My favorite stories combine the familiar with the unexpected, the typical with a bit of mystery, the known with a hint of the unknowable.
I believe a great dining experience is like a great read: it combines the elements of common things with pleasing surprises throughout the experience. A meal at the “The Tropical” is such a dining adventure filled with the consistency of great service and unexpected delights.
This is a peaceful retreat sequestered amidst the bustling retail corridor of Memorial and 49th. And, though it is only a few feet from one of Tulsa’s busiest thoroughfares, the entry garden is more than just a collection of plants. Here, “Renoo” a Thailand Native, harvests fresh herbs and vegetables for the restaurants’ menu. Tomatoes, eggplant, peppers line the courtyard fence and stylishly mingle with Japanese Maples and lilies. This provides a fairy-tale backdrop for the patio and a great place to enjoy a drink before dinner. This scene is a well-scripted example of edible landscaping: a garden that marries beauty and function.
When you go, enjoy the scenery with one of the seasonal Signature Drinks such as Green Dragon, Mai-Tai, June Bug or Ruby Cosmo.
The General Manager, Sisouphanh “Pan” Phommarinh and her staff are quick to offer suggestions from the menu featuring both traditional Thai dishes and new, unexpected ones. The generously sized Tropical Lettuce Wrap is flavored with a house secret that gives it a textural “crunch” and flavor. It’s easy to see why the Chicken Curry Puff is the restaurant’s favorite starter. Curry, savory seasonings and deep-fried pastry stuffed with chicken are now my personal favorite summer appetizer that I’ll carry to backyard BBQs.
A highlight of the menu are the choices offered from the menu section, Flavors of the Grill. Here, four house-made sauces, six toppings and three sides are selections that pair with any of the five fish entrees. On my visit, the Butterfly Rainbow Trout with Triple Tastes Sauce (a sweet, sour and spicy mix) topped with Sweet Pepper Mango paired beautifully with steamed vegetables.
As expected, wok dishes are a staple of The Tropical. Unexpectedly, the choices and flavor pairings are remarkable. Kaprao served with jasmine rice delivers spicy heat, while the Pad Ma-Khuer visually impresses with eggplant, bell peppers and sweet basil. I enjoyed both immensely knowing that the jasmine, eggplant, basil, tomatoes and other flavors were crafted from the restaurant’s garden.
When you go, ask for the Mango Sticky Rice for dessert. The elegant blue coloring is natural, made from butterfly flour and coconut milk. Sprinkles of black sesame seeds make this not-too-sweet dish perfectly complements warm weather patio dining.
Thai Classic Entrees, such as Tropical Pad Thai, can be chosen with chicken, beef, pork or tofu. All the entrees can be substituted with shrimp or salmon. Or choose the seafood medley (shrimp, scallops, calamari and salmon) for that extra-special Tropical touch. The Tropical is owned by the Karnchanakphan family who brought Lanna Thai Restaurant to Tulsa a decade ago. The Tropical’ s focus incorporates more flavors from the sea emboldened by distinctive Thai seasonings.