While “ Trader Vic” Bergeron was known for his innovative Island Cuisine and tropical cocktails like the Mai Tai, he was also known as one of the first to promote California wines. “Vic” began a quest to support the Golden State’s bountiful wine industry by educating his customers on the outstanding wines available right here at home. Bergeron was also one of the first to compile a well rounded California wine list representing a spectrum of taste, quality and value. In fact, Trader Vic’s first California wine list is still a part of the wine curriculum taught at the California Culinary Institute.
In 1955, Trader Vic’s opened in Beverly Hills followed by branches in Chicago in 1957, London in 1963, and numerous other foreign and domestic locales. Subsequent openings, along with the closings of several domestic branches in recent decades, resulted in a 25-year hiatus in domestic openings.
The chain’s next domestic opening, in 2004, was in the San Francisco space that formerly housed Jeremiah Tower’s famed Stars. That more visible real estate in the city replaced the former Cosmo Alley site, whose long history included first lady Nancy Reagan’s 1983 hosting of Queen Elizabeth II at her first luncheon in an American restaurant. By the end of 2004, 22 Trader Vic’s had opened worldwide.
The Trader eventually opened 25 Polynesian-style restaurants around the world. Trader Vic’s Restaurant Group now includes an expanding collection of upscale, company-owned and franchised restaurants steeped in island-style service and atmosphere, stretching from the United States to Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Incorporating different cultures from around the world, Trader Vic’s brand of hospitality has garnered international acclaim for introducing unique foods, careful preparations and welcoming service, as well as for inventing exotic, crowd-pleasing drinks such as the world-famous Mai Tai.
Trader Vic’s both tapped into the zeitgeist and helped shape it. South Pacific culture had a small but growing hold on the American pop imagination in the 1930s, as the middle class began to embrace a bowdlerized version of an old avant-garde favorite. Primitive art from the South Seas had fascinated the cultural elite since at least the paintings by Paul Gauguin in the late nineteenth century, and through a sort of obscure cultural alchemy, these primitive forms became popularized and marketed in the form of the tiki statue—an oversized carved wooden figure of a human form, often grotesquely exaggerated.
Last Sunday afternoon, we took a nice walk down to the L.A. Live project where the new Trader Vic’s is located. Those of you who follow my reviews know how much how I enjoyed eating at the L.A. Live, and honestly Trader Vic’s was truly an amazing place where you feel welcome by their friendly and super nice staff. At Trader Vic’s, guests can immerse themselves in a sophisticated oasis of lush sights, exotic sounds and delicious smells in an environment inspired by the South Pacific.
At Trader Vic’s you will find the most unusual decor items from around the world including antique tribal masks and tiki carvings, natural exotic materials such as tapa cloth, woven grass wall-coverings and tropical fabrics, indigenous artifacts such as woven fish traps and hand-hewn canoes, and Polynesian-inspired color palettes, lighting fixtures, and furnishings.
Trader Vic’s was also a perfect place to watch the Lakers, while dining in high style! It almost felt like we were in Hawaii, with an authentic Aloha decor in a charming dining area. The bar is the main attraction, featuring a large TV and music. Most of the drinks are rum based, along with some heavy hitter mixes, some of which include 151. Anchoring the main dining room is the Chinese oven, displayed behind glass, and is where many signature dishes are prepared. Daily delivered fish and meat ensure the highest quality. Diners especially enjoy the selection of sushi and fun appetizers. Known for inventing the Mai Tai, in 1944, Trader Vic’s bar is a haven for cocktail aficionados.
Our choice was to dine in the bar area, but you can also enjoy your dinner at the main dining area, where you can have a private area right next to the wood fire thing-a-ma-bob. Walking by the wood fire area you could feel the heat! Not sure the table seated directly in front of it is the best place to be if you suffer from hyperhidrosis…
Talented Chef Isaac prepared some of their most popular appetizers, entrees and desserts which we truly enjoyed! From the first warm greeting to the attentive wait staff to the highest quality food and beverage ingredients. Trader Vic’s constantly strives to exceed expectations at every level, everyday.
I recommend the following: Pupus: Coconut Prawns: Seasoned butterfly jumbo prawns coated with Japanese bread crumbs and coconut. BBQ Pork Spareribs: Basted with Trader Vic’s own glaze smoked in their famous wood fired oven Crab Rangoon: Crab meat, cream cheese and spices folded in a crispy wonton Malayan Chicken Skewers: Lemongrass and kaffir lime marinade with our own chutney Beef Cho-Cho: Seared steak with soy sake sauce finished on your own flaming hibachi, a very nice way to enjoy this delicate and tender meat!
Wood fired Cantonese Sea bass: Ginger, soy and sesame steamed sea bass, served with braised Asian greens. They cook it in the exhibition wood fired oven. The meat is suspended in the oven and slow cooked. Simply one of the best ways to enjoy this delicate fish. Passion Chicken: Sesame crusted chicken tossed in passion fruit sweet sour glaze. Prime Flat Iron Steak: served hoisin – chili, with apple marinade crispy corn potato cake and mizuna salad. Fragrant Bali rice, a delicious brown rice that we got to sample and loved it! It goes with all of their entrees.
Desserts: Tahitian Coffee Crème Brulee, Mango Cheesecake, Praline Ice Cream and Fried Bananas.
Their original Mai Tai is a must try. Pretty stiff and delicious. Also don’t miss their Soft Bahia, a creamy pineapple-coconut classic, and also the Coral Reef, was a delicious light and non alcoholic drink made with strawberries, mango and coconut cream.
Trader Vic’s is a restaurant to enjoy an Island escape. Great reservation confirmation & follow up. I reserved in advance and got an email confirmation and a call the day of to remind me of my reservation. Great service makes me smile. Like a club without membership- Trader Vic’s offers a worry-free place for patrons to escape into a world of the highest culinary quality and consistency.
For more details, please visit http://www.tradervics.com/
Review: Mary Bonvi
Photos by: Michael D.
Published on May 28, 2010