Restaurant: Tropika Restaurant – Richmond
Last visited: January 9, 2010
Area: Multiple – Richmond, BC (Aberdeen Mall)
Address: 4151 Hazelbridge Way
Price range: $10-20
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Specializes in Malaysian/Thai fusion cuisine
- Bordering on Chinese, for me it’s Chinese inspired too
- A lot of things taste the same – lots of dried shrimp paste
- Chinese operated, could be even Chinese owned I’m not sure
- Great presentation for drinks
- Great for large parties or groups
- Go when it’s not as busy
- Extensive menu
- 3 locations in Vancouver and lower mainland
- Long line-up and wait for Richmond location
- Spacious, seats plenty
- Attracts Chinese
- Popular for seafood
- Won awards
- Reservations recommended
Recommendation: Roti Canai (but mine wasn’t goo on this occasion), Terung Udang Kering, Sambal Bunchies, K.L. Crab, Tom Yum Kung Soup (not all items are in this review)
Tropika is a small chain restaurant with 3 locations in Vancouver, BC – one being at The Aberdeen mall in Richmond. I decided to go to the Richmond location, and to my surprise it was a full house. It seats plenty and there was a line up and wait list at 6:15pm so I had to wait until 7pm. We were seated at the very back of the restaurant at this random fold out table and chairs that were used just to satisfy the dinner time rush. (I would have rather waited for a proper seat, but I was arriving late for dinner).
Tropika serves Malaysian and Thai cuisine, however I find it more on the Chinese side than authentic Malaysian and Thai fusion. I mean there are some Malaysian and Thai qualities to the food, but it is very Chinese inspired at the same time. I missed the use of fresh basil, limes, lemongrass (Thai) and cinnamon (Malaysian). Maybe it’s because I started this blog that my standards have changed a bit, because I remember liking Tropika more.
Overall the food tasted pretty good, but I just felt like everything started to taste the same – a lot of dried shrimp, some fish sauce, and a lot of oil. I also don’t recommend coming when it’s busy because the quality of food was affected. They do have an extensive (and literally heavy) menu and I only touched upon it. I’ve tried several other things on their menu so what I ordered on this visit isn’t really what I would recommend. I just wanted to try something new. It would require at least 2 more visits for this to be a fair review.
On the table
Roti Canai (Malay Bread) – 2/6 (on this occasion)
- Malaysian bread served with curry sauce. 2 pcs $5.90
- This is a type of grilled flatbread similar to the Indian paratha bread. It’s very buttery, and it’s almost stretchy and chewy.
- It’s one of their most popular appetizers and I think they just made a batch and put them under a heater because mine wasn’t that fresh. It’s wasn’t fluffy, and it was actually quite stale.
- The curry sauce was watered down. It’s definitely not the same curry sauce they serve with their curry dishes. I could tell because I went to another Tropika location (Cambie) right after this dinner and tried their chicken curry.
- The curry sauce they served with the roti was luke warm and the flavour was mainly spicy. As it gets cold, the flavour gets sweeter and not just spicy. It was made with pureed onions, chili powder, fish sauce and some curry paste.
Satay Sticks – 3/6
- Minimum of 6. Your choice of chicken, pork, or beef with peanut sauce $7.20 Each $1.20
- The satay sticks were dinky looking to me. It was dark meat chicken and it was a bit fatty, but at least it was grilled nicely without drying out.
- The peanut sauce was not very creamy, but very chunky. I liked the texture because there were lots of coarsely chopped peanuts. It’s a great sauce in general, but it’s on the sweet side here. It was almost like there was too much honey or Hoisin sauce in it. I think it was more honey. It was a bit oily too. I like the peanut sauce at Paratha Man better.
Stir-fried Radish Cake – 3.5/6
- Stir fried steamed radish cake with shrimp and Chinese sausage $4.25
- It also had minced Chinese mushrooms, water chestnuts, dried shrimps and some Hoisin sauce as the marinade. It was all mixed together and formed into a dome shape and they top it off with 2 shrimps $4.25
- This was recommended by our server; otherwise I would have looked past it.
- It was almost like Malaysian dim sum! It was a cross between pan-fried radish cake and sticky rice you would find at Chinese dim sum.
- It has a very mushy, gummy and almost sticky in texture – but it’s supposed to be. It’s almost like a thick and chewy mashed potato, but it’s not starchy although filling. I like the sweetness of the Chinese mushrooms, creaminess of the radish and refreshing crunch of the water chestnuts (although there wasn’t much of that).
- The sausage and dried shrimp brought salty flavours, jerky-like, and the Hoisin sweetened it all up a bit. There was a slight pickled taste and I don’t know where that was from. Overall the fish was quite interesting and tasty.
- Deep fried gourmet egg topped with Sambal sauce $2.00
- It’s not always deep-fried, but it is here and that’s part of what makes it different and good.
- The egg has a thin deep fried layer that reminds me of dried tofu skins. It wasn’t as crispy as it should be and I think they had premade a bunch.
- Sambal is a chili paste sauce and I don’t even know if this one was homemade. I feel like it was jarred Sambal sauce. It was a spicy, a bit sweet, but they gave us too much oil and too little pasts. The egg is supposed to be stir fried and fully coated with sauce, but because there wasn’t enough sauce it was a bit dry. Usually this dish is a 4/6.
- A Tropika specialty. Rated as one of the best eggplant in the city by some local food critics. Our eggplant dish is stir-fried in Sambal sauce and sun-dried shrimps with a touch of sesame oil to make a refreshingly extraordinary experience. (Description from menu) $11.95
- I have never ordered this before and I was unaware that it had won so many awards. It was really good, but it’s also something that comes up often in Asian cuisines so I don’t feel like it was EXTRA spectacular here. I mean it was delicious, but “best eggplant in the city” is a bold statement.
- It was almost like braised eggplant because it was so juicy and tender and had absorbed so much flavour, like a sponge. It literally melted in your mouth and was almost creamy in texture and stringy.
- The eggplant was spicy, but not too spicy and there was some green onion it is as well. It was sweet, spicy, and salty from the dried shrimps and fish sauce. The dried shrimps have so much flavour and they were almost deep fried because they were a bit crispy. It was so flavourful and well infused in the dish it actually gave it a very nutty taste… especially combined with the sesame oil.
- My only complaint is that it was very oily. I mean really the sauce at the bottom was so oily and my lips were super greasy. It would deter me from ordering it again though. It was really good.
Hainanese Chicken – 1.5/6
- The pure flavour of the chicken is specially enhanced by the components of our chili sauce and Hainanese Chicken flavoured rice (which can be ordered separately) to create exciting flavours. (Description from menu) Half $7.95 Whole $12.95
- So what it actually is is a chicken boiled in a rich chicken bone stock that’s served cold. The oil it releases in the stock is then used to cook the rice that accompanies the dish. The condiments are peanuts, cucumbers, chili sauce and ginger oil.
- This is actually a Chinese dish that originates from Hinan, China but it is often associated with Singaporean or Malaysian cooking.
- First off I’m not a big fan of this dish in general, unless it’s from Admiralty Chicken. This is the best I’ve ever had Hainanese Chicken.
- I don’t think it was made well here. The chicken was moist but not flavourful as it didn’t absorb any of the flavours of the stock. It wasn’t as slippery as it should be too. It’s not spicy, it’s only spicy if you use the chili sauce it comes with.
- The ginger oil wasn’t fresh either and tasted like they used old ginger root to make it. There was no green onion in it either.
- Hainanese Rice: the rice was pretty good. The literal translation is “oil rice” because of the way it’s made. Don’t let that freak you out though, it’s not really oily, although it does use oil. It’s just very rich in flavour. $1.75/bowl
- Coconut Rice: the coconut rice here is good and you can smell the coconut milk more so than actually tasting it. $1.75/bowl