I was at Tropical Taste yesterday for the traditional Sunday sancocho and came home very enthusiastic about it. This Dominican "soup" is now one of my favorite meals-in-a-single-bowl in the city, along with the chicken ginseng soup at Ssyal, Guerrero-style green pozole, Filipino tripe congee (Goto con tokwa't baboy) at Ruby's. On a previous thread, JeffB had provided the following link to a recipe:
The version I sampled yesterday is the poor man's and not this deluxe, feast-day "siete carnes" version. In my "soup", I found a few chunks of beef (mostly shank, cut as cross-sections) and one piece of chicken neck. Among the tubers recognizable in the bowl were calabaza (squash), yautia blanca, yautia lila (this is the type speckled with pink) and plantains. The starch in these "viveres" (the Dominican word for all these root vegetables in general) add body to the stew without weighing it down with heaviness. It is deeply-savory and satisfying. There are two sizes (corresponding roughly to the two bowl sizes for pho), the larger (which I had) costing $6.50.
While chatting with "Eli" (Elisabeth) the owner, I learned that they are opening a branch this Friday on Ashland! The new location will actually feature a set, printed menu. The current location has generic, popular items (including many Puerto-Rican items, as Jeff pointed out) written on the board above the kitchen. These are your roast chicken, your sandwiches etc. For the daily Dominican specials, one has to peek over the counter at the dishes in the steam table. Usually, they would have Dominican specialties like carne lipiada (their version of ropa vieja), their version of cola de res (oxtail) or mangu. Mangu is described to me as "platano sancochado": plantain sections very simply sauteed/stewed with onion. Eli also said that the kitchen is set up to prepare any special orders for coconut-milk-based dishes (fish in coconut sauce, rice in coconut etc).
I get a kick out of the clientele here. Everyone seemed to talk at the same time and with such high drama. While I was eating my sancocho, this guy (obviously from the colonial/Spanish caste) walked in and ordered a sancocho as well. But he did it with such florid instructions and such over-exaggerated pickiness that it elicited friendly banter and hilarity all around. One of the teenage cooks threw up her hand and rolled her eyes in mock exasperation. Another pouted, glared at him and shook her hips at him flirtatiously all at the same time. The talk seemed doubly outrageous to me because I learned my Spanish in Spain and Mexico and was completely unaccustomed to all those strictly-Dominican words and turns-of-phrases. I had not been entertained with such table-side theatricality in a long time!
Tropical Taste Restaurant
3330 W. North Ave
Mon-Sat 10:30-7:30, Sun 10:30-5:30
Tropical Taste Cafe
1024 N. Ashland (?)
(Opening on May 30)
(Pls reconfirm exact address by calling above number. My scribbling here is a bit mangled)
I also spent a wonderful day at Humboldt Park yesterday and had a chance to check up on the food trucks. For the sake of coherence, I decided to post about them on the old thread from last week and link to it here.