3690 Shelbourne St #1
Hours: 11am to 2:30pm, 5pm to 9pm
Phone: (250) 477-2538
DK: We wanted thick toast in a floral tea bar that rides shotgun with a fitness studio. Instead, we got fried milk and Usher & Lil Jon’s “Yeah” soundtracking voyeursque video of a woman doing squats (I was snooping on the table behind us). More on the tea bar in a future mission. For now, we discuss the compromise.
Tropical Island has an air of reliable tameness that seems to make it popular with old people and families. Buffet fare served a la carte is the general vibe.
ES: I don’t recall how long this operation has been around along the Shelbourne Street corridor, but in all my years living in this municipality, have I thought about going? It certainly looks popular, as Don has said, because of the many apartments nearby. The service is nice and friendly. The food is a mix of various Southern Asian influences.
With four dishes between two hungry guys, we are back in business! I feel there is an air of authenticity than another fly by night operation catering to those who crave Chinese. In this case, Thai and Japanese have crept into the mix. Our appetizer, for instance, uses Japanese mayo as the dressing. It made the crispy long shrimp rolls do the jiggle. I was hypnotized and pleased all of the dishes came out in a timely manner.
Be warned though: these prawn rolls are advertised to be made from jumbo tiger prawns. They must’ve gone through the stretcher. Delicious yes, but not quite what I was expecting.
DK: I’ve just spent hours trying to write some poetic shit about how ginger beef is a metaphor for the Canadian soul. I was going to go on and on about how we’re all sweet, mellow cover versions of our more distinctive ancestors. I toyed with exploring the “cover version” theme further by going off on a tangent about 80s CanRock.
I was going to draw parallels between the entertainment industry’s aversion to bands that played original material and ginger beef’s acquiescence to the Western Canadian desire for familiar flavours. It was all going to be a very insightful take on Canadian identity. These thoughts were to effortlessly flow into a statement on how Tropical Island was more authentically Canadian than anything else because its menu mostly lacks originality.
But now I’m tired and would rather watch hockey than try to convince you we are all but sauntering towers of ginger beef. We didn’t even eat ginger beef at Tropical Island. What the fuck was I thinking?
ES: I think they had more of the soul of a traditional Cantonese style sweet and sour pork I’m used to eating, Don.
The other two dishes we had tried to be inspiring. I wanted to ask, “Where’s the beef?” But instead, we had the satay noodle and the sweet and sour sweet fish (white fish filet, and I’d venture to guess it was not halibut), I can’t even make a pun even if I tried. I’m beginning to think we should’ve ordered the pineapple fried rice instead. We weren’t adventurous today since our original plan got sidelined.
DK: Ed is right: the sweet and sour sizzling fish was the best dish we sampled and we should have had a fried rice (I’ve heard it’s done well at Tropical Island). Given the kitchen is in an obvious state of flux (there was a “Help Wanted” sign on the door) it would be fair to go light on them.
It was hard to ignore the generally bland Char Kuey Teow and the “was this microwaved?” crispiness of the Tropical Beef though. I’ll give them points for making their own sambals, but using traditional spices like long pepper, curry leaves and galangal is what would really set this place apart.
ES: Another visit is certainly required to try what we have not ordered this time around. We were a group of two, then four. With more folks, instead of the four-course meal we did, we might have pulled off another plate or two.
Yes, we did have desserts. I simply had the ice cream. The thought of fried condensed milk was an odd one for me. I did sample, but did not find it anything special. The mango-flavoured treat I had was definitely not like Island Farms. I had that once and regretted it. It was too strong.
DK: Tropical Island: you can eat there if you like. The End.
3 Blokes out of 5