Trader Vic’s (Emeryvile)

Date Night: June 8, 2013 @ 6:15 PM

I was hesitant to checkout Trader Vic’s for our Saturday date night thinking that it was going to be a tacky tiki bar full of dusty kitsch.  I could not have been more wrong!

A waterfront restaurant with a view of boats docked in Emeryville and  San Francisco skyline across the bay, the view was breathtaking.  The tiki memorabilias of South Pacific statues, fishing nets and palm leaves were tastefully placed. Despite being a theme restaurant, the ambiance was casual and classy at the same time.  The famous woodfired oven was showcased in the lobby.

And you cannot talk about Trader Vic’s without mentioning its history that goes all the way to 1932 in Oakland. Trader Vic’s was at the height of its popularity during the Tiki fad. Many of its restaurants already closed including the one in San Francisco but currently there are 25 Trader Vic’s all over the world including Singapore, Dubai, London, Tokyo, etc. TV in Emeryville is considered the chain’s flagship restaurant.

And since Trader Vic’s claim to fame is their “invention of Mai Tai,” I had to try their Mango Mai Tai $8.50. Oh, boy! It did taste fruity and sweet but this one will slowly creep up on you. About an hour later, I was intoxicated!

A basket of warm bread and crackers with peanut butter for dipping was complimentary.  It is unusual to get PB instead of butter served at a restaurant but we loved it!

We started off with the Cosmo Tidbits (from the original 1930’s Trader Vic’s pupu platter). It was a sampling of Crispy Prawns, Crab Rangoon, Char Sui Pork and BBQ Ribs for 2. $19 The BBQ ribs and Char Sui Pork were very tender while the crispy prawns were melt in your mouth hot and fresh without the grease. I skipped the Crab Rangoon. This appetizer plate was actually very good.

Unfortunately, the main entrees were not as exciting.  I chose the Quarter Crispy Duck with mu shu crepes and plum sauce. $15. I was expecting the Chinese Peking Duck with juicy meat and crispy skin. TV’s duck was served almost minced! Even though the meat was very flavorful, it was all dry that it was hard to tell the skin from the meat. The crepes that came in a bamboo steam basket were also dry.

The $9 pork fried rice was something I could have gotten at any Chinese takeout place for half the price.

My Carnivore chose the Whole Lobster Cooked Singaporean Style. I had a taste of his dish and it was salty and one dimensional. Quite pricey for $48 but seeing him wear a lobster bib was worth it. 🙂

What stood out was the service. Very friendly, professional and efficient staff. At one point we had 4 servers attending to us taking our plates away, bringing our food and our water was filled like clockwork.

Check: $130 including iced tea and tip

A pretty pricey dinner but enjoyable none the less. No regrets coming to Trader Vic’s. I will go back for the peaceful view of the bay, the excellent service, fun atmosphere, the strong Mai Tai and appetizers.

However, I will most probably eat dinner somewhere else.

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