A taste of Tropique

I accepted the invitation to Tropique Café & Restaurant while I had no idea about where Taman Ekoflora is situated until I checked the map.

Facade of Tropique at twilight - after the rain
I don’t read while I drive so I take my time to chart my course in advance, taking note of the landmarks en route, so that I’m confident of a smooth drive.

Johor Baru is developing so rapidly that I cannot keep track of which Taman is located where unless I wish to go there and have to find out where my destination is.

On studying the map, I discover a simpler route – in fact, a more direct one – and on that day, I decide to head out before the roads gets clogged up by after-office traffic.

I turn off the Tebrau Highway into Jalan Kangkar Tebrau and pass through the dense residential areas of Taman Daya and Taman Setia Indah until the landscape changes to wider roads, lesser buildings and more greenery.  

I drive on until I’m at the round-about with the Eco World Gallery in sight and I find Tropique among a cluster of quaint buildings under a sign that reads: Spring Labs.

A series of arch windows on the wall upstairs
Curious about these buildings, I walk along the paved pathways and realise that the buildings are created with refurbished containers occupied by various retailers in an unconventional commercial area.

I read the directional signs and soon discover a common restroom that serves these buildings.

The façade for Tropique is aptly rendered in a deep green colour and in the glow of the setting sun, it looks like a greenhouse (no pun intended!) with sunlight glinting off its floor-to-ceiling glass panels.

I’m early so the staff invite me to make myself comfortable upstairs while they rearrange the furniture downstairs to get the space ready for the evening’s event.

So I step onto the broad metal staircase and try to tread lightly lest I create an awkward din…

Tropique's Edward Ng
I like how a series of arched windows are cut out from two opposite walls and fitted with floor-to-ceiling glass panels to create an illusion of spaciousness and let the insides be lit by natural light.

Two sinks are thoughtfully installed here for diners to conveniently wash their hands (as the nearest sinks at the common washroom, is a short walk away).

A young man, who introduces himself as Edward Ng, welcomes me to Tropique and it then dawns upon me that he’s the man behind established brands like the Faculty of Caffeine, Replacement Lodge & Kitchen and Shakespeare Milkshakes.

As we chat about the garden-themed Tropique and his ideas in bringing something new and refreshing to the dining scene, I can sense his deep sense of commitment and confidence in creating unique experiences that diners may treasure for a long, long time.

My phone signals a message from my friend, Aidah who’s leaving her office to join me here, saying it’s raining cats and dogs in the city and to expect her delay in arrival. (This means other guests may also be delayed.)

A glass or two of bubbly...
It starts to drizzle here and soon turns into a downpour. Edward and I join several guests downstairs for cocktails while the serving staff spoil us with a range of sumptuous snacks.

Maybe it’s the rain or maybe the freshly made snacks just tastes so good… And while I’m enjoying one tasty morsel after another, I’m firmly reminding myself to keep some space for dinner that should follow shortly!

“Look! A rainbow!” someone exclaims and all eyes are looking through the abating rain at the outline of a rainbow arc, painted across the evening sky!

In a few minutes, I see Aidah arriving safely along with several other guests and we are ushered upstairs to be seated for dinner.

Edward explains that several items from the menu will be served for us to taste and as dish after dish is served, I’m glad I saved enough space to thoroughly enjoy every item from appetizer, soup, salad, main courses to desserts in a menu inspired by French cooking and infused by local flavours.

A serving of Deconstructed Shepherd's Pie
My expectations of the food quality are no less than the standards presented at their sister outlets and as each dish arrives at our table, I’m not disappointed.

I like how the hints of sweetness in the house-made Tomato Soup is paired with two slices of cheese toast sandwiches in a contrasting balance of taste.

I notice how we tasted the Brulee-d Egg on the Fried Chicken Caesar Salad rather cautiously as it’s a new experience for us.

Later when another Brulee-d Egg is served as an ingredient in the Cassoulet with Chicken Confit, Aidah reaches for the half egg and confesses that she kind of… acquired a taste for it!

Slow-roasted Beef Marrow served in its own bone
The Deconstructed Shepherd’s Pie served with fillets of Lamb Shank, roasted vegetables and gremolata on a bed of buttery mashed potatoes, has rich lamb jus drizzled over it.

This presentation is certainly elegant and literally takes the “trouble” out of sawing through a chunk of lamb shank. Best of all, it tastes just right.

[I must admit. That sprinkle of fried curry leaves just did it for me!]

When the next dish is presented, we agree that this is a treat and definitely not for the faint-hearted.

A hunk of muesli bread topped with the Beef Marrow
Its slow-roasted Beef Marrow topped with yoghurt sauce and chimichurri sauce, served within a split length of bone.

This is where we use our hands to tear off a hunk of muesli bread (two slices come with this dish), spread a dollop of hummus and top it with a spoonful of beef marrow before we slowly savour it. Mmm…

We come back to earth when the next dish is served: Tortellini.

Edwards tells us that it’s their adaptation of siew loong pau, where their house-made pasta are stuffed with meat and cheese as well as rich chicken broth, not unlike the popular Chinese dim sum!

A platter of house-made Tortellini 
I’m a fan of pasta tossed in Cabonara sauce. But when Duck Confit Cabonara is served topped with slices of duck confit and flavoured with duck jus and sun-dried tomatoes, and garnished with a raw quail’s egg, I privately wish that they served this earlier on…

But I’m glad I still have enough space to taste their two desserts: Crème Brulee Tarts with a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream and Yuzu cream, and Madam Lim’s Brownie with house-made granola, popcorn and a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream.

The question that instantly pops into our minds is, “Who is Madam Lim?”

This is Madam Lim's signature Brownie
The serving staff politely replies, “She’s Edward’s mother.” And goes on to explain that the brownie dessert is so named in her honour as it’s made with her recipe.

With the moist, rich and chocolatey taste of Madam Lim’s Brownie still fresh on my lips, I stagger down the stairs, comfortably full of the exciting taste of Tropique.

Thank you Edward, for letting us share such a memorable and delightful degustation!

Tropique Café & Restaurant is at Lot D, Jalan Ekoflora 1, Taman Ekoflora, 81100 Johor Baru, Johor. [No pork products are used in the kitchen.]

Open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 10pm; Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 10am to 6pm. Closed on Tuesday. Tel: +6012 – 5477886.

For promotions and updates, check out Facebook: @tropique.jb

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