Ultimate-ish Zombie

I was really happy with the recipe for the Ultimate Mai Tai, using my Ultimate Mai Tai Rum Blend. And I was super happy with the Ultimate Navy Grog which used that rum in combo. But I’ve never been able to come up with a Zombie recipe that I liked using that rum. But after some experimentation and tinkering I’m pretty happy with how this came out.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t as good as a 1934. All hail Donn Beach for developing it and to Jeff Berry for rediscovering and decoding the recipe decades later. So, it is only ultimate-ish. But if you’re looking for a little twist on the Zombie I’d suggest giving this a try.

Thanks to Ed Hamilton and the aforementioned Jeff Berry for developing a Zombie rum to give this the necessary flavor profile and kick.

Ultimate-ish Zombie
1 oz Ruby Grapefruit Juice (strained)
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Passionfruit Syrup
¼ oz Molasses Syrup
½ oz Velvet Falernum
⅛ oz Cinnamon Syrup
1 oz Hamilton Beachbum Berry Zombie Blend
1 oz Ultimate Mai Tai Blend
4 drop Pernod
4 dash Angostura Bitters
Shake with crushed ice
Garnish with mint

Farewell to The Room

Along with Palmetto, the connected Kon-Tiki Room also closed last night. The series finale was raucous thanks to cocktail specials from Santa Teresa Rum but mostly from locals and tikiphiles coming out to say goodbye. In previous visits I’d bemoaned the playing of 1980s top 40 here, but had a softer spot for lesser known New Wave material being played. Still not truly tiki but at least it was a retro subgenre. Last night it was full-on “Dark Wave” which totally fit the bill given the occasion.

The last Stargazer

“The Room,” as it began to bill itself over time, was always the less favored child, either from the more glamorous Palmetto next door or the OG Kon-Tiki a few blocks away. But over time the pop culture sensibilities of the staff made this a decidedly different destination thanks to Star Trek nights and such. Such was on hand with last night with Star Trek on TV and even one couple dressed as Mulder and Scully to pay homage to The Room’s X-Files Friday events.

There was lot of good cheer in the air as we said goodbye. Thank you to Matt and Christ for trying to do something a little different in Uptown. To Jeannie for the cocktail program including our beloved Disco Banana. And to Jeni and Tori for fab service at the bar like always. We truly wish everyone the best and hope for future success.

Farewell Palmetto

Palmetto opened in Oakland’s uptown neighborhood for full service in 2021 as an upscale steakhouse and craft cocktail bar. The restaurant is from the same team as Kon-Tiki at 14th/Webster and the location across from the Fox Theater seemed like an ideal location for foot traffic, especially for the Kon-Tiki Room bar that shares the space and kitchen with Palmetto.

But the team recently announced that Palmetto and Kon-Tiki Room will be closing this Sunday, October 29. Business slowed considerably over the summer and has not recovered. It’s always sad when restaurants close, even if closings aren’t that rare in the industry, especially when you’ve enjoyed the visits and respect ownership and staff.

Some local tiki ohana organized a group dinner at Palmetto last night, our way of saying goodbye. We tried many of the dishes including the escargot and amazing little gem salad. I tried the strip steak and found the butter, cream, and tomatoes to be perfect complement.

The cocktail game at Palmetto has always been strong and we loved the cocktails. Mrs Mai Tai especially liked the Disco Punch and a fine Espresso Martini. I had a rum Old Fashioned with Saint Benevolence, so nice.

There’s always regret about not better supporting a restaurant that’s closing when they needed the patronage. I’m sorry we didn’t visit more often. It is a reminder that these businesses need our support now more than ever.

We wish the team at Palmetto all the best.

The Grand Spectacle of Dinner at the Tonga Room

The Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco remains a seminal destination for fans of Polynesian restaurants, featuring a cohesive theme and the centerpiece of a pool in the middle of the large room. Rain showers with lighting and sound effects come every 20-30 minutes and is still a source of wonder for young and old. The decor is a blend of midcentury modern with traditional Polynesian art, sandwiched between a dock on one side and ship’s rigging on the other. The lava rock and red paint in the Hurricane Bar set it off well from the rest of the restaurant.

The space at the Tonga Room is sill so impressive to us and once again we were fortunate being seated poolside. In the pool is a boat that serves as the place where the house band Island Groove plays each night starting around 7 pm. The band opened with a nice mellow rendition of “The Girl from Ipanema” and the rest of the set was a mix of popular favorites from the 1970s-1980s. We thought “Margaritaville” and “All Night Long” played okay in this room, with “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” less so. More mellow arrangements and less “wedding band” banter would be our preference. There’s a $15 per person cover when the band is playing.

We’re fans of the Asian fusion cuisine here. Pricey, yes, but we feel the quality is there. We started with the poke tostadas that were absolutely fabulous. The Asian salad is quite large and includes pears and a light honey sesame dressing. Mrs. Mai Tai and I both had the grilled salmon over fried rice that was just right for us once again. The portions were pretty good for the price. We’ve always had good luck with service. Our waiter Haobo couldn’t have been nicer, even offering to take a photo across the pool.

The Tonga Room is probably too pricey to be anyone’s regular watering hole, but remains a San Francisco institution. The Tonga Room is open at 5 pm Wednesday – Saturdays, first come (no reservations). If you’re in town doing the tiki thing, make sure you add it to your itinerary.

New Cocktails at San Francisco’s Tonga Room are a Hit

San Francisco’s Tonga Room at the Fairmont Hotel has a long history and a well-earned reputation for fine food and incredible Polynesian decor, but the cocktails have been poorly regarded by many. The Tonga Room has quietly completely revamped their cocktail menu and friends I’m here to tell you that the new cocktails are really good.

While Mrs. Mai Tai misses the old Tonga Kong, we did find all five cocktails that we tried to be good to great. The Zombie and Mai Tai from the old menu have even been redone with different spirits and ingredients. The price for cocktails at the Tonga Room remain high, functioning as a sort of cover charge for the venue’s amazing decor, but at least you’ll be impressed by the cocktails in a good way now.

The previous Mai Tai was very limey but the new Mai Tai leans more in the sweet direction and uses Bacardi 8 and Don Q. These aren’t bold Jamaican rums but most certainly the drink is better balanced and perfectly approachable for the Tonga audience. If you’re looking for something more complex, the Tiki Hunter will be more your speed, a delicious and complex punch made with Jägermeister, coconut rum, Wray Overproof , spices, juices, and an edible pinecone. The Banana Bread Old Fashioned blends Jamaica rum, bourbon, and banana into a satisfying twist on the classic.

Banana Bread Old Fashioned

There’s a healthy mix of cocktail styles, including a blue Margarita with salt inside the cocktail rather than on the rim. Mrs. Mai Tai loved the Seafoam Espresso Martini that includes spiced rum, orgeat, and topping of sea foam cream and black lava salt. Really great. The Tiny Bubbles is a fun tropical Mimosa featuring sparking rosé and Tonga POG juice. There are a couple of alcohol free options and the focus on glassware means the cocktails are made to be seen and appreciated rather than hidden in a mug or pineapple.

If it’s been a while, now is the time to revisit the Tonga Room and experience their wonderful new cocktail menu.

Rum is Still a Thing at Kon-Tiki in Oakland

Tried some new (to me) rums at The Kon-Tiki the other day. Their Expedition Rum list is still going, and after 100 you get your name on the wall. And for folks like me who’ve already done this I’m doing a second list and just picking from the myriad options from the back bar. They do have a printed rum list that you can peruse with pricing, etc. Prices are quite reasonable.

So many choices are available at Kon-Tiki but honestly space is becoming an issue so come on down to Kon-Tiki to help kill some of these bottles! I tried to do my part on Wednesday.

First rum was Ron Colón which is a blend of column still Salvadorian rum and pot still Jamaican rums. A very pleasant taste in a Mai Tai, not too assertive. This style of blended rum might work better in a Daiquiri where the general lightness and a bit of the Jamaican flavor would be a little bit more forward and present.

Next, I tried the Diamond Dark rum. This is a Demerara rum and is part of Diamond Distiller’s (El Dorado rum) entry level rum line. This is heavily colored and this has a caramel/maple syrup flavor – not nearly as overbearing as something like Cruzan Blackstrap but still more in that direction than Goslings or Myers’s. Not bad in a Mai Tai.

Last rum was Plantation’s Extreme series Long Pond 25 year rum from Jamaica. Very fragrant and completely delicious, Jamaica rum continues to be my absolute favorite.