Step through the doors of Tropical Paradise Restaurant on Decarie Blvd., on edge on Snowdon, and immediately you know that you’re in a family place with all its inviting warmth and homey charms.
You see, it’s the place that Kazim Ali and his family built into one of Montreal’s most popular spots for Caribbean eats.
“We go the extra mile to make sure that every customer that comes to this establishment has a good meal,” he told the CONTACT. “We take pride in what we do and what we serve because it’s a family business.”
And on any given day you can see them all there: daddy Kazim, mom, Morlyn, daughter Nimah and her brother, Asad.
The only reason Shahid is not at the restaurant is because his job with the bank took him to Toronto where he now lives.
“Working with my family and building this business together is as good as it gets,” says Kazim, “ I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
He and his wife once operated a depanneur on Victoria Avenue in Cote des Neiges, back in the 1980s, but gave it up to raise the kids. But as the children grew older, they decided to venture back into business, and the restaurant was the natural choice for a family that “just loves to cook.”
The way Morlyn puts it, Kazim, true to his Trinidadian roots, had a habit of cooking and inviting what seemed to be their entire neighborhood over and people raved in his many culinary delights.
So why not turn that passion into a business. In fact, much of her early life in her native Guyana was spent around family-owned businesses, so this is a natural progression for her.
It’s been 15 years since they opened Tropical Paradise, at that time Nimah says she was in high school and couldn’t wait to get to the restaurant to lend a hand to her parents.
Today, she is all grown up with a degree in Human Relations from Concordia University and a little family of her own, but she still is thrilled to be working side-by-side with her parents.
“I find it very satisfying to be able to help my parents build the family business,” she says. “It can also be very rewarding in many other ways.”
At the restaurant, a decade and half later, the family is still trying to figure out who is the boss. (Kazim will be quick to say that he knows who is not the boss because he is always “being bossed around.”)
There is, however, a division of labor that keeps the place running smoothly: Kazim is still the cook and head chef; Morlyn and Nimah, dish and serve the food and Asad works the counter, does the deliveries and picks up supplies.
Nimah says although the family works well together, it’s not always a bed of roses because family politics can seep into the day-to-day operation and “you might not be able to take as much time off as you’d like” but feels lucky and privileged to have this opportunity.
Morlyn says the business has been growing steadily over the years and now offers the family a comfortable living, but it still demands a lot of hard work and a lot of involvement by each and every one of them.
“Sometimes each of us put in as much as 90 hours a week.”
But what they offer to Montrealers is a culinary journey that reaches deep into the heart of Caribbean cooking. On the menu you’ll find all the staples, such as the different types of rotis and a wide variety of jerk, stew and curry platters all complemented by side dishes that include alloo pies, doubles, fried bake and a combination of wraps. The tropical drinks that come with the meals make it a true experience of paradise.
Also, look in the showcase for a variety of island sweet treats, including an occasional slab of black cake.
Tropical Paradise sits about 20 customers inside and during the summer there’s a small terrace outside.
For Kazim, the restaurant extends beyond his family. He sees it as a continuation of their involvement in our community.
“We’ve always been part of this community. The kids grew up and attended schools in the area, first Coronation Elementary, Shadd Academy and then Wagar High, so this is where their friends are and for the most part, where home is,” he says. “So it’s a privilege for us to have a place where we can serve our community, a place where people can come, relax and enjoy a nice roti.”
Tropical Paradise Caribbean Restaurant [est. 1999], 5208 Decarie Boulevard, Montreal,  481-2614.