The thatched-roof sidewalk dining terrace at the new Luau in Beverly Hills is oh so cool, I'm surprised the paparazzi-trailing crowd isn't ensconced there already, sipping the finest mai tais this side of Polynesia.
Andy Hewitt, owner of Il Sole on the Sunset Strip, has brought the tiki lounge back to the 'hood, inspired by the original 1953 model known as Steve Crane's Luau.
This one is understated and surprisingly chic. A flotilla of goofy blowfish lights sail across the ceiling. Giant Turkish lanterns cast their golden glow onto walls covered in slivers of mirrored glass. The whole effect is dark, romantic and fun.
Along with those mai tais, consulting drinks guru Jeff Berry whips up tiki-esque cocktails such as the Luau coconut, a mix of fresh coconut water and coconut milk, pineapple and lime juice, and rum, both light and dark. It is, of course, served in a young coconut shell, while the Bahia is sipped from a pineapple. (Don't forget to slip a couple of aspirin into your bag before leaving the house.)
The menu is from Mako Tanaka, executive chef and partner, who also owns Mako in Beverly Hills and was opening chef at Chinois on Main many moons ago. Fortunately, this is no kitschy Trader Vic's knockoff. He's gone his own way, reworking the Polynesian theme and including pan-Asian dishes.
Pupu platters can be custom-ordered to include Kalua pulled pork spring rolls made not with just any pig, but with Kurobuta pork or sticky, sweet tamarind-glazed pork ribs. Meatballs (who doesn't love meatballs?) are fancied up with Wagyu (Kobe beef) and glazed with pineapple.
Family-style mains include a whole sea bass roasted in a wood-burning oven, a wok-fired live Maine lobster in a bright, punchy Thai basil sauce, or a whole poussin prepared in the style of Peking duck, with a crackling crisp skin.
Keep those pretty cocktails coming while you muse on dessert. What's not to like about caramelized upside-down cake made with fresh pineapple and served with a scoop of French vanilla ice cream?
Now if I could just wrest that mai tai recipe from the bartender. . . .
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)Luau
Where: 369 N. Bedford Drive, Beverly Hills
When: 6-11 p.m. Tue.-Sun.
Price: Appetizers, $9-$16; pupu platter items, $13-$14; seafood dishes, $26-$30; meat and poultry dishes, $33-$44; desserts, $11-$13
Contact: (310) 274-0090
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