It was time for adventure. It was time to call Petals Harris for a review meal.
Neither of us knew anything about Filipino food, but Taste of the Tropics has been on Route 23 at the “O’Grady’s mall” for over a year. It was time to try it out.
“Do you have any signature beverages?” Petals asked when the waitress asked us if we’d like something to drink. The waitress replied that in the Philippines, fresh fruit juices are popular, so the restaurant offers them in addition to the regular sodas.
“Forget soda!” said Petals. “I’ll have the lemon-lime juice.”
I’d only ever read about the soursop, a tropical fruit relative of the pawpaw, so I ordered a glass of its juice.
Both juices ($1.99) were refreshing—the lemon-lime, a standard lemonade with a lime kick and the soursop, a white juice reminiscent of banana and coconut with a sour citrus bottom note.
The menu was extensive with “regular” choices (salmon, wok-prepared stir-fries) and “exotics” such as chicharon-bulaklak (deep fried pork ruffle fat appetizer) and kare-kare (Filipino stew of oxtails, tripe and peanuts with rice). Our waitress was very patient as we mulled over the offerings and decided just how adventurous we were feeling that night.
Finally, for an appetizer, Petals chose the Dumpling Potatoes ($4.95), crispy wrappers over an herb-enhanced mashed potato filling, served with a soy-based dipping sauce.
“Filipino pierogies!” I cried as I tasted one.
I love pierogies and the crisp outer texture on these crunched nicely while the soy dipping sauce added a new flavor dimension to the potato filling I wouldn’t have thought was possible.
My appetizer was the Volcano Imperials ($12.95), two molded cones of crabmeat and baby scallops on top of fried wonton wrappers and decorated with a fiery sauce. They looked just like mini-volcanos and besides the expected seafood flavors, they blazed with spicy fire. We dived for our handkerchiefs, but didn’t stop eating until they were all gone.
For her entrée, Petals chose Chami sa tasa ($9.95), a Filipino comfort food staple of sautéed flour-based wide noodles, beef, mixed vegetables (including onions, green onions, carrots and snow peas) with spiced soy sauce topped with hard-boiled quail eggs. The tiny eggs were gamier than chicken eggs and the yolks were proportionally larger, but they blended well with the mild spicing of the dish. Petals enjoyed her meal, but it was more than she could eat at one sitting, so she had it boxed for home.
I chose the Spicy Lamb Coconut Curry ($14.95), which featured a beautiful lamb shank whose savory meat fell off the bone when I touched it with my fork. A pile of jasmine rice with more of the day’s mixed vegetables finished the plate. Mixed together, the curry was just warm enough to add spice to the rice, but didn’t overwhelm the opulent lamb.
Of course we had to have dessert! Our waitress recited the day’s offerings
which included a mix of “regular” cakes and Filipino specialties. Petals heard “purple yam cake” ($4.99) and had to try it. The cake and its icing were truly bright purple from the sweet potato relative that it’s made from. If you’ve had sweet potato cake, it was similar, but less sweet and with a lighter texture—and did I mention, purple? We could taste why it’s so popular in the Philippines.
I chose the Filipino Ice Cream Sampler ($6.99), a glass dish with a scoop each of the following homemade ice creams: purple yam (that bright purple color again!), mango, avocado and coconut. The waitress said that the purple yam ice cream was her favorite, but I loved the avocado ice cream best which I didn’t expect at all! All of them were creamy, flavorful (although not flavors I’d ever had at Brown’s Cow!) and delicious. It was the perfect ending to a pleasantly foreign meal.
Service was prompt when needed (our water glasses were always filled, which we appreciated, as the meal vacillated between heat and spice and sweet) and very patient with our questions about the cuisine and the time it took us to order. There’s a dance floor and karaoke machine for Saturday night no-cover-charge dance parties.
Filled to the brim with food we’d never had before, Petals and I went back into the Phoenixville night. If you’re looking for new flavors beautifully prepared with excellent service, Taste of the Tropics is your restaurant.
If You Go:
Location: 277 Schuylkill Road, Phoenixville (same shopping center as O’Grady’s Family Restaurant)
Cost: Appetizers: $4.94 to $12.95; Entrées: $9.95 to $21.95; Desserts: $4.99 to $6.99
Hours: Monday: Closed
Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Tuesday through Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:30 am to 10 pm
Payments accepted: Cash, Credit Cards
Parking: Free lot