It’s Sunday night, and the 80-person dining room of Tropika, located on Calgary Trail and 60th Avenue, is practically full. The darkly-lit, maroon space is refreshing in both its ambience and its offering of dishes as distinctive as the Christmas-lights-and-faux-palm-trees decor. Each menu item is a mix of Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian cuisine, which combines the tastes of coconut and lemongrass, pineapple and curry.
The red curry duck encompasses all of these flavours. Barbecued duck floats in a curry filled with slices of pumpkin, soft as boiled potatoes, and globes of lychee fruit. The sweetness of the lychee can be overpowering on its own, but combined with the duck and pumpkin the taste is dulled, giving a floral note to the curry. It’s a dish for more adventurous palates, but every mouthful is its own reward.
The pineapple fried rice should be ordered with every meal. Buttery rice mixed with carrots and ham is served in a hollowed-out pineapple, and its simple taste pairs wonderfully with other dishes. The spicy spinach, sauteed in sun dried shrimp, gives a full taste of seafood, and the daun pisang rendang fish, a filet of sea bass cooked in sambal sauce and curry – that becomes a breaded coating – is expertly spiced.
Considering how far a dollar goes at Tropika, you could easily stretch your stomach on six or seven items – though your wallet will remain intact. Be sure to leave room for a deep-fried banana and ice cream. (6004 104 St., 780-439-6699, tropikagroup.com)