THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

LA Tiki Tour May '09

My wife, the lovely Monica Tiki Goddess, was invited to a baby shower for her friend Karen down in Altadena. This was our chance to finally check out the Luau in Beverly Hills, and the new Trader Vic's in downtown LA. Fortuitously, the latter happened to have its grand opening, after many delays, that very weekend. I was "Will the Ill", suffering either from food poisoning or a stomach virus, but I sweated out the road trip anyway, and it was really worth it.

The Luau in Beverly Hills is more or less modeled after the legendary tiki establishment of the same name, a former fixture of the local sunglasses set until it folded a couple of decades ago. The new incarnation boasts a pan-Asian menu that is delicious (even though I could barely eat any of it) and a killer cocktail list including the original Trader Vic's recipe Mai Tai (as well as a much more expensive "Presidential Mai Tai," in honor of our Hawaiian-born leader). The decor is sleekly beautiful, though a tad cold, trying to be "too cool" for its own room. The only true drawback, though, was the really loud, obnoxious music. There was one Nina Simone tune randomly tucked amid the constant din of whiney techno dance rock, or whatever the hell it was. Playing some exotica would enhance its tiki cred considerably. Worth a visit, but especially at their price range, not a place I'd make a point of returning to next time I'm down there, but sometime when I'm feeling rich.

While in Bev Hills we swung by the poolside Trader Vic's at the renovated Beverly Hilton. I remember this hotel's ultra-50s vibe when I first moved to LA back in '79. Their original Trader Vic's location right off Santa Monica Blvd., opened in 1955, was truly iconic but it was mowed down and moved to an internal, smaller locale as part of the revamp. I like the fact it's open air and next to a pool, though, and the decor is still very tiki. Overall, not bad. Better than no TV's at all. I also like all the midcentury modern furniture in the outside lobby, as well as the many framed tributes to Frank Sinatra and Marilyn Monroe.

The brand new Trader Vic's downtown, across from the Staples Center, is a dream come true. It's simply fantastic. On opening night they had live Hawaiian music and hula dancers. I was still feeling under the weather but the aloha atmosphere and hospitality were very theraputic. I'll definitely make a point of visiting this TV's any time I'm in the area, and so should you. The Bosco tikis out front are awesome!

An accidental highlight of the short trip was my discovery of the Macy's in Pasadena, the first suburban outlet for the chain, from 1948 (tough apparently it used to be Bullock's) . Much of the interior has been renovated but not all of it - the Men's Dept. and Cosmetic still look something out of Mad Men, and the exterior is totally Googie/Jetsons style. It is amidcentury modern marvel and worth a detour whether you need an extra sports jacket or not. (It so happened I did....)

Anyway, put all of these joints on your next LA itinerary. The Tiki Gods will reward you. Aloha!