The multi-ethnic and multi-cultural composition of Malaysia is certainly translated in its food, which can be described as Chinese- and Indian-inspired, with a Malay twist. Though there are slim pickings for Malaysian restaurants in Edmonton, Tropika has always been one of the long-standing pioneers, serving a mix of Malaysian and Thai cuisine.
Tropika is actually a group chain of restaurants, with a couple of branches both in Edmonton and the Vancouver area. It is, and always has been one of my favourite restaurants since I was a kid. My uncle used to work in the kitchen of the south Edmonton location, so my family always gravitated towards that restaurant even when the west side branch opened a few years back. After countless trips to both, I find that the south location is better in terms of food quality, while the west side location is nicer in terms of decor.
One day after my Saturday shift, my family and I found ourselves at the west location since it was relatively close by for me. The restaurant is located on Stony Plain Rd (which is always plagued by construction (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━┻) in a shopping complex anchored by London Drugs and Safeway.
The restaurant space at Tropika West is pretty large, with several dining areas separated at different levels and heights. It makes it ideal for hosting large gatherings if you wish to reserve a separate space from the rest of the restaurant.
Like any restaurant that I frequent regularly, I always order the same things, more or less. What can I tell you, I'm a creature of habit.
A definite order is their roti canai, or malay bread ($4.50). Though Tropika was dethroned by Island Cafe & Bistro in the roti department (click here for my review), their version is still well done. Exhibiting a crispy exterior and a decent chew, the only difference I found is that the roti at Tropika tends to be a little more stiff, thus requiring a little more time soaking up the curry sauce that it comes with.
Tropika is also famous for their satays ($2.30 per skewer, requires a minimum of 6 sticks to order.) The 6-stick requirement is never a problem though, as you'll find yourself fighting over them and ordering more throughout the night. Go on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday at their west-end location and they're half off!
There's a choice of chicken, beef, or lamb (in any combination that you'd like). If memory serves me right, they used to have a pork option but they stopped offering it a while ago. My family tends to only order the chicken and lamb satays since the beef (based on past experiences) is typically dry and chewy. The satays usually have a nice char from the grill, giving a smoky bite which complements the curry flavour in the chicken and the slight gaminess of the lamb. The chicken is typically the juiciest meat cut, but the lamb is sufficiently tender when it's prepared right.
The satay also come with a bowl or plate of peanut sauce, which is sweet and chunky, with pieces of pineapple and cucumber on the side.
Even though I'm a creature of habit, I'm also open to trying new things. I convinced my mom that we needed to order the daun pisang ikan pedas ($19.50) which is described on the menu as a whole imported Pomfret fish in sambal sauce and coconut juice, flame broiled after being wrapped in banana leaves. What we received was a flaky white fish that had been coated in flour and deep fried, and then topped with a mixture of what appeared to be dried shrimp and sambal sauce. I thought the dish was okay. It had a nice flavour, but it was quite greasy with the centre of the fish (understandably) becoming quite soggy under the weight of the topping. I prefer ordering their daun pisang rendang fish, so lesson learned for next time!
Another staple order for my family is the mee goreng ($14.00). Tropika's version is yellow noodles tossed with bean sprouts, beef, shrimp, tofu, cucumber, and tomato. Shreds of lettuce and slices of hard boiled egg are plated to garnish. Even though mee goreng is traditionally spicy at mamak stalls, the noodles at Tropika are slightly on the sweeter side. I'm not sure how else to describe it, but I don't call this my favourite noodle dish for nothing!
A great dessert to share (though I'd order one just for myself!) is the goreng piseng ($8.00), which is fried bananas served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. Deep fried bananas are a blessing to this world. The bananas are warm and soft, contrasting with both its crunchy batter and the cold ice cream. Save room for this if you can! Then again, there's always room for dessert...
Honourable mentions off the menu -- stir-fried radish cake, gado gado salad, nasi goreng, and sambal bunchies. Always a good experience at Tropika, but I'd probably stick to their southside location for a better meal.