Tropical Thai is as close to an institution as you will find in Sarasota, food- or any other kind of- wise. Twenty years they’ve been open. That speaks to a combination of loyal customers and business skill. Three years ago they moved to the current, smaller location, which might ensure many more years of operation.
Doubt about any restaurant’s longevity is a product of the streaky and fickle Sarasotan customer. From the halcyon days of Season to the awful days of August the average restaurant proprietor sees heaven and hell. Demanding part-timers provide the yearly nut to survive, but the local base which sticks through the summer must be served as well, even if there are only three of them a night. Truly a feast or famine.
However, TT appears to have navigated these man-eating carp-filled waters. Curries, soups, noodles and salads are reliably good to excellent. The pad thai gets some Yelp!ers unglued, so I’ll try that at some future point. But with so much other choice, I plan not to get stuck on the one allegedly weak dish in the lineup.
On the southern side of Hong Kong island is the fishing town of Aberdeen. Here, moored just offshore, you will find the Jumbo Kingdom, an immense agglomeration of floating restaurants, accessed only by boat.
Eating at one of these places is a rite of passage for the new visitor. The restaurants themselves are breathtaking by virtue of their size: table after table on multiple levels. Then there are the menus, almost bafflingly large.
This is how a large population dines out in limited space. Everything is clean and orderly, all the food hot and freshly prepared, and the seafood is eye-opening. If you want to know how a food-obsessed culture really focuses on its victuals, this is a start. These places consist of tables and chairs, big, efficient kitchens, fast waiters and chefs and fresh ingredients. Everything else is secondary. It’s all no-nonsense.
In the best possible way, Yummy House lives in that tradition. All the elements are recognizably related to (at least) Cantonese sensibility. Like the Jumbo Kingdom, the volume is turned slightly towards non-native tourists, meaning that some westernization is evident. But as a dining and eating experience, this is as good a deal as you’ll taste this side of the South China Sea.
Try the sublime braised eggplant and the steamed chinese broccoli.
When the Waikiki-ization of downtown Sarasota is complete and the population consists entirely of high-rise dwelling ghosts, Sift will clean up. You can see it now: residents of those terribly chic penthouses will all sneak downstairs of a morning to ablute their designer dogs and pick up a pastry for themselves. Half now, half for lunch.
That’s good news for Sift. Tucked away like it is, they’ll need a regular clientele in the know. And we less lofty types from humbler abodes will visit and be tempted, happy in the knowledge that the place is ticking along, solvent, keeping rich and proto-rich alike in delicious baked goods.