Here's an interesting thing I don't think about it until I think really hard. There are NO good Thai restaurants in the OC. None whatsoever. Seriously, I was really trying to think hard about them, but just never could come up with one. As in for the suggestion of Thai Nakorn in Stanton? NOooooo.
Seriously, it's not like an oasis as I made out to be, but I did have to a recon in a few surrounding area to see what's really out there in terms of that kind of fare. Due to recommendation from a few friends that insisted one in Tustin would make a great dining area choice, I decided to join in that afternoon for some sit down Thai feast I have been clamoring for south of the 562 border.
Here's another interesting thing. When I arrived to this restaurant with a name of Tropika, it was billed as a Malaysian restaurant. Sure it served some Malaysian dishes, but it's Thai food in the menu that was strongly suggested. We took some of the odd Asian fusion fares and combine it with some normal traditional Thai dishes to see on how it goes.
Looking around the restaurant, the interior of the restaurant reflect a more modern and hip look to it with the wall in the dinning room being slick with dark brown wood finish to it made it feel like you are in a fancy Metropolis than a casual sit down meal. The light was dim down without too much brightness to go after that romantic decor. The table linen and silverware makes it a posh fine dining experience to go with it. Even though it's casual, they took dining room to a more classy approach. With the more classy ambiance, it might not play well with a family affair, but will go well for a business dinner or casual dining.
We started it off with a few appetizer. First came the satay and skewers with sauce and had some Roti Telur, an Indian crispy style bread with onion and egg served with curry (see, it's not all Malaysian or Thai). The starters went over well and got us all settled in before the main courses.
Based off of friend's preferences and favorites, we decided to get the Basil Chicken & The Honey Walnut Shrimp. Two choices that can really put into question on whether or not it's even close to being Thai food. However, it's actually very delicious and was simpily done.
That was one thing I admired about this place was that the food was executed very well and have presented very well on the plate. Most places wouldn't even bother and just slopped it on to the plate. Presentations never really factored in with me, but when it is plated well, it would go unnoticed.
We did ordered a few more Malaysian dishes like Mee Goreng & Rendang Beef. Mee Goreng is a stir fried egg noodle that is popular in Malaysia and Indonesia. Just like it was depicted in the photo I took, they usually would come with tofu and chili. Quite appetizing and delicious if I said so myself.
Another popular dish in Malaysia and Indonesia would be the Rendang Beef. It is slowly cooked in coconut milk and spices until the juices dry up in the beef to retain that spicy taste. It was hot, but not undoable. It's not quite as spicy as I originally thought, but nonetheless worked out very well.
We have also ordered a clay pot Lamb with curry that was quite amazing. The curry sauce wasn't quit milky as I have seen before. It definitely was not cooked in a coconut milk, but straight up in other curry paste. It was nicely stewed and presented in the claypot.
The Basil Beef was thrown in there as a last moment choice. Chicken and beef? What are you going to do about that? You might as well have them both as one can't do without the other.
The dishes were all very well accomplished and was well received by our table as we had a wonderful time dining here. The food was not only devoured, but the sauces on most of the plate was licked off. I only was kidding about the last part, but it can be true.
Not only was the food served here were excellent, but so was the service that day. They pretty much bend over backwards for us as we did occupied a large table for our group. The only thing I ever wondered was if the place ever get busy for lunch as the lunch patrons was very sparse for that afternoon.
I thought because of the many different type of dishes offered in the menu ranging from Malaysian, Thai, Singaporean, to Indian, they would have totally missed being good on one dish by trying to accomplish everything. In restaurant, you have to be good in one thing.
Luckily for Tropika, they kept most of the dish simple and easy to understand instead of being cute with the artsy fusion stuff. It's simple enough where they gotten the dishes out in ample time. If you ever went to cross-gender ethnic restaurants with multiple specialties, you will understand on how long these dishes are needed to be prepare as too many vastly different specialties can delay a meal service. Like I said, they were able to get them out in good time and make it an enjoyable meal.
You definitely don't want that as you can't please'em all. Worse part is that if you messed up one, you would messed it all. It's better to be specialized in one dish than none. I was happy to report that Tropika did managed it very well in all of the dishes we have that afternoon. Not too many places can pull of this feat, but this was one of the very few that is able to get well prepared dishes and able to maintain the fine dining in a restaurant.
That deserves a huge kudos from me for this regards.
17460 E. 17th Street
Tustin, CA 92780