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Orchid 7 - [A Rather Sordid Story, With New OA Input], Washington, DC (restaurant)

Pages: 1 7 replies

Name:Orchid 7
Street:1055 Thomas Jefferson St., N.W.

this restaurant was opened in 1977 - which seems late into the "tiki devolution" period - ? it would be interesting to know how long it operated (at least until 1979 according to the Washington Star). this restaurant does not appear to have any marked mugs, menus or matchbooks extant. the evidence of its existence comes from several sources, so far: online discussions of area businesses, the WaPo archives, a mention in the Washington Star (a defunct local newspaper) and an article in Jet magazine (!). In 1985, TC member Sabina visited Oceanic Arts and saw evidence of

First, we were shown the most AMAZING huge panels that once adorned a place we had never heard of in DC in Georgetown- "Orchid 7". The panels were a series depicting a poetic mythic story, carved in wood. (No I don't have any further details, but their files and photos are a treasure trove!) Unfortunately, not only are the whereabouts of the panels unknown, but any history of Orchid 7 has also escaped our research before this revelation!



Anyone have memories of the Pagoda 7 / Golden Carriage Chinese Restaurant? They had a pretty nice interior with a Polynesian design. The same owners had a liquor store in the mall next to the restaurant. I'm not sure why it closed because they had a brisk business (the liquor store, not the restaurant). A sister restaurant to the Iverson Mall location was called Orchid 7 and was in Georgetown.

[ Edited by: Johnny Dollar 2011-02-20 18:20 ]

[ Edited by: johnny dollar 2011-02-22 11:16 ]

act i

the first installment. this place has not been documented excepting a mention by Sabina in 2005 after a visit to Oceanic Arts - http://www.tikicentral.com/viewtopic.php?topic=14770&forum=17&vpost=172399

so mix up a mai tai, read, and enjoy... until things get FONKY

The Polynesian Pattern
By William Rice
The Washington Post Jul 31, 1977;

What does it take to open a Polynesian restaurant these days? Courage and money! At least that's what one deduces after talking with Gregory Tu, who opened the ambitious Orchid 7 Georgetown this past week.

It took over a year of planning and more than $600,000 to design, decorate and staff the new, 200-seat restaurant located in the Foundry Building on Thomas Jefferson Street. "To do Polynesian decor right costs more, not less, than to decorate a conventional restaurant," Tu said. "Bamboo and rattan are difficult to work with, so the contractor had to hire an expert from Trinidad. We have hand-painted tapa cloth from four different island areas. Even the molding is hand-carved special wood."

Could it have been done for less? "It never even came to my mind to try to do this on the cheap," replied Tu with some astonishment.

He is a veteran restaurant man who helped open the Washington Trader Vic's in 1961 and stayed on to manage it for a decade before going his own way five years ago. A lunch during the final hectic days before opening found him making telephone calls to a printer to make final wording changes in the menu and worrying about "over-engineered banquettes" that were uncomfortable to sit on.

"They came out too far and were hard on the back," he said, "so we've moved the seat portion out two inches and up 3/4-inch to balance it out." To complete a recipe for a large headache, add to that an outsized carpet, tiles that were in Indianapolis instead of Washington, chairs that were still at sea on the voyage from Taiwan, a stove that had the gas jets on the wrong side - a minor problem, except it would totally distort the pattern waiters were meant to follow in picking up food from the cooks - and a myriad of details.

"Our only goal now is to get open on time," Tu said. (About 1,000 invitations had been sent out for a pre-opening party. It was held, on schedule, Tuesday evening.) "You can only decide approximately when you will open. Summer isn't supposed to be a good time. We had hoped for spring, but there were delays to overcome. You can't afford to wait for a proper time. When it's ready you have to start generating income."

In the restaurant business of today, you have to generate a lot of income. Tu estimated it will take a gross of $1,250,000 or more for Orchid 7 to be profitable. "Today it is not that difficult," he said, sipping on the iced tea that is at hand whenever he takes time to sit down. "Easily two dozen restaurants in Washington do it."

Orchid 7 will be open seven days a week and has a long-term lease with parking rights below the building and in a lot across the street, considered a major factor in congested Georgetown. Tu hopes to attract Kennedy Center patrons with a special post-theater menu featuring light fare and plans to grab a share of the increasing luncheon business in the area by offering selections guaranteed to be served in 14 or 29 minutes. As an aid to either cautions or eager drinkers, he is listing the spirits content ("S.C.") of the elaborate drinks the bartenders concoct.

Comparisons with Trader Vic's, still doing a lively business at the Capital Hilton, are inevitable. Several of Tu's key associates trained in the organization, and James Chen, executive chef of the local Trader Vic's until recently, has taken the same position with Orchid 7.

Tu, who is an outspoken admirer of Vic Bergeron, the man who built the Trader Vic's chain, granted that he has utilized much of what he learned in the organization. "We are smaller, though," he said, "so we can react more immediately to the tastes of our customers. We can do some dishes they can't. I think our style is more relaxed." He paused and smiled. "And our prices are lower."

"Also," he said, "I think we have transferred the Polynesian image from the food to the decor. Some of our food is from the islands, but the menu is a cross-section from Asian or European origin depending on its appeal."

The new Orchid 7 is the third local restaurant venture for Tu and his associates. The collaboration began in the mid 1960s when a group of Trader Vic staff members formed a savings club and pooled weekly donations to buy stocks. They "made some money" and when, through departures or marriages, their number dwindled to six they invested in a restaurant, the Pagoda 7, and one of their band, John Dea, became the manager.

"That was something," Tu recalled. "It was 1969 and I spent 2 1/2 days decorating the place myself. It had been Italian and we were two months without a wok to cook in."

Tu himself continued at Trader Vic's. A native of China, he had come to the United States in 1950 and took a degree in geology at the University of Southern California. After an unsuccessful and financially draining search for uranium, he went to work at the Los Angeles Trader Vic's when it opened in 1953. "I was a bus boy for 11 days and a waiter for 27 days," he said with pride. "I just worked my way up and came to Washington when we opened here."

Motivated by the "ambition to have something of my own," he departed for Bethesda to open the first Orchid 7 with his associates in 1972 on the site of a failed restaurant called the Orchid Isle on Oak Street off Wisconsin Avenue. The cost, which appears modest in retrospect, was $180,000. The architect was Dirk Kim, a former waiter who had moved to the West Coast. Kim repeated his assignment for the new restaurant.

"For three months business was so inconsistent I would send a waiter out to wave at cars and give him a dime for each party he attracted. No one comes there by accident. But gradually old friends from Trader Vic's, some diplomats and people from Congress came and put us on the map."

From the first there was talk of further expansion. A plan to build in Alexandria fell through, so did negotiations with the Shoreham Hotel. The offer from Inland Steel came in February, 1976, and Tu took the lease with him on a long-anticipated visit to his family in China. "It was a strange feeling, he said, "sitting on a hilltop in China meditating about opening a restaurant in Georgetown."

He did it, he said, because he "missed the action in downtown Washington," because he liked the location and the building itself and because, "as an old geologist, I believe that the place to strike oil is where there is oil and for a restaurant man there is a lot of oil in Georgetown.

"A lot of old friends will come and we will attract a lot of young couples, too. They both work and when they go out they like to be well treated. My idea is that people want dinner to be an event. They want a place to relax in and to enjoy themselves. So we give them lots of service. On this earth everybody is serving somebody and I think taking care of people's needs is what makes a good restaurant."

p.s. from what we can figure from the panel in the photo's background...
(sabina, is that the panel you saw at oceanic arts?) it says:

o tiki breathing in rain,
o tiki blowing like the winds in pain!
o tiki watching
o tiki waiting
in the flowers
so high

[towards the bottom...]

act ii:
some success in the face of TIKI DEVOLUTION:


THE WASHINGTON SCENE: ... The birthday reception of Dr. Charles Clark began at his Crestwood home where 54 guests boarded a double decker bus and journeyed past the White House Kennedy Center, Watergate and Key Bridge to Orchid 7 Restaurant for cocktails and canapes...


The Washington Restaurant: A Socio-Economic Comestion Strategy by Anne Crutcher, The Washington Star, 1979.

"The Chinese-Polynesian mix, well achieved at moderate prices."



on a whim, my curiosity of what happened to the restaurateur who decided to ramp up a polynesian restaurant in georgetown in freakin 1977 led me to do an innocent google search... which led to a washington post archive plus other internet searches...

Murder Trial Without a Body Starts Tomorrow in Montgomery

Article from: The Washington Post
Article date: November 5, 1989
Author: Paul Duggan

On the night of Sept. 7, 1988, sometime after 8 o'clock, the telephone rang in the suburban home of Gregory Mung-Sen Tu, a failed businessman and former longtime Washington restaurant manager whose whereabouts that evening were of great interest to the Montgomery County police.

Tu, then 58, had become a suspect in the disappearance of 42-year-old Chuan-Yu Lau, also known as Lisa Tu, a woman with whom he had been living in Potomac for almost a decade. Detectives believed Tu had killed her and disposed of her body, which had not been found.

But on that night of Sept. 7, Tu himself was nowhere to be found. Three weeks earlier, on the eve of his scheduled police polygraph test …


Criminal Procedure Exam
(20 minutes)

Former Potomac, Maryland, businessman Gregory Tu, sentenced to life in prison for killing his common-law wife, whose body was never found, applied for a new trial to the state Court of Special Appeals. Tu asked that his first-degree murder conviction be overturned on the grounds that jurors were improperly allowed to consider evidence seized from Tu's hotel room in Las Vegas, where he fled following his wife's disappearance in 1988.

Originally, Tu's attorneys had moved unsuccessfully to prevent the prosecution from introducing at the trial the contested evidence seized on September 12, 1988, from Tu's hotel room. The items of evidence--including Tu's handwritten phone numbers of prostitutes and a laundry receipt with a false name on it--were objected to on the grounds that they were not listed in the search warrant secured by the police prior to the search.

(1) Acting on behalf of the prosecutor summarize any principles or doctrines which would have permitted the police to seize items not specified in the search warrant; (2) would the police have cured any defects in the warrant had they proceeded also with an arrest warrant? (3) Advance the best defense argument against (1) and (2) above.


Missing victims test courts
No-body' murder trials a growing trend in country Cases incredibly difficult'
Howard County
October 01, 2000|By Lisa Goldberg | Lisa Goldberg,SUN STAFF

By the time prosecutor John McCarthy took on Gregory Tu in a Montgomery County courtroom in 1989, investigators had amassed 50 witnesses, theorized a motive for murder and pooled tiny droplets of blood into a quarter-size DNA sample to prove his wife Lisa Tu had met a violent end.

The prosecutors and detectives who worked the Tu case for 14 months pulled together every piece of the murder puzzle except one: There was no trace of Lisa Tu, no body to verify her death, no medical examiner photos to show a jury the gruesome details of a violent attack.

McCarthy won his case anyway.

Not too many years earlier, "most people I spoke to felt there was no way you could get a [murder] conviction without a body," said McCarthy, a Montgomery County deputy state's attorney.


Lisa Lau Tu

Above: Lisa, circa 1988

Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: July 14, 1988 from Potomac, Maryland
Classification: Endangered Missing
Age: 42 years old
Distinguishing Characteristics: Brown hair, brown eyes. Lisa's Chinese name is Chuan-Yu Lau.

Details of Disappearance

Lisa was last seen in Potomac, Maryland on July 14, 1988. She has never been heard from again. Her common-law husband, Gregory Mung-Sen Tu, says he put her on a plane to San Francisco, California at 5:00 p.m. that day. He said she was going to visit a sick friend. She never arrived in that city, however. Authorities discovered that a plane ticket to San Francisco had been purchased in Lisa's name, but other passengers on the plane reported that her seat was empty. The sick friend she was supposedly visiting was in fact in good health and had had not heard from Lisa in months. In addition, although one of Lisa's suitcases and some of her favorite dresses were gone, she left behind other items she normally took with her when she traveled.

Two days after Lisa vanished, Gregory paid for a garbage collector to get rid of a loveseat in their residence. It was in good condition and Lisa often slept on it. It was never found and is believed to have been pulverized at a landfill. When investigators searched the Tu home, they found a meat cleaver, twine and plastic wrap in his Lincoln Town Car. There was blood on the dashboard of the family car, and blood was also found in the basement near where the loveseat had been. The area had been cleaned and most of the blood was not visible, but when investigators sprayed Luminol, a chemical used to detect blood traces, they discovered a significant amount of blood in the basement and a blood trail to the bathroom and up the stairs. DNA testing, which was a new technology at the time, proved the blood was from Lisa.

Lisa and Gregory had been living together for ten years prior to her disappearance and referred to each other as husband and wife, but they were not legally married, and Lisa was also having an illicit relationship with another man. Gregory was a suspect in Lisa's case since shortly after she disappeared. Lisa was financially secure, but Gregory was having financial difficulties and is known to have withdrawn $44,000 from Lisa's son's college fund without her permission five days before she vanished. Gregory put the money in his own account. Investigators believe Lisa found out and had an argument with him about it. Although Gregory says he had a good relationship with Lisa at the time of her disappearance, others maintain the couple argued frequently, usually about money, and Lisa was considering kicking him out. The couple's house, which was worth $250,000, was in Lisa's name only at the time of her disappearance. The state of Maryland does not recognize common-law marriages, so if Lisa decided to end her relationship with Gregory, he would have had no rights to her property.

After Lisa's teenage son reported her missing, authorities questioned Gregory and he agreed to take a polygraph test in two days. He left the area without notifying anyone the next day, before he could take the test. He was later traced to Las Vegas, Nevada. In September 1988, Gregory was arrested in Las Vegas and charged with first-degree murder in Lisa's case. He was convicted the following year, but the conviction was overturned. He was retried and convicted of second-degree murder in 1992, six years after Lisa vanished. Prosecutors believe he shot Lisa to death inside their home. Gregory owned a Browning 380 pistol which vanished from the home around the same time Lisa did.

Gregory is still incarcerated. Lisa's remains have never been located.

Investigating Agency
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Montgomery County Police Department



OK... start a failed tiki restaurant when you think it's gonna bring in $1.25 million in profits... have a common law wife and live in potomac... murder her and dispose of her body.

morality tale, anybody???

[ Edited by: Johnny Dollar 2011-02-20 18:17 ]

"Oh Tiki blowing like the winds in pain!"

What a horrid ending of a Tiki career! The only crime story in Tiki that's worse is maybe that of Sante Kimes, wife of Tropics Motel chain owner Ken Kimes.

Bob at Oceanic Arts had this to say:

Aloha Johnny:
We remember the project and doing the front entry doors, 2 restroom doors and I believe it was 7 panels in the entry which were 4'x10'. We supplied this job through an architect and once we supplied the job we never heard from Gregory Tu. We assumed the restaurant was closed but do not know when , nor did we get any of the panels back. Sabina probably saw a few carved plywood panels in our warehouse, but they were not from the Orchid 7. Yes------the tikis and much more were supplied by Oceanic Arts. If we can be of more help just let me know Johnny. Thanks for writing.

i was probably unclear in my original message, probably now that i review it, sabina had seen photos of the panels, not panels themselves. so much for thorough reporting on my part blush


according to WaPo article in 1992, Tu got 30 years, which means (?) he could be free by 2022 - ?

[ Edited by: johnny dollar 2011-02-28 08:44 ]

here is a nice ad and blurb in the 1977 edition of "dossier," a dc publication http://www.scribd.com/doc/78865794/2/PIlIicattOnlleSll-n

the artwork is based off of the Oceanic Arts carved panel.

here is a very weird one from the washington post, september 10, 1972.

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