Fresh Warm Cornbread and Mango Chutney; Bistec de Palomilla with Rice, Back Beans, and Maduros; Huevos Verdes
Occupation: Motor Clothing Buyer
Favorite Restaurant: Tropix
Reviewed Tropix: Thursday, June 7, 2007
Tropix is a great restaurant getaway for the East Bay. I love going here for a nice Sunday brunch. They always have fresh, flavorful food that explodes in your mouth. Spicy, but not too hot. I love to sit in the patio on sunny days and enjoy either the mango mimosas or sangria with my meal. My husband enjoys their variety of non-alcoholic tropical drinks. The service is always stellar and the atmosphere is colorful. Tropix is very kid-friendly and we always have great conversations with other diners there. My favorite dish is Bistec de Palomilla, but they also have daily specials that catch my eye as well. There are plenty of vegetarian dishes as well to choose from. I love Tropix, because it takes me away to a little oasis in Oakland and I always leave happy and satisfied!
Occupation: Graduate Psychologist
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Millenium
Reviewed Tropix: Sunday, June 3, 2007
Inconspicuously situated in the attractive Piedmont area of Oakland, Tropix Caribbean Restaurant captures a light, fun, Caribbean feel. The interior is coolly decorated in breezy colors with fantastic Caribbean artwork adorning the walls. Outdoors on the patio is where the real party is during Sunday brunch. When the weather is just right, it’s easy to get swept away in sangria and mango mimosas. The owner is warm and gracious, and will proudly tell you all about the origins of the art.
When seated, you’ll be brought out some fresh cornbread to snack on. The jalapeño addition to the cornbread is a fantastic touch, but overall it was far too dry. I grew up on cornbread, and this just crumbled into a thousand little pieces because it was so dry. I had to add butter to the cornbread! One should never have to do that. Before delving into brunch, I sampled the fried plantains with black bean dip. The plantains were fantastic. If you’ve never had them done well they’re a real treat, and Tropix does them very well. For brunch, I had the Huevos Verdes, a mix of hearty black beans, crisp tortilla, a fried egg, and salsa verde. The beans were disappointingly bland. I was having Creole food, and therefore was expecting explosive flavors and searing spice. The egg was cooked well and the salsa verde was rich with cilantro, done just right. Overall, the dish was very good, even though the black beans could have had more punch. The curry tofu scramble was a nice touch for this vegetarian, but all you could really taste on the dish was the yellow curry. It overpowered the flavors of the vegetables. My dining companion had the jerk chicken, which he regretted to say was also quite plain.
I’ll always try the house specialty drink, and when I saw sangria on the menu, I knew I had to try it. Unfortunately, I was fairly disappointed with it. The fruit flavors didn’t come out, and it wound up tasting basically like a glass of chilled red table wine. The mango mimosas, however, are fantastic. The mango isn’t too syrupy, but instead compliments the effervescence of the sparkling wine.
Our entrées did take quite a while to come out, almost 30 minutes, but the biggest disappointment of the meal was when three of our entrées came to the table after that half hour, and the entrée for our fourth guest, a lady no less, didn’t come out for almost 10 minutes after everybody else’s dish. Should we be polite and let our food get cold, or have my poor guest watch in eager anticipation as we eat our brunch?
Piedmont is a great neighborhood, and we had no problem finding parking on a Sunday afternoon, (free at a meter). The atmosphere is fun and the décor is well put together, but the service and quality of food was not up to scratch. Tropix provides a great brunch atmosphere, but their regular menu looks far more inviting. I would have been far more interested in having the Puerto Rican Cabbage Salad, Jerk Tofu, or Stuffed Peppers on the regular dinner menu. Unfortunately, based upon the quality of the brunch menu, I don’t see myself going back during dinner to sample these items, though. It’s such a disappointment because the owner is really charming, and I desperately wanted to love this place.
Occupation: Police Officer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Medjool
Reviewed Tropix: Saturday, June 9, 2007
Okay, another restaurant we had to rush to before the weekend was over (read my review of Millennium). Angela and I really wanted to attend a 40th birthday party for a good friend of ours, but I had committed to doing Check, Please! and I wanted to do it right. So I called our friend and said we would only be able to stay for a little while. They were happy that they were going to see us, but disappointed that we would be leaving early. So then I jumped on the computer to see exactly where Tropix was located. To my pleasant surprise, only about six minutes from the party. I love it when things come together. I called the restaurant to make reservations. The gentleman who answered was very pleasant and happy to take our reservation. Angela had already looked online at the restaurant and had told me it was a Caribbean restaurant. Hmm, the guy I spoke to sounded more like he was from the East Indies not the West Indies. Anyway, we found Tropix without any problems.
When we arrived, we found a brightly painted restaurant with simple decor and some great Salsa playing on the sound system (unfortunately, at some time while we were eating our appetizers, the music stopped). Being the eternal optimist, I had requested to sit outside on the deck, but even with the heaters, it was way too cold to sit outside (you gotta love June weather in the Bay Area). We were quickly reseated inside without any fuss. Reservations probably weren’t necessary, as there were plenty of tables available. Cornbread was immediately brought to the table, which I devoured without ceremony (I had been smelling barbecue for the past two hours at the birthday party, and I was starving). I tend to like my cornbread a little sweeter, but it was darn tasty just the same. We took a look at the menu and the specials, and it didn’t take us long to decide. We decided to split the salmon chowder — the soup of the day — the jerk pork skewers, and the crab cakes to start. Angela chose the Bistec de Palomilla off the regular menu, and I chose the Puerto Rican baked pork off the specials menu.
First off, let me tell you we ordered way too much food. Although our entire meal was about $45.00 per person, you could probably reduce that to $25.00 to $35.00 per person and be very satisfied. The soup came first. Now, I really like salmon, and I love chowders, but I was somewhat concerned about combining the two. One bite and all my worries disappeared. The chowder was creamy without being too heavy, and the salmon really made it interesting. It was a warm and comforting soup, the way chowder should be. The crab cakes and jerk pork arrived soon after. The crab cakes were disappointing. There was too much filler and not enough crab. As a matter fact, they tasted more like fried doughy bread than crab cakes. The jerk pork rocked, though. It was juicy and flavorful with grilled onion and red bell peppers.
Our entrees arrived, and they were huge. No way was I going to be able to finish mine. My pork was succulent, the way Puerto Rican pork should be. It was very fatty, and I overheard another customer complaining about that. What he failed to realize is that, if it ain’t fatty, it ain’t Puerto Rican pork. Whether roasted or baked, the fat is what keeps it moist. You just have to be willing to cut off and navigate around the fat. While I was happy with the pork, I wasn’t happy with the sides. It was served with greens and mashed potatoes. Unfortunately the greens were way too salty, to the point where I couldn’t eat them. The mashed potatoes were good. They had kind of a smoky ham flavor to them, but they didn’t compliment the pork. I would have been happier with rice and black beans as a side. Or maybe as the gentleman who was complaining of the fat had done and had mashed sweet potatoes with it. Angela’s Bistec de Palomilla was excellent. She ordered the meat cooked medium, and it was perfect. The steak was served with a chimichurri sauce that was a little much for her, but I thought it was delicious. (I ended up eating the excess she scraped off). It was accompanied by rice, black beans, and maduros (fried sweet plantains) that were perfect (I should have ordered a plate of those with my pork). Yet again, no room for dessert, but I’m anxious to try the key lime pie or bread pudding.
I think I was told I should go to Tropix for brunch, but because of my work schedule, I was unable to. Looking around the restaurant, I could see that it would be a nice place to have brunch on a sunny weekend. The walls are painted in orange, yellow, and reds, and there are windows in the back to let the sun in. The deck looks like it would be fun on a warm day to just to eat and lounge on. Looking at the brunch menu, I saw several things I would like to try, specifically the Picadillo. With the shops along Piedmont Avenue, one could take a nice stroll to help digest the large portions of food and make an afternoon of it. Tropix definitely deserves another visit in my book.