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


Anonymous said...

this review is spot on. My first time there I was a dim sum newbie, and as soon as I sat down the waitresses descended like vultures, and all I wanted was for someone to explain to me how dim sum works. After about 20 minutes, finally a manager came and I was able to make an informed purchase - and expected a nice piece of hot fried chinese food, I got exactly what you mentioned - lukewarm, soggy meat.

Not going back.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever tried Kon Chau for dim sum? It's about 10 blocks further west on Bird than Tropical chinese. In a small strip shopping center with Dunkin donuts. About 83 avenue.
I think it's much more 'authentic' and better than Tropical. Never got commercialized the way tropical is.
Hard to understand wait staff though, so if you don't know much about dim sum, you never really know what you might be getting.
On sundays at lunch time the place is full of Chinese.

Arties32 said...

I have eaten there and blogged about it and had time to mull it over. I liked it for one reason- because out of a lot of terrible chinese restaurants, this one sells food that is palatable. It's the best out of a lot of really bad chinese food restaurants. If we live in South Florida how many other choices do we have?