What’s particularly “Miami” about a Chinese restaurant, you might wonder? Ordinarily not much, but over the years this attractively decorated space tucked into the unprepossessing Tropical Park Plaza strip mall west of Coral Gables has become a beloved institution for residents of a region with a dearth of decent Chinese dining. In addition to a tasty regular menu, Tropical happens to serve a wide array of some of the most delicious dim sum this side of Hong Kong, 7 days a week—siu mai, steamed pork buns, leek and scallion dumplings, stuffed bean curd skin, and of course those queasily photogenic chicken feet. Favorites on the menu include the roast duck, sizzling black pepper beef (with green peppers and red onions), pepper-salt tofu squares, and a nice version of Singapore rice noodles; I haven’t yet gotten to the abalone and the jellyfish salad. The space offers a wide view into the kitchen (always comforting, no?) as well as a touch of elegance—one most notably festooned with a bevy of round red paper lanterns—and the crowd and vibe are usually lively without ever getting overwhelming. I’d say this one’s worth the drive even all the way from Miami Beach—and being right off one of the expressways, not even much of a schlep.
- David Paul Appell