The Tonga Lei Room at The Beachcomber Malibu

I already like The Beachcomber Cafe in Malibu on its own merits, but its crown jewel is The Tonga Lei Room, located at the end of the bar in the building next to the restaurant.

This little enclave of tiki fabulousness can be reserved for private parties of up to 10, but we’ve had the pleasure of dining there for lunch and on slow winter nights. (The full menu is offered.)

This Bamboo Ben (Frankie’s Tiki Room, Forbidden Island) project pays tribute to the Tonga Lei, a tiki restaurant and motel from the ’60s portrayed in that framed picture. (He even incorporated the signature font into the signage.)

When I met Bamboo Ben last week, he told me that if you look out the window pictured above, you can actually see where the old Tonga Lei used to be before it was turned into a branch of Don the Beachcomber. It’s now the Malibu Beach Inn.

Towards the bottom of this Maori tiki it reads: “No Push Button – Make Tiki Gods Angry.” So what happens when you push the button? I guess you’ll just have to go and find out!

The whole room is wired with a sound system so you can set the mood with exotica music, though you’ll most likely have to make a special request to the staff. (On one visit it took a lot of tinkering for them to get it to switch from the sports station!)

As if there wasn’t already enough to look at, the glass tabletop displays shells and ephemera like postcards and swizzle sticks from various tiki spots and Hawaiian landmarks.

I love this place so much that we came here for my birthday lunch, and one of the new things I tried was The Bootlegger made with banana rum, orange and pineapple juices ($9). I’m not a banana fan so it wasn’t my favorite, what I really wanted was the accompanying mug, which is designed to look like a rum running crate. Crystal Cove, where the other Beachcomber Cafe can be found, has historical ties to that era. (For more, see my post on The Bootlegger Bar.)

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately the Beachcomber Cafe in Malibu, and therefore the Tonga Lei Room, closed at the end of 2011. The Beachcomber Cafe in Crystal Cove (Orange County) remains open.


The Beachcomber Cafe – Malibu Pier, CA

It takes a lengthy, winding drive from The Valley to get to The Beachcomber in Malibu, but the trek is definitely worth it for me. It’s from the same owners as the nostalgic (but sorta cheesy) Ruby’s Diner chain—in fact there’s a branch at the opposite end of the Malibu Pier—but the food and atmosphere here is several notches better.

With the wooden interior, peaked ceiling and green and copper details back by the kitchen, the dining room has a similar old-school feel to its sister restaurant in Orange County, but on a much larger scale.

The Tonga Lei for two ($16) is the best cocktail I’ve tried on their menu so far. It’s apparently made with three kinds of rum, mango, orange and pineapple juices, but it’s the bit of bubbles from the champagne that makes it for me. This drink is normally served in a Tiki Farm-made bowl customized for these locations (you can spot them in my Bootlegger Bar photos).

The Beachcomber has a bit of a hedonistic history, which is underscored by the fun presentation of the lobster, tomato and mango martini ($14). I love the olive garnish! (And the kicky guacamole at the bottom of the glass.)

The wild mushroom and truffle macaroni and cheese ($17) and the baked blue cheese and tomato soup are my favorite things to order here. It’s a big bowlful of creamy, ‘shroomy goodness!

On one of our last visits we mixed it up and got the grilled chicken with “pineapple carpaccio” (fancy way of saying thinly sliced pineapple), yuzu sauce, rice and veggies ($18). Not bad but I’ll be sticking with my mac!

Mr. Hockey (I forgot that Mr. Baseball requested a name change after the Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup) usually has the filet mignon ($29) with grilled veggies and potatoes.

The “Gimme S’mores”(Some more of what?…You’re killing me, Smalls!) dessert ($8) is yet another martini glass filled with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, toasted marshmallow and graham crackers. But even better is the…

Donut hole bread pudding! It’s topped with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce and it’s a study in decadence. If you’re one of those people that criticizes desserts for being too sweet then this is not for you. (All the more for me!)

Yep, the food is good and the view is great (especially from their swank outdoor patio), but the best (and truly tiki) part about The Beachcomber is The Tonga Lei room!

The Beachcomber at Malibu Pier
23000 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90265

The Beachcomber Cafe on Urbanspoon

Editor’s Note: Unfortunately the Beachcomber Cafe in Malibu, and therefore the Tonga Lei Room, closed at the end of 2011. The Beachcomber Cafe in Crystal Cove (Orange County) remains open.