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Aug 2, 2023
Article content Since the first pandemic summer, Montreal chef Jae-Anthony Dougan has intermittently made his modern Caribbean food available in Ottawa. The chef and owner of the Montreal eatery Tropikàl first hit the radar of Ottawa restaurant-goers in the summer of 2020, when his food was served at Tingz at York Street, which had a run of just a few months. Nonetheless determined to expand into Ottawa, Dougan opened his Chef Jae-Anthony Pop Up in the City Centre complex in early 2021. After a few months, that delivery-based project also shut. In the fall of 2021, Dougan partnered with Ottawa’s Crust and Crate restaurants so that for a limited time, that pizza-based chain served such Anthony-branded dishes as jerk chicken pizza, Tropikàl mac ‘n’ cheese, and garlic cheesy bread with pulled oxtail. Advertisement 3 Article content Meanwhile, on Food Network Canada shows and elsewhere, Dougan’s star was rising. He competed on the 2021 season of Top Chef Canada, appeared later on the program Wall of Chefs, and was featured in Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants magazine. I offer this recap because Dougan’s food is back in Ottawa, if not so much the man himself. On June 10, the Ottawa location of Tropikàl opened, on Clarence Street where Raphael Peruvian Cuisine had been before its move this year to Elgin Street, a little more than a block from where Tingz had been. After two dinners at Tropikàl last week, I’m wishing the eatery more staying power than Dougan’s past Ottawa projects had. But I’d also like to see its open kitchen pump out more consistently pleasing food, given that our samples ranged from excellent jerk calamari and fine oxtail mac ‘n’ cheese to rasta pasta with mushy morsels of lobster and truffle fries that were irredeemably soggy. Advertisement 4 Article content The menu here, which duplicates what is available at the Montreal Tropikàl and includes some dishes that were available at Tingz, is large but frequently has a mix-and-match feel. That’s to say that poutine, mac ‘n’ cheese, pasta and tacos are available with a choice of proteins, including jerk chicken, shrimp, goat, oxtail, pork and lobster. Those proteins also star more sizeably in main dishes. We’ve had some strong starters here, and the star among them was a large serving of enviably crisp yet tender fried calamari with a very persuasively seasoned jerk sauce ($24). For smaller appetites, a three-piece serving of ackee and saltfish fritters ($13), which were appealingly fishy and eggy, might be the way to go. Advertisement 5 Article content Ackee and saltfish fritters at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Coconut shrimp ($22) were appealingly plated, and the sauce in which the shrimp was another flavourful win. But the shrimp had been grilled a little too hard, and there were too few of them. Coconut shrimp at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA We treated a plate of three “Caribbean” pork tacos ($19) as starters, and congratulated ourselves after, as the chunks of meat that topped the tortilla were compellingly moist and well-seasoned. A snapper po’ boy sandwich ($25) was another solidly made eat-with-your-hands treat. Griot (pork) tacos at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Snapper po’ boy and fries at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Designated as two-pepper, “bun ya mouth” spicy on the menu, “Rasta” pasta ($32 with lobster) did bring the heat with a sauce that to us smacked of chilis and curry powder, although the menu mentioned roasted red peppers, herbs and spices. While we appreciated the punchy flavour of the rigatoni-based dish, we felt let down and cheated by mushy pieces of lobster. I hope Tropikal’s $60 lobster and shrimp dish, which I didn’t try, has more respect for its seafood. Advertisement 6 Article content Rasta pasta with lobster at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Better was a smallish serving of mac ‘n’ cheese, which we ordered as much to sample Tropikàl’s oxtail. That $24 dish was rich and comforting and the long-braised and deboned beef was satisfying enough to make me think that the restaurant’s $55 oxtail dish for two could be a good pick. Mac and cheese with oxtail at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Curry goat ($28) was another good dish, thanks to lots of mellow-flavoured, tender meat. But the roti flatbread that came with it was more ordinary, and not “buttery” as the menu had promised. Curried goat with roti at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Jerk chicken legs ($28) featured more of that great jerk flavour, but also chicken that was a touch dry in spots. Jerk chicken main course at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA The last few dishes came with a choice of one or more side dishes that could also be ordered separately, including sweet potato purée, truffle fries, Brussel sprouts, plaintain and rice and peas. Of the sides that we tried, we liked most the Brussel sprouts, while rice ‘n’ peas and sweet potato purée were so-so and truffle fries were inexplicably soggy and, to boot, not that tasty. Advertisement 7 Article content Truffle fries at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA The sole dessert, a plate of sweetened and rum-flambéed plantain with vanilla ice cream ($12), underwhelmed, because the plantains didn’t feel “dessert-y” enough and the plate seemed under-garnished. Fried plaintain and ice cream at Tropikal on Clarence Street. Photo by Peter Hum /POSTMEDIA Of almost a dozen cocktails ranging in price from $12 to $18.25, we were pleased by the Moscow mule ($15.25) and rum punch ($15.25), both of which were well-balanced and lucid. The restaurant has a simple and sleek ambience, trimmed back from the decor of Raphael’s Peruvian Cuisine and in line with Clarence Street’s youthful, good-times vibe. Unfashionably early diners that we are, we can only guess that Tropikal would be a spirited late-night haunt. During our two visits, we didn’t see Dougan in the kitchen. That’s not to say that his ongoing presence is vital, or that his Ottawa crew isn’t doing a good job. But there’s room for improvement too, so that every dish lives up to its potential.
Tingz Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Where is Tingz's headquarters?
Tingz's headquarters is located at 406 West Church Avenue, Knoxville.
What is Tingz's latest funding round?
Tingz's latest funding round is Biz Plan Competition.
Who are the investors of Tingz?
Investors of Tingz include TechCrunch50.