyone who wants to try these glorious dishes do so as soon as possible.

While no deadline has been set in stone, the Abdullahs plan to close Chahaya Malaysia by the end of the year.

In total, our meal for two came to $61.48, including tip. But, for one of the best curries of our lives, it was well worth the cost.