Tropika, the face of Malaysian food in Vancouver, has opened a new location at Lansdowne Centre. By new, I actually mean old. Tropika notoriously vacated from Aberdeen Centre after failing to be on good terms with said mall. However, with the new year comes new beginnings. My mother (who grew up in Malaysia) and I were excited to test Tropika yet again. Sadly, our hopes fell flat… just a little.
Knowing this place is newly opened, we made reservations. This was useless. The restaurant was packed with families and university students complaining about their $40k per year co-op salary. Sheesh. The restaurant was packed like crazy. We patiently waited 20 minute before getting a table. Upon sitting, we promptly ordered a slew of dishes.
The general opinion on the clams was negative. The sambal seasoning did not seep into the clams which ultimately made it plain. Some clams were rather hard and did not have the usual squishiness to it. We suspected the clams were simply not cooked long enough.
Having been raised in Malaysia, my mom is very critical of satay skewers which is a common snack sold from street vendors. According to her, Tropika satay fails to meet the Malaysian standard. The peanut sauce was also not nutty enough. From an amateur’s perspective, I felt the chicken and lamb skewers were alright. The beef, however, was tough. Tropika is the only place that offers pineapples to go along with the skewers. That’s something I always liked.
The roti canai passed my mom’s test. It was fluffy, soft and not burnt at all. The curry sauce that accompanied it was too salty for me.
The eggplant dish was the dark horse of this race. It was the best dish on the table. In fact, it’s one of Tropika’s specialties. The eggplant, with its natural mushy texture, was cooked just right– not too much oil and not too mushy. It was prepared in a well balanced fashion with the dried shrimp.
With the beef rendang, my mom confidently said “I could do better!”. This beef rendang was bland due to the lack of spice in the curry. It was also too oily.
To redeem itself, Tropika succeeded at making pork rib stew which had a mildly spiced tomato-fish sauce base. The meat just fell off the bone. It was tender to the max. Yum!
One of the daily specials was the Thai Style Ox Tail Pot. There were mixed opinions. I agreed with my dad and brother who proclaimed that the meat was tough as bricks. It was not cooked long enough and would have been better if it was as tender as the pork rib stew. On the flip side, my mom liked to carefully chew the meat to savour the spices.
I vote “no” to the Hainanese chicken. Other than the dull taste, I felt that it came directly from the fridge as it had a cold hard texture. The ginger/spring onion dip that typically follows the chicken was gross. It is prepared with ginger, scallions, soy and other ingredients but all I really tasted was the oil.
The fish was a plate of deep fried goodness– crunchy and full of fishy aroma. The abundance of dried shrimp was plus.
We ordered some very foreign desserts familiar only to my parents. On the left is a warm “bubur cha cha” which is a sweet soup with sweet potato, sago, pandan leaves, yam and coconut milk. To the right is “pulut hitam” which is sweet black sticky rice goop with coconut milk on top. Comparing it to its authentic form, the adults found the desserts slightly watered down. There was not enough coconut milk.
My family, led by the Malaysian taste buds of its matriarch, deemed Tropika as mediocre. This is not surprising. Being a restaurant chain, you can expect some flaws in dishes cooked in large batches. There is a loss of authenticity in taste but Tropika is ok for the average (undemanding) diner. The menu is quite extensive. Specials are advertised inside as well. I would be willing to go back to try some other things.