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T

After last week's good experience at the Tonga Room on the Crawl, we returned again last night after attending the Vintage Fashion Expo just up the street. We arrived at 5 when they opened after paying a quick visit to the amazing Cirque bar down the hall in the Fairmount. The Cirque bar is filled with murals of circus scenes that were painted in the 1930s. Not much has changed in the bar since the 30s except that I believe it's only used for private functions (they were getting it ready for such a function last night).

We had our choice of tables in the lounge with no hassle because we arrived right when they opened. I had a Tonga Mai Tai (too much pineapple juice) and a Bora Bora Horror that was served in a tiki mug. I swore off Zombies for a while after the Crawl! The service was friendly and they didn't bother us at all while we wandered throughout the restaurant to check out the decor. The music was mostly good hawaiian music played at low volume as the band doesn't start until 8.

I have still not eaten there because of complaints of bad food at high prices. So I never really got to look at the decor in the restaurant part. There are some massive tikis in the back and many illuminated glass floats that are hidden in the little thatched roof structures on the right side or in outrigger canoes suspened from the ceiling on the left side. Since dinner doesn't start until 6 from 5-6 one can wander around without bothering dining patrons. I decided I want to return for dinner sometime right at 6 and sit on the right side next to the "lagoon" at one of the tables with the thatched roofs. The first rainstorm starts at 6 and there were plenty of empty tables. I always paid previous visits either for happy hour on weekdays or later at night and it was always pretty crowded.

After stopping to see the Eichler developments on Cleary Court in San Francisco we got hungry. I had not been to Scoma's in years so I suggested we go there. It's in the Fisherman's Wharf area but it is not one of those tourist-trap restaurants. Scoma's is still one of the best seafood places in the city. The decor is 1950s dark woods and slightly nautical with plenty of celebrity photos on the walls. Al Scoma was friends with many of the great Italian entertainers, from Louis Prima to Al Martino. The dining room we sat in was original 50s except for the newer lamps supended from the ceiling. The windows all overlook the harbor area. We had Tomales Bay oysters, Dungeness crab cocktail, and the fresh catch of the day - Alaskan Halibut. It was super fresh and cooked to perfection and you get a very large portion. The service is outstanding. If you like dining in the old style try Scoma's some time.

Afterwards we went over to Fisherman's Grotto No. 9, also at Fisherman's Wharf. This place is incredibly preserved! The first floor has a tiny bar and the Venetian Room with striped poles like the gondolas in Venice, red vinyl booths, and backlit etched glass fish murals. Upstairs is one of the best looking bars in the bay area. Intact 1940s-era wood with wavy edges, scalloped edges, and diamond shapes, a built in fish tank, a fireplace, and blue naugahyde seats that are probably the newest things in there (c. 1960s). Unfortunately, there is a large screen TV at one end of the room but we just turned the sound off on it while nobody was looking and faced the other way. I had a scotch and marveled at how perfectly intact the bar and restaurant is. There are 2 dining rooms upstairs, one is next to the bar and has beautiful 1940s wood treatments on the ceiling with recessed lighting that shows off the details and large plate glass windows overlooking the harbor. There is another dining room in back that we didn't look at. I have not tried the food yet.

I didn't have a camera with me so I didn't get any pictures but I can scan some pictures from the souvenier booklet that I picked up there.

M

Argh! I can't believe it! We were this close to going to the Grotto last night. I have been thinking about what you said about their good Ramos' Fizzes. We decided to save money instead and make them at home. We worked with several recipes, but I wasn't happy with any of them. Mastery of this drink continues to elude me, but I have no intention of giving up. We got plenty hammered last night trying. Another swinging social Saturday night for me, yes sir, drunk at home with the wife.

-martin

Ah yes Scoma's, went there for dinner the day after Thanksgiving last year. Exquisite dining experience. Also (not tiki) but Jakarta, near Martin's Foggy Grotto was so good even my springoffs loved it. Can't wait to get to the Tonga Room again. BTW Jab, my wife and I were blown away by you and Robin the night of the Crawl. It looked like you two stepped right thru a time warp.

My boyfriend and I were in San Francisco for this past New Year's and visited the Tonga Room. It was great but we didn't try the food either as we had read terrible reviews of the happy hour buffet. They didn't serve drinks in tiki mugs either, I think we just got mainly hurricane glasses. We tried every tiki drink on the menu that night! Scoma's is also one of my boyfriend's favorite places to eat.

T

On 2003-03-16 15:00, martiki6 wrote:
Argh! I can't believe it! We were this close to going to the Grotto last night. I have been thinking about what you said about their good Ramos' Fizzes. We decided to save money instead and make them at home. We worked with several recipes, but I wasn't happy with any of them. Mastery of this drink continues to elude me, but I have no intention of giving up. We got plenty hammered last night trying. Another swinging social Saturday night for me, yes sir, drunk at home with the wife.

-martin

The entire night was unplanned but made me want to plan some kind of bar crawl in the Fisherman's Wharf area soon.

The last time I had a Ramos Fizz there was in the daytime on the weekend. Didn't order one last Sat. night.

I have this old bar guide of New Orleans drink recipes. I'll post the Ramos Fizz recipe from that book tonight so you can try that one and see how it compares.

T

On 2003-03-16 15:09, jungletrader wrote:
Ah yes Scoma's, went there for dinner the day after Thanksgiving last year. Exquisite dining experience. Also (not tiki) but Jakarta, near Martin's Foggy Grotto was so good even my springoffs loved it. Can't wait to get to the Tonga Room again. BTW Jab, my wife and I were blown away by you and Robin the night of the Crawl. It looked like you two stepped right thru a time warp.

Thanks! We try to keep that look so we can have as much of a time machine experience as possible - that is until I finish building that real time machine in my garage.

jungletrader - we enjoyed dancing with you and your companion at Tonga Room!

T

On 2003-03-17 10:51, waikiki tiki wrote:
My boyfriend and I were in San Francisco for this past New Year's and visited the Tonga Room. It was great but we didn't try the food either as we had read terrible reviews of the happy hour buffet. They didn't serve drinks in tiki mugs either, I think we just got mainly hurricane glasses. We tried every tiki drink on the menu that night! Scoma's is also one of my boyfriend's favorite places to eat.

They still serve drinks in tiki mugs, but not all of them are. I know the Zombie and the Bora Bora Horror are. It was a disappointment to see the menu has been reduced to a single page sheet with no color pictures. I remember the drink menu was much more traditional a couple years ago - like Trader Vic's menu still is.

A

Naomi and I ate dinner at the Tonga Room the night of the crawl (sorry if that was anti-social - we were both hungry and tired from a long day), and I thought it was quite pleasant. Our curry chicken was tasty, with nice soft apple chunks, and I think the whole bill was around $50 with drinks. My food palate isn't very sophisticated and discriminating, so take it for what it's worth - I wouldn't exactly fly into town just for their food, but anyway I thought it was nice. We had one of those tables right on the water, next to the huts with the fish float lights.

Service was good, and we also enjoyed visits from floratina, weirduncle, polypop and martiki!

-Randy

you know, as much as i love the way the tonga room looks, the drinks are kind of crappy and the service is sucky. when me hubs and i went last month, the drinks were reallllly watery and nasty (which is a ripoff, considering the price) and the waiters KEPT OUR CHANGE without asking. now, we always leave good tips. however, we think it quite rude to even be asked if we 'need change,' so you can imagine how irate we were to find that the jackwads had just walked off with our money! that was just classless. the amount he kept was actually less than we would have left him, so we were like, 'oooohhh, bad choice, bud!' every time i go, the experience gets worse.

T

I hate the "need change?" question too! I have been getting that question a lot lately. Recently, a waitress asked me "need change?", I replied "yes", and she still didn't return with my change for 10-15 minutes! I tip very well ($1-$2 per drink, and 20-30% with good service) because I have been a busboy, waiter, and bartender before so I know how hard the job is. But there's no excuse for a waiter's lack of courtesy and ettiquete, just as there is no excuse for a customer's lack of ettiquete.

If I were in your situation I would nicely ask for the change because it's possible the server forgot (though unlikely).

I guess it's hit or miss there. I know they weren't serving any drinks in tiki mugs when we were there since I had several bora bora's. I figured it was because of Happy Hour. I could see all the tiki mugs just sitting behind the bar though. I guess they have changed the drink menu since December cause it was a bi-fold type menu then with a peanut-type tiki on the front (I stole one for myself). The drinks and service were both excellent.

T

On 2003-03-18 11:47, waikiki tiki wrote:
I guess they have changed the drink menu since December cause it was a bi-fold type menu then with a peanut-type tiki on the front (I stole one for myself).

No wonder they have to use a boring list menu now. If everyone stole a menu they are sure to lose a lot of money. Next time please try asking for a souveneir menu, OK? We did that at the Mai Kai and they gave us one. The gods will smile on you and protect you from the wrath of the "closed for remodeling" anti-tiki bar god.

K
Kim posted on Tue, Mar 18, 2003 3:19 PM

The husband and I will be in San Francisco in April, and we will certainly be checking out the Tonga Room and perhaps the Wharf area as well. It's great to know when to go- the husband does photography, and places are much more tolerant of a big guy with a camera when they're not packed to the roof!

M

some restaurants have outdated menus that they will hand out as souvenirs. the Jab is right-please ask.

T

Here's the Ramos Gin Fizz recipe from the book "Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Make Them", by Stanley Clisby Arthur, 1937.

1 tablespoon powdered sugar
3-4 drops orange flower water
juice of 1/2 lime
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 jigger dry gin
white of 1 egg
1 jigger rich milk or cream
1 squirt seltzer water
2 drops vanilla extract (optional)

"Mix in tall barglass in the order given; add crushed ice, not too fine as lumps are needed to whip up the froth of the egg white and cream. Use a long metal shaker and remember this is one drink that needs a long steady shaking. Keep at it until the mixture gets body - "ropy" as some experinced bartenders express it. When thorouhly shaken, strain into a tall thin glass for serving."

Whew! Good luck Martin! Let me know how it came out.

Calm down guys...it's not that big a deal. The waiter didn't care that I took it and the menu is crappy anyway. I only took it for sentimental purposes. I didn't mean to get the menu police after me. I don't think me taking my drink menu home cost them alot. It was only paper, no color or anything. Probably cost them 10 cents or less so whatever.

waikiki

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