Read the rest of Ton-Ton's Journey: Vancouver 2007.)
As bad as the traffic was getting up to the border, it was a thousand times worse on the BC-99, the main highway connecting Seattle to Vancouver. A head on collision had shut down the highway in both directions as police, paramedics, and a medical evacuation helicopter worked the scene. Our car was less than a quarter mile from the site of the accident when we ground to a halt. The hours passed while we watched the line of cars behind us get longer and longer until, out of desperation, some cars began cutting across the grass median to reach the southbound side and an exit to the trunk road. Others ventured the wrong way up an onramp in an attempt to reach an overpass that would also take them to the trunk road. Large semi trucks, unable to turn around on the narrow highway, were even backing up the onramp. After seeing a car high side itself on the median, I decided to try the other option. Luckily, a line vehicles fleeing the immobilized thoroughfare had formed at this point, so there was little danger of meeting someone trying to get on the highway.
It was a relief when we finally reached the River Rock Casino Resort in Richmond. However, we didn't have much time to explore. Ben and Suanne from Chow Times had been waiting in the lobby for over an hour with their sons, Nanzaro and Arkensen. It took another half hour to straighten things out with the hotel, which had managed to lose our reservations. I appreciate how patient Ben was during the entire affair. In an attempt to make me feel better, he told me, "Sometimes these things happen when you travel."
Once we'd dropped our luggage off in our hotel room, we were finally ready for dinner. To make up for keeping Ben and his family waiting for so long, I offered to treat them to the restaurant of their choice. Ben's pick was Tropika, a "Malaysian & Thai" restaurant in Richmond's Aberdeen Centre.
Tropika was a cozy restaurant with high ceilings and tall glass windows. It looked like it would be fairly bright and airy during the day. At night, the muted lighting and dark tones of the furniture created an intimate environment despite the bustle. Since my experience with Malaysian food was limited, I asked Ben, who is Malaysian-Canadian, to select the dishes for the evening. He did a great job.
The first dish we sampled was a heaping plate of Fried Hokkien Mee, a traditional Chinese noodle dish with egg, pork, shrimp, bean sprouts, and squid. I knew from regular visits to Ben and Suanne's blog that it was a favorite of Nanzaro and Arkensen's. Cat and I enjoyed the texture of the fried egg noodles, lightly coated in a savory sauce. Although Ben had warned her that they were spicy, Cat was found the noodles quite mild.
Next was the Hainanese Chicken, simmered in a rich chicken and pork broth, allowed to cool, then chopped and served with two dipping sauces. What I'd really wanted was Hainan Chicken Rice, which is one of my favorite Malaysian dishes. Cat is also very fond of it. Unfortunately, I hadn't realized that Hainan Chicken Rice at Tropika had to be ordered separately from the Hainanese Chicken and spent the entire meal waiting for chicken rice that never came. My own fault for not reading the menu more carefully. The chicken, however, was moist and succulent. Both the ginger and chili dipping sauces were good accompaniments.
We had to have at least one vegetable or our mothers would have been angry, so Ben ordered the Sambal Kang-Kong. Fresh Chinese water spinach (kong qing cai) was stir-fried in a saliva inducing blend of fiery sambal chilies and pungent shrimp paste. The punchy, slightly fermented flavor tasted truly Malaysian to me. I found it quite invigorating although Cat, who loves having water spinach stir-fried with garlic, was a bit taken aback.
The last dish we tried was the Malay Fish Head Curry Hot Pot. The head of some sort of large white fish had been deep fried, then stewed in a rich yellow curry of coconut mild and spices. The sauce was decent, especially when mixed with some steamed rice. I've a big fan of fish heads, particularly the cheek portions, so I really enjoyed picking this one over.
(A car playing a Sony demo parked in front of the hotel.)
After some pleasant conversation, we decided to call it a night. The boys had school the next day, and Cat and I were both exhausted from our long trip. When we got back to the hotel, we found it in full swing. Sony had just begun a two day dealer show hosted by the River Rock.
We tried to get into the demo, but you needed to be a vendor to qualify and there weren't any more passes available. I settled for taking a picture of Ton-Ton on top of the Sony sign.
The casino was really hopping, but we were too tired to play. Instead, we dragged our exhausted bodies up to our hotel room, collapsed in the bed, and passed out.
(View of the Fraser River from our hotel at night.)
Ben, Suanne, Arkensen, and Nanzaro, thank you for being so patient with us. We're very sorry that we kept you waiting for so long. Dinner was great fun and we hope to eat with you again when we visit Vancouver next year.
Read Ben's review of Tropika, Tropika in Richmond with ChubbyPanda, on Chow Times.
Bill (Currency in Canadian dollars):
Fried Hokkien Mee - $10.95
Hainanese Chicken (1/4) - $7.95
Sambal Kang-Kong - Seasonal
Malay Curry Fish Head Hot Pot - $14.95
Steamed Rice - $1.25/each
Unit 1830, Aberdeen Centre
4151 Hazelbridge Way
Richmond, BC, Canada V6X 4J7
2975 Cambie Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V5Z 2V7
1128 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6E 1B2