Good dim sum spots in Miami are like albino alligators. They exist, but if you find one, it’s a rare enough occurrence to justify calling all your friends, taking at least three dozen photos, and making return trips to spot it again. Tropical Chinese has been Miami’s best albino alligator since 1984. This Bird Road restaurant has a huge menu of Chinese classics, but the reason we make sure to come here as often as possible is for the dim sum.
This fantastic buffet on wheels consists of over 50 dishes, so you want to pace yourself. It’s better to have a slightly more leisurely meal here anyway, one where you can try a few more things and really figure out what you like - even though the answer is almost certainly the roast pork buns, which we generally inhale at least three of anytime we come here.
The dim sum plates range from chicken feet to egg custard tarts and all kinds of dumplings and buns that we don’t have the space or patience to name here. But there are a few stand outs, like the plump pork-and-shrimp siu mai. The shrimp rice roll is excellent and slippery and we point and order it every time we see it roll by. And those baked roast pork buns are perfectly round and smooth balls of sweet dough with a center of delicious roast pork. It’s satisfying to look at, touch, and eat - a trifecta not seen since we were six and eating Play-Doh sounded like a wonderful idea.
Dim sum is served Monday through Saturday from 11:30am-3:30pm and Sunday from 10:30am-3:30pm, and you can always expect a full house on the weekends. Tropical Chinese does have a regular dinner menu as well, but planning a trip here outside of dim sum hours is like visiting the zoo on the one day when the albino alligator is inside getting its teeth cleaned.
Chicken feet have a similar mixture of skin and cartilage to what you find on the ends of chicken wings. And if you’re the kind of person who looks forward to that texture, you’ll like these.
We like to start with these dumplings before we move onto some of the meatier ones. Think of it as a dumpling stretch.
These dumplings with no roof are our favorite, and we never let them pass by without grabbing a few off the cart. Shrimp and pork are a fantastic combo, and we love a dumpling that gives us a look inside.
The rice roll is like a long slippery blanket wrapped around the shrimp. It might slip off your chopsticks a few times before you get frustrated and just pick it up with your hands, but it’s so good you won’t mind struggling again and again.
Imagine a delicious sweet dinner roll with a tiny ball of juicy roast pork. That’s basically what these are and we could seriously make an entire meal out of them. They should drop these from blimps at major sporting events.