A-Frame Goes Hawaiian with Local Favorites & Tiki-Inspired Drinks

IMG_2237 Five years ago, chef Roy Choi of Kogi food truck fame transformed an old IHOP in Culver City into an Asian-influenced “urban picnic” dining spot called A-Frame (after its iconic shape, naturally). In February 2015, the restaurant fulfilled its architectural destiny by transitioning to a more Hawaiian-centric concept with tiki-esque drinks.

16793277049_6a892bce81_o_1 While it’s true that Roy Choi was chef of the old Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills back in the day, the real driving force for this was the new executive chef, Johnny Yoo, who wanted to serve up Hawaiian comfort food inspired by places like Side Street Inn in Honolulu. On A-Frame’s web site, Choi points out that the menu already had some aloha flavor to it, with the furikake kettle corn and baby back ribs. (Those are two of the few dishes kept on the menu since the switch.)

IMG_2241 The decor stayed essentially the same, with the addition of some vintage longboards above the bar and artist Eric Junker’s graffiti art of “Hawaiian-inspired alchemical symbols of abundance and gratitude.”

IMG_2244 There are some tiki amongst the decor, including a Big Kahuna tiki bottle opener from Smokin’ Tikis perched on the bar. Take a look in the merch display at the reservation stand and you’ll spot a few more tikis.

16793281649_12e9126b4e_o_2 Even if you sampled poi at a luau once and didn’t like it, don’t let that deter you from ordering the Hush Poippies ($9) to start. These crispy bites of taro and potato arrive piping hot to the table because the kitchen sends each dish out as soon as it’s ready. They’re served with a side of sweet chili sauce but are addictive enough on their own with the grated white cheddar and Parmesan.

IMG_2272 A-Frame produces its own house-made Spam, a noble endeavor that we had to support by getting the musubi (one piece for $5 or a trio for $12). The ume paste brings an interesting, tangy taste to this essential Hawaiian snack made with white rice and Spam wrapped in nori.

IMG_2288 Eight Legged Duck ($17) presents an intriguing pairing of seared foie gras and slices of baby octopus terrine, though we wish the portion had been a bit more generous. In the interest of not running up the bill too high, we’d skip this next time.

IMG_2294 - Version 2 My meat-and-potatoes man went for the Double Kimcheesburger ($14). He tends to have more traditional tastes but he was on board with the toppings of cucumber kimchi, bacon guava jam, sweet Maui onion and aged cheddar.

IMG_2298 Curry gravy and pickled pearl onions put a slightly different (but very welcome) spin on Loco Moco ($15), that Hawaiian staple of a hamburger patty with rice, gravy and a runny egg.

IMG_2302 Another carryover from A-Frame’s previous menu is the dessert Chu Don’t Know Mang ($10): pound cake churros with malted chocolate milk and vanilla ice cream. We were blown away by these and can definitely see why it had to stick around.

IMG_2304 The cocktail list features 11 tiki-inspired tipples, priced at $12 each. The most traditional of the bunch is the Zombie Isle (Bourbon barrel rum, Hawaiian dark rum, lime, orange, apricot, absinthe). (Bonus points for serving it in a tiki mug.) I have to say that I wasn’t a fan of the Pina Cholada (reposado tequila, coconut milk, orgeat, lime, pineapple, egg white). Normally I have no issues with tequila but here it turned me off. I’m still curious to try the other drinks, though — I’m sure there’s a favorite to be found. There’s also 24 oz. cans of Primo available plus several California craft beers on tap.

IMG_2240 Every night from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. and weekends from 10 p.m.-closing there’s Luau Hour, featuring deals on select dishes, $4 beers, $6 wine and $8 cocktails (Kona Old Fashioned, Guava Buck and a Big Island Gimlet with passionfruit). During weekend brunch, A-Frame pays tribute to its IHOP roots by offering all-you-can-eat pancakes ($15) in tropical variations like banana mac nut and lilikoi butter. (You can also add on unlimited Mimosas, Micheladas and Bloody Marys for $16.)

A-Frame
12565 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066
310-398-7700

A-Frame on Urbanspoon

Tiki Tablescaping & Luminasia at the LA County Fair

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Every year we go to the LA County Fair and every year I stumble across something related to tiki. (And every year we wonder why we ride this giant Ferris Wheel as we freak out when it reaches the top.)

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Our latest fried food adventure was fried Doritos, which were, in a word, unnecessary. They paled in comparison to Chicken Charlie’s previous triumphs of fried avocado and the fried Klondike Bar. (Though we may not eat any more fried food at the fair since we discovered the amazing duck confit grilled cheese from the Street Kitchen stand.)

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One of the halls housed the exhibit “Mid-Century Modern” which featured some gorgeous cars and vintage furniture sort of oddly interspersed with vending booths for artists with retro flair. (Among them was Rachel Walker, whose “Pina Colada” print provided the first tiki sighting of the day.)

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And surprisingly, that was the only tiki-related thing I saw in that exhibit. (The two often go hand in hand, as I’ve found at Palm Springs Modernism Week.) At any rate, the pièce de résistance for me was this amazing Arkay “Fantasia” television (aka Kuba “Tango” Stereo Console) produced between 1959-1962. Those lines!

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Last year I had lamented the lack of tiki representation in the tablescaping section of the arts and crafts building, but this year did not disappoint! “Turn the Table” featured a tiki from Oceanic Arts, Trader Vic’s salt and pepper shakers, Don Ho “Suck ’em Up” glasses, Dynasty Easter Islander mugs, bamboo flatware and more.

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The judges awarded top points for originality/creativity for the upside-down table and its tiki torch legs, but points were docked in the correctness category: “Fruit for salad and dessert course is repetitive. Questioning the knife, as it does not go with the menu. Lobster pick is appropriate but nut pick is not.” Still, it scored 90/100 points, which was good enough for the fourth place ribbon.

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Another highlight was the new exhibit Luminasia, an impressive display of about 300 giant Chinese lanterns shaped like animals, flowers and famous landmarks near and far.

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The colorful creations were made by more than 50 Chinese artisans from Zigong, a city in the Sichuan province that’s known for its lantern festivals.

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It was an additional $9 to walk through it, but we thought it was worth it, especially when I spotted this trio of Moai in gold, silver and copper colors. They were placed among other icons like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Eiffel Tower and…Morongo Casino. (They were a sponsor.)

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The 2014 LA County Fair ends after this weekend, so you better get going if you haven’t already!

Related Posts:
Tikis, Mermaids & More at the LA County Fair

Tiki Sno Cones & Tablescaping at the LA County Fair
LA County Fair: Tiki Cake

Not-to-Miss Tiki Events This Summer

Florida’s Hukilau just wrapped and tiki events are in full swing for the summer. Here’s a heads-up on some of the festivities coming up — admittedly with a Southern California bias.

June 26-29 – Ohana Luau at the Lake, Lake George, NY

“The Biggest Little Event in Tiki” takes place at The Tiki Resort in Lake George, NY, a Polynesian-themed motor inn from the 1950s.

King Kukulele and the Friki Tikis

June 28 – 10th Annual Tiki Night at the Egyptian Theatre, Los Angeles, CA

The gorgeous Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood will screen the excellent documentary “Plastic Paradise: A Swingin’ Trip Through America’s Polynesian Obsession” along with some bonus tiki film clips. There will also be performances from King Kukulele & The Friki Tikis and the Polynesian Paradise Dancers in the courtyard.

Brad Parker show at La Luz de Jesus in LA

July 4 – Opening Reception for Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker’s Art Show at La Luz de Jesus, Los Angeles, CA

Brad “Tiki Shark” Parker‘s tiki-influenced “low brow art” will once again grace the walls of La Luz de Jesus gallery in Los Angeles from July 4-27. The Insect Surfers will rock the opening reception on Independence Day. Also: There will be rum.

July 11-13 – Tiki Kon: Mysteries of the Deep, Portland, OR

Portland’s Tiki Kon features a line-up of surf and lounge bands, burlesque, tiki vendors, panel discussions (“Home Tiki Bar Basics”) and more.

July 19 – International Tiki Marketplace at Don the Beachcomber, Sunset Beach, CA

The International Tiki Marketplace at Don the Beachcomber is your bi-monthly opportunity to go on a serious tiki shopping spree — I know from experience. Dozens of vendors offer tiki mugs, carved tikis, art, jewelry, etc.

August 14-17 – Tiki Oasis, San Diego, CA

San Diego’s Tiki Oasis has a beatnik flavor for this 14th installment. The epic weekend features tons of bands, symposiums, burlesque, a vintage car show and much more.

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August 23-24 – Tiki Beach Festival, Long Beach, CA

It’s no competition for Tiki Oasis, but Long Beach’s Tiki Beach Festival has its charms, among them Polynesian dancing, Hawaiian food and canoe rides.

Tiki Pop exhibit in Paris

Now through September 29 – Tiki Pop Exhibition, Paris, France

The Book of Tiki author Sven Kirsten‘s special exhibit “Tiki Pop: America Imagines its own Polynesian Paradise” is now on display at the Musée du quai Branly in Paris. The accompanying book is available for pre-order and will be released on August 1.

Check out the Events Calendar section on Tiki Central for even more postings. I also tend to post about upcoming tiki events on Facebook and Twitter.

Related Posts:
Tiki Night at the Egyptian Theatre 2012: DVD of Tiki, Vol. 1
Tiki Beach Festival in Long Beach 2012