Friday, November 21, 2008

Don't Eat It - Tropical Chinese, 7991 SW 40th Street, Miami, FL (305)262-7576

Tropical Chinese. "Best dim sum in Miami". That's what everyone tells me, including food loving friends of mine. (I don't like the term "foodie" for some reason. It annoys me, as many things do. I'm insecure. Comes with the territory.) I wrote that in parentheses so it would sound like I was whispering. I hope that worked.

"In Miami" is a big qualifier. You never see Asians here unless they're dating my roommate. I do love Miss Yip's (but it's kind of expensive) and Sum Yum Gai is actually not bad. It's really a takeout place, though. Dim sum is a whole different animal though. Well, the animals they cook are the same [insert Chinese food cat meat joke here], but, you know, it's an expression.

I had lunch with a friend at Tropical Chinese this week and I was disappointed. The main problem is that I have been blessed with many opportunities to travel and have had dim sum in Hong Kong. It's really good over there. Totally worth the 20 hours you have to spend in a plane to get there. Dim sum is also very good in Boston, where I attended college and spent my early working years. If Tropical Chinese is the best around, then there just isn't good dim sum in Miami. Frowny face.

The shu mai were kind of bland and were not warm. Dim sum is supposed to come out piping hot in those bamboo stackable steamer thingies. Is it "thingeys" or "thingies"? Hmmm, maybe the internet will help. The consensus seems to be "thingies" but "thingys" is a close second. Forget "thingeys" altogether. That was a bad call.

The bao (bbq pork in a puffy bun) were just ok, and those are my favorite and was really looking forward to having some. In general, the food was mostly lukewarm and the meat tasted kind of gross. I couldn't try any of the shrimp dim sum (of which there are many) because of this seafood allergy that I have yet to pin down. Reading reviews from a guy who can't eat seafood is probably kind of strange but hey, as Stevie Wonder says, "you gots to work with what you gots to work with".

The service was solid. I enjoyed the Chinesey atmosphere. One of the reviews on Citysearch mentions "crowded" as a pro. I thought that was awesome. I'm realizing I change tense too often and that my English teachers would be disappointed in me. The waitresses who push the carts around also push the customers around. They are selling dim sum, so they try to get you to buy as much as possible. It's smart.

The prices are fair. At the end of lunch, my buddy and I had to throw in $20 each to cover food and tip. I don't really see a reason to go back, but I'm glad I made it there to see what all the fuss was about. I guess that should be "to see about what was all the fuss". I'm remembering that the waiter marked down when my friend ordered another diet coke. That's a pet peeve of mine. They pay about 10 cents for that glass of soda that they're marking up 2000%. They don't need to charge you twice.

I was curious to see what people had written on Citysearch, since we've all heard such good things from others about this place. Most were extremely positive reviews, but three in a row were negative. The first two hit the nail on the head. The third mentions stuff that doesn't apply to my experience, but mentioned that the tea was good, which I'd forgotten, but it's true. The tea really is good. One commenter accused "Philtherealdealbbq" of being a part owner of the restaurants he recommended. People are stupid sometimes. Often.

um.....Forgetaboutit, Tropical is at the best marginal
2 Star Rating: Below Average

02/23/2008 Posted by Philtherealdealbbq

For those who have experienced Dim Sum in (real) Chinatowns, ae. San Francisco, Vancouver, New York, Boston,and Montreal, your expectations are obviously lowered due to the fact that the number of ethnic Chinese in the area can`t support a thriving Chinese Food District with streets of world class Chinese Restaurants. That said, and after reading the gushing positive reviews on multiple sites, off we were to Tropical. We had no wait to be seated...just lucky I guess cause a few minutes later quite few people que`d up for a brief wait for a table. Immediate push cart service began (a positive Dim Sum feature) and servers continued weaving their way through the restaurant stopping at every table displaying multiple Dim Sum entrees for purchase. I must say, the selection and friendly servers explained what the appetizers consisted of if it was a item you weren`t sure off. The taste of most of the offerings were at least average and a few were excellent. My issue was that over half of the Dim Sum selections were served at room temperature an not warm/hot whatsoever. This being noon time on Sunday, and with (heated) steam push carts, that should not be the case whatsoever. Mid-week or late afternoon, maybe, but not on a Sunday at 12:00 PM. For those of you that are Dim Sum fanatics, I`m sorry but you`ll have to drive 60 miles north up I95 and head for Palm Beach County. There you will find 3 excellent Chinese Restaurant that really do Dim Sum right! I will list them in no particular order as I found all of them on par with similar offering in Chinatown restaurants. China Dumpling 1899 N. Congress Ave Boynton Beach, FL 33426 561-737-2782 Singing Bamboo 2845 N. Military Trl. West Palm Beach, FL 561-686-9100 Grand Lake 7750 Okeechobee Blvd. West Palm Beach, FL 561-681-1388

Pros: Easy parking, great Dim Sum Selections

Cons: Too many items served room temperature or cool that should have been warm/hot!

3 Star Rating: Average

06/07/2007 Posted by chuquilina

Having lived in both sanfrancisco and nyc, I have known what great dim sum taste like. My family and I have eaten at Tropical Chinese many times and the first time we went, we were very impressed with the dim sum-- by far ,the best we have had in miami. Over the years however, the quality of the dim sum has declined and we are hesitant to go back there again.

1 Star Rating: Not Recommended

01/09/2007 Posted by aldoug

i heard a lot about this resturant, i have no idea why people get excited for this chinese food in a parking lot in the middle of no where. i've been in many chinese resturants in my life, the most expensive ones and the cheapest ones. first of all this one is not cheap for the portions they serve, second,the food is not even close to be called chinese. what kind of chinese resturant doesnt serve brown rice or sesame chicken? service was horrible, the waiter was very nasty and thats why he didnt get a tip ( an i usually tip at least 20%), i asked for juice and was charged for a cocktail ( so check your bill) and for some reason chicken with mixed vegetables was more onion than vegetables and chicken. i will for sure, save my chinese craving for my trips to new york.

Pros: jasmine tea

Cons: everything else

Monday, November 17, 2008

Don't Eat It - Tokyo Bowl, 12290 Biscayne Blvd, North Miami, FL 305-892-9400

Uh, if you look this place up online, most of the reviews are positive. I frankly don't understand how that's possible. The place totally sucks.

I had to stop at Costco last week and as I was approaching the intersection of Biscayne and 123rd, I saw Tokyo Bowl for like the 178th time in my life, always wanting to try it out, especially since living in Tokyo for half a year after finishing college. I have been on a kick of doing things about which I have thought "oh, that really interests me; I should really go there/do that". I stopped by Cape Canaveral in September on the way back from Orlando, so even though I didn't see a shuttle launch, I did see the site and the spectacular Cape. I missed Friday's rescheduled launch after planning on seeing it in October. I'm getting way off topic, but remember astronaut ice cream? That's fun.

Upon entering the restaurant, I made a note to self: hostess sitting at table reading newspaper is bad sign. The place was practically empty but it was late in the day to be lunching. It also reminded me of similar places in Tokyo where there is no clientele and you wonder how the place stays in business. It was depressing in a harakiri-inducing way, but at the same time comforting because it transported me back to my fascinating, but sometimes melancholy stay in the Land of the Rising Sun (Japan, silly).

Well, that hostess that had been sitting and reading took my order quickly. I ordered a Coke to drink, some miso soup, a curry rice bowl, and had a question about the gyoza. They were listed in the Noodle Bowl section of the menu. So I asked, "the gyoza come on noodles?". She said "no, appetizer". Well, that makes sense.

The food came quickly. The Coke was huge! The gyoza were soggy and terrible. The worst I have either seen or tasted. I had really been looking forward to those gyoza so that was pretty disappointing.

The miso soup looked kind of gross. Well, it did not surprise and it tasted gross, too! I even felt slightly sick to my stomach after downing the bowl. I was really hungry though, so I was able to wolf it down.

My main course is one of my favorite Japanese staples. Curry rice or "kari raisu" is something you can find all over Japan. They make this delicious thick brown curry with carrots, onions, potatoes and other veggies, served with sticky rice and sometimes crispy pork cutlets. My stomach is growling now just thinking about it. Well, at Tokyo Bowl, they have one with chicken. But it's a bunch of stir fry type pieces with tendons and fat on them over rice with huge chunks of raw onion and alternating hot and cold ingredients. Some of it was just warmed up better than the rest. On top of it, they drizzle about a tablespoon of curry sauce. Wow, that economy sure sucks. Or maybe it's just the restaurant.

I actually felt sorry for the place and its employees, unlike, oh, say, maybe Barton G, a place in which I dearly hope never to set foot for the rest of my life. I really hate Barton G and everything it stands for. If you like it, then you probably thought Twister was a good movie. I'm not saying that you're necessarily a bad person, but you're probably going to spend at the very least some extra time in Purgatory.

At Tokyo Bowl they were nice at least and kept checking on me. I just nodded and said neither something positive nor negative, all the while making little notes on my Blackberry. I even texted my good friend James to tell him I had a good scathing review to write. He wrote that he was concerned that I liked every restaurant at which I ate. He then wrote "LOL OMG : D". He's like a teenage girl with that thing.

Before the bill came, I ran off to the restroom where I found the conditions to be ok, but not welcoming. The soap was in a ketchup bottle. That was kind of sad in a "here comes the Depression" kind of way.

A funny note about Tokyo Bowl is that they play old fashioned music like the owner is stuck in the year he opened the place. Maybe that was around the time they were voted "Best Japanese Restaurant" by City Link in 1998. 1998! Ha ha ha. That's really funny. That was printed on the menus. Again, in a sad way.

Alas, there is a glimmer of hope. The prices are amazing. My huge Coke was $1. The grand total was $11.20 with tax. It still sucks, but at least it's cheap.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Great Word of the Day

Today's word of the day from Webster is something that any food lover should know -

umami \oo-MAH-mee\ noun
: a taste sensation that is meaty or savory and is produced by several amino acids and nucleotides (as glutamate and aspartate)

Example sentence:
"Vegetarian dishes are usually difficult to meld with big red wines unless the dish includes umami, from ingredients such as intensely flavored mushrooms…." (The San Francisco Chronicle, August 22, 2008)

Did you know?
A Japanese scientist was the first to discover the savory taste of the amino acid glutamic acid, which was found to occur in soup stocks made with seaweed. This fifth basic taste -- alongside sweet, sour, salty, and bitter -- was named "umami," meaning "savoriness" in Japanese. Umami can be experienced in foods such as mushrooms, anchovies, and mature cheeses, as well as in foods enhanced with monosodium glutamate, or MSG, a sodium salt derived from glutamic acid.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Eat It - World Resource Cafe, 719 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach, FL 305-535-8987

-Some of the best service I've ever had on South Beach

-Delicious kanikama mango roll (which had a small enough portion of seafood that I could eat it, though I've developed some sort of allergy and avoided the rest of the sushi that everyone else at the table mmm-ed about)

-Best red curry I've ever had

-Excellent, extremely crispy gyoza

-Donut thingy for dessert was like totally awesome

-Weather was perfect of course on Nov. 4th when we celebrated our friend Elle's birthday