Last weekend we finally got to experience The Coconut Club - an underground tiki-themed supper club that I heard about many months ago. I've been following it since, narrowly missing the windows to buy tickets for its sold-out nights at Sonny's Hideaway. From March 6-8, it popped up at what used to be Vagabond's House, which, like most great tiki temples of the past, has been long forgotten. I don't think we would have trusted that we navigated to the right location except for all of the other tiki-clad guests waiting outside for the tropical time-warp they were about to enter.
My expectations for the night included: great food, some cocktails, and some immersive tiki decor. I wasn't aware of just how many courses or drinks would be involved and I really didn't expect much entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised by all of the above and, as an added bonus, we got seated with some pretty interesting people.
Here's how the night progressed (more or less):
1. At the door we had to give the secret password (how else would you expect to be granted access into an underground supper club?).
2. Inside we were treated to some pre-dinner cocktails and snacks. The first drink, Casual Colonialism, was magically color-changing and definitely set the tone for the wonders that were about to unfold! Very light and refreshing. Note to self: buy some Martin Miller's Gin for home and see if it beats out Tanqueray for favorite gin.
3. We were all welcomed to the Coconut Club with a grand entrance by Darren (the host), gong banging included (and prevalent throughout the night) and then given skewers of every type of pineapple: fresh pineapple, dried pineapple, pineapple leaf, pine flavored apple (still wondering how this was accomplished), and clear Haribo gummy bear.
4. The groups were then split in half to individually participate in a sort of seance/initiation ceremony to summon the spirits of tiki past for the night. It was at this moment that I realized that this experience was going to be much more theatrical and interesting than expected! After holding hands in a circle with our eyes closed, we were treated to another cocktail: Vagabond's Ghost (pictured on the table below). This one seemed like a citrusy, coconuty champagne mixture at the time.
Ingredients (from Thirsty in LA): white rum, coconut milk, lime and pineapple juices, creme de peche, Cava, Herbsaint mist.
5. We were then seated at our tables where sweet pineapple bread and pineapple butter were already waiting for us.
6. The dinner that followed was filled with course after course of unique, tropically-inspired food and drinks. The company was great at our table - fellow tiki, cocktail, and LA enthusiasts abound. With their help, I managed to solidify my top tiki bar pick for next month's San Francisco/Napa trip: the Tonga Room. Beyond the engaging conversation, libations, and food offerings, dinner was also peppered with great music, entertainment by Darren, some banging of the gong, chants for our food, periodic trivia, volcano eruptions, etc.
In all, I thoroughly enjoyed the inventiveness of the cocktails and dishes, was shocked at the sheer volume of food & drink, thought the crowd was great, was surprised by the level of entertainment, and thought that this experience was definitely worth the $170 that it cost for almost 4 hours of a time-warp back to the glory days of tiki past.
In case you want to check out this unique LA experience (which I strongly encourage for tiki and non-tiki enthusiasts alike), you can watch for upcoming nights and purchase tickets here: www.thecoconutclubla.com.
For those of you who want all the details, feast offerings included:
Coconut Club Cocktail: By far my favorite drink of the night. A great mix of rum, tropical juices, and some spices/nuttiness. Added bonus: served in a coconut! Yum, yum, and yum. I wish I had this recipe to recreate at home.
Cabbage Wedge Salad: Braised cabbage wedge topped with a coconut-buttermilk dressing. Very well-balanced and a tasty, refreshing dish to begin the meal.
Dumpling Soup: Served in a Chinese food container with a "phoenix" soft-boiled egg that we had to crack into it. I love the concept but this was the only dish where I wished there was a little more salt/flavor.
Lava Cocktail: There was an ingredient in this drink that gave its otherwise fruity flavor a smokey punch - maybe the salt? The drink was accompanied by an "erupting volcano" in the room, that, like other gods throughout the night, needed to be appeased. I like that it creatively stuck to the theme but smokey drinks aren't my favorite so this was the only drink I wasn't pumped about.
Pupu Platter: Fire! and 3 types of bird: delicious chicken pate on toast, fried coconut chicken, and duck confit egg roll. All the flavors were great on this plate. Side note: I was unintentionally going undercover for the night - last name's Goss, not Ross, as written on my name tag above.
Shrimp Cocktail: The only way shrimp cocktail should ever be served from now on out! Coconut shrimp served over a citrusy cocktail including egg-white and a few dashes of bitters (which incidentally reminded me that I need to visit Three Dots and a Dash as soon as I can get out to Chicago).
Meat, Meat, Meat, and Coffee (what we had to chant before this one came out): Steak crusted with coffee grounds on a macadamia cream with asparagus and coconut shavings. I wish the dish was slightly less bitter and that there were potatoes or another accompanying side to neutralize some of the coffee flavoring but the steak was cooked perfectly medium-rare and I appreciated the interesting approach to this course.
Volcano Cake: This 151-drenched dessert hilariously lit half of the placemats at our table on fire (very contained, don't worry) and was an excellent combination of liquor, chocolate, bananas, and sugar. The way that the red lava slowly erupted from the top (unfortunately, not pictured) was just genius. I would have liked to eat more of this but I was beyond stuffed.
And that, my friends, concluded all of the delicious goodness that was served to us at the Coconut Club.