I love you people. You responded to yesterday’s plea to keep the flaming Pu-Pu Platter alive with a list of wonderful restaurants from coast-to-coast where the tradition lives on. Mahalo! I’ve updated the Critiki listings for these places to note their fiery pu-pu glory:
The Omni Hut in Smyrna, Tennessee
The Omni Hut has been around since 1960, and remains a wonderful example of a classic Polynesian restaurant—with no tiki drinks! The Omni Hut doesn’t serve alcohol, but you are encouraged to bring your own to spike their punch. They serve a Fiery Pu-Pu Platter, and they have an ice cream Volcano dessert that is “served flaming like Mt. Fuji.”
Tonga Hut in Palm Springs, California
Jim Bacchi of the band Tikiyaki would like to point out that Egg Rolls are different from, and superior to, Spring Rolls. I agree. Tonga Hut’s Pu-Pu Platter has proper Egg Rolls, thus keeping two traditions alive at once. Thank you, Tonga Hut!
Rhum Food + Grog in Portland, Maine
This new tiki bar is putting serving appetizers with a modern sensibility, but they’re serving them in the traditional way: with a wooden lazy susan and a mini hibachi.
Lun Wah in Roselle, New Jersey
Lun Wah has been open since 1974, and recently came under new ownership that values the history of the place and wants to preserve it. Lun Wah serves a traditional flaming Pu-Pu Platter, complete with Egg Rolls.
Three Dots and a Dash in Chicago, Illinois
Three Dots is known more for their drinks, but they do their flaming Pu-Pu Platter up right!
Jade Island in Staten Island, New York
Many people complain about New York City not having any real tiki places, but they do have one (on a technicality, depending on how you feel about Staten Island). Jade Island is a wonderful old tiki place, and still serves a flaming Pu-Pu Platter.
Kowloon in Saugus, Massachusetts
This landmark restaurant north of Boston still serves a flaming Pu-Pu Platter, with daring open top! Look at that Sterno glow.
Tiki-Tiki in Richmond, Virginia
Tiki-Tiki has been around for a while, but the tiki is light there: it only rates a 5.5 from Critiki members. But at least they have a flaming Pu-Pu Platter!
The Golden Tiki in Las Vegas, Nevada
I don’t have a picture of this Pu-Pu Platter yet, because tonight is the first night they’ll be serving one! They’re starting to offer Flaming Pu-Pu Platters on Friday and Saturday nights, starting at 6pm. They’re only making 15 of them available each night, and you can reserve them in advance by contacting LisaGoldenTiki@yahoo.com. If you get one tonight, please take a good picture and add it to Critiki!
Trader Vic’s in Emeryville, California, Beverly Hills, California, and other locations
As mentioned in yesterday’s article, Trader Vic’s has some near misses. The picture above shows the Flaming Beef Cho Cho, which comes with an accessory mini hibachi, but it’s just one single appetizer. The Beef Cho Cho is not included in their version of a Pu-Pu Platter, which they call Cosmo Tidbits. Those come on a plain white plate, which sits on a metal pedestal with a flame underneath, like a buffet heating setup. If these two different offerings were combined and presented differently, they’d easily have a fantastic Pu-Pu Platter. But… I’m not bothered that they don’t. The Pu-Pu Platter we all hold in our hearts is not really Trader Vic’s domain, which has always been a bit more upscale.
Non-tiki joints reported by Critiki members to serve pu-pu platters: Trey Yuen in Mandeville, LA; Saucebox in Portland, OR; China House in Alameda, CA; Princess Garden in Vallejo, CA; Kwong Ming Restaurant in Wantagh, NY; The Golden Phoenix in Phoenix, AZ; Panda Country in San Diego, CA; Mandarin Wok in San Diego, CA; Hong Kong Restaurant in San Diego, CA; Chin Chin in San Diego, CA; Golden House in San Diego, CA; Szechuan Mandarin in San Diego, CA; Wong’s Golden Palace in San Diego, CA; Fu’s Palace in Los Angeles, CA; Dragon Room in La Mesa, CA; Mandarin House in La Jolla, CA; Hunan’s in Houston, TX; Shanghai River in Houston, TX; Hunan Taste in Denville, NJ, The Noble East in Montclair, NJ, Golden Flower in Las Vegas, NV.
I want to take a moment to pay respects to a now-gone tiki bar, Luau Polynesian Lounge, which used to be tucked away in the Tangletown neighborhood of Seattle. I spent many fun evenings there with friends during the mid- to late-1990s, drinking Pina Coladas and eating from their flaming Pu-Pu Platter. Luau was a key stepping stone on the path to my madness for Tiki. My first home tiki bar was largely inspired by wanting to recreate those wonderful Luau evenings at home. Luau, mahalo nui loa, you made a difference in this world.