Mrs Mai Tai and I made a special trek to the City to have dinner at the Tonga Room. We were last here in 2019, and we’ve missed the incredible atmosphere and dining at the historical tiki bar at the Fairmont Hotel. There’s always a line when the place opens (was told they don’t offer reservations anymore, even to hotel guests), and even more so this week after a nice writeup in the local SFGate news site.
Unlike our last attempt before a Go-Go’s show a couple months ago, traffic was light and so we arrived super early and were first in line. Definitely a big difference between the “Tonga line” 30 mins before opening and 15 mins before. We were seated poolside, which is always our favorite place.
The food menu is a little more limited than in our previous visits, and noteworthy doesn’t offer much for kids or picky eaters. I ordered the spam appetizer which I expected would be like sliders – but it most certainly wasn’t. This was very tasty, but difficult to eat and would be hard to share. Even better was my Grilled Miso Salmon over fried rice that was really delicious. Julie loved her Coconut Curry Seafood, though I had to convince her to try the Calamari.
There’s something off in the tart Mai Tai (I’m guessing cheap orgeat), though we loved our other cocktails including the coffee-coconut Tonga Kong and the lemon-coconut Adult Swim (normally served with vodka, I asked for rum to be subbed). The cocktails here are very pricey and the quality is okay – but balanced with the friendly service and amazingly immersive decor inside.
The Tonga Room is very expensive and hard to get in, but for special occasions or just as an occasional treat we think it is worth it. There’s no doubt that the business is booming, though an upcoming three-week closure for refurbishments will be a bummer for some. The rain and thunderstorms that happen every 15-30 minutes are a big hit with customers, and the decor and artwork is a sight to be behold.