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

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Sampling the Famous Lapu Lapu at Tambu Lounge

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After a long day at Disney World, an adult beverage may be in order. One of the more popular places for such a respite is the Tambu Lounge at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort. (Although, the hotel’s new tiki bar Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto is about to steal its thunder in a major way.)

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It’s located on the upper level of the Great Ceremonial House next to ‘Ohana restaurant, and in the evenings it gets packed with people enjoying drinks while waiting for their dinner reservations. The thatched hut bar is anchored by large carved tikis and overhead you’ll notice a tapa print ceiling. About a dozen chairs are available plus a few clusters of rattan armchairs and benches alongside the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the tropical landscaping and longhouses.

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Extending out along the atrium is additional seating at brand-new furniture (part of the resort’s recent renovations). It’s a bit farther from the action, but it’s a nice spot to admire the new display of giant glass fishing floats in the center of the lobby.

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The most famous drink at Tambu Lounge is the Lapu Lapu, which is presented in a pineapple. It’s one of four specialty drinks that are exclusive to this bar, along with the Backscratcher, Island Sunset and Tropical Macaw. There’s more to the cocktail menu, but it’s just the same standard drinks you’ll find at any other bar at Disneyland or Disney World.

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Don’t expect it to taste like a Chief Lapu Lapu drink, though, because there’s no passionfruit in it. Rather, it’s a potent concoction of Myers’s, pineapple juice, orange juice and Bacardi 151. I was happy to cross the Lapu Lapu off my Disney World to-do list, but I actually preferred the Backscratcher, a riff on Hawaiian bartender Harry Yee’s Tropical Itch made with Bacardi, Myers’s and passionfruit juice, topped with Jack Daniel’s. Plus, it’s garnished with a bamboo backscratcher (much to the delight of my boyfriend ;) ).

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I also sampled the Island Sunset (Seven Tiki spiced rum, Parrot Bay coconut rum, melon and peach with guava-passionfruit juice), but it wasn’t any great shakes. According to The Atomic Grog, some of the longtime bartenders will still make drinks from past menus, like the Scorpion, Navy Grog and Zombie.

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The booze starts flowing at 1 p.m., but food is only served from 5 p.m.-10 p.m. The short menu includes breads and dips, chicken wings, pork sliders, beef skewers and the amazing pulled pork nachos (also served for lunch and dinner at Capt. Cook’s restaurant on the main level). People also rave about the ‘Ohana bread pudding with vanilla ice cream and banana-caramel sauce. It’s the signature dessert from its neighbor restaurant, but you can try it here in the lounge without having to spring for that all-you-can-eat meal.

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It’s pretty safe to say that the cocktails at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto are going to blow these out of the water, but I’m sure Tambu Lounge will still draw the devotees it’s earned over the decades. I know I’ll be back for that bread pudding at the very least. In the meantime, I’ll be able to recreate the recipe for the Backscratcher at home, thanks to the reverse engineering of The Atomic Grog.

Related Posts:
Lunch at Capt. Cook’s: Set a Course for…Nachos!
The New Look of the Great Ceremonial House at Disney’s Polynesian Resort
More Tiki Bars in Orlando

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Tiki Treasures from The Story of Disneyland Exhibition & Auction at Van Eaton Galleries

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Right now, the two-room space at Van Eaton Galleries in Sherman Oaks (LA area) is so full of Disney treasures that it may be the next best thing to visiting The Happiest Place on Earth itself. (Also, it’s free and you’re probably less likely to catch measles.)

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It’s all part of The Story of Disneyland: An Exhibition and Sale, one anonymous person’s massive collection that will be auctioned off piece by piece on February 28 & March 1, 2015. A substantial portion of the items are on view to the public through February 27, Tuesday through Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

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The colorful castmember uniforms ($400-$600) from Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room were so popular that the fabric was sold in Adventureland stores. There were a few different patterns, with my favorite being the one featured here on the left (closeup on Instagram). On the right is a vintage hostess costume ($900-$1200) complete with nametag from the now-defunct Tahitian Terrace restaurant. In the middle is an original Enchanted Tiki Room attraction poster ($10,000-$12,000).

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The Adventureland piece with the highest bidding estimate — $20,000-$30,000 — is this animatronic member of the Enchanted Tiki Room’s chorus from the 1970s. It was apparently purchased from an Imagineer who worked on the Tiki Room and it still has all the original hardware inside.

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The same can’t be said for this feathered friend, so he’s valued a little lower at just $18,000-$20,000. How did this little birdie fly away? A cast member received it as a retirement gift from their supervisor! (Sure beats a gold watch.)

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Recognize this? It’s the finial that sat atop the A-frame ticket booth at the entrance to the Enchanted Tiki Room. According to the catalog, an Imagineer rescued this one-of-a-kind piece ($15,000-$20,000) from demolition when the bamboo and wood structure had to be torn down in 2000. Later, renowned carver Leroy Schmaltz of Oceanic Arts was commissioned to make a wooden base for it.

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Not everything will cost you beaucoup bucks, though. There are lots of things in the $100-$200 range, like these Disneyland Moai salt and pepper shakers from 1956. (These seem to appear on eBay for less every now and again, but the attention for this particular auction will surely drive up the price.)

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Now this face I really couldn’t place. Turns out it’s one of three handpainted “Nature Tree Masks” ($2,000-$4,000) that adorned the trees near the loading area of the Jungle Cruise for a few years around 1956.

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There are also six “Tangaroa-Ru Babies” that descended from the flowers of the Tangaroa tree of life at the end of the Enchanted Tiki Room pre-show. Disney Legend/Imagineer Rolly Crump designed these based on Polynesian carvings. They’re estimated to go for about $3,000 each. The deep-pocketed collector could be well on their way to building their own authentic Enchanted Tiki Room.

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Rolly Crump also designed these smaller ceramic versions ($200-$400) that were sold as souvenirs at Disneyland. The catalog notes that they’re rare finds.

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Many of the artifacts were once Disney property or official souvenirs, but there are also stashes of visitors’ personal slides and photographs from over the years. I adore this picture of these ladies posing with the Marquesan tiki that used to be in Adventureland. It’s part of a bundle of 10 amateur photos at Disneyland circa 1956-1959.

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You can browse through the entire collection in the 300-page online catalog, which is also available for purchase in a soft-cover version ($30) and a hard-cover edition ($95, including a complimentary soft-cover copy). (There’s a section dedicated to Disney World’s Polynesian Resort starting on page 287.)

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Which of these items would you bid on if you had unlimited funds? I’d love this flower boat ($12,000-$15,000) from Disney World’s Enchanted Tiki Room as the centerpiece for my own tiki room. Or perhaps the Pirates of the Caribbean skeleton ($60,000-$80,000) guzzling liquor for more of a Smuggler’s Cove style…

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The Story of Disneyland
Van Eaton Galleries
13613 Ventura Blvd.
Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
818-788-2357