Germany Tiki Tour, Part 3: Trader Vic’s Munich

Trader Vic's entrance

Our little tiki tour of Germany started in Nuremberg with Kon Tiki and Die Blume von Hawaii, and concluded a little farther south into Bavaria with Trader Vic’s Munich. During the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, “Trader Vic” Bergeron ramped up the expansion of his eponymous Polynesian-themed restaurants. However, of the more than 20 locations from its mid-century heyday, only a handful of those original establishments are still around today. Trader Vic’s London, which opened in 1963, is the oldest operating branch, followed by Trader Vic’s Munich, which made its debut in 1971.

Inside entrance

This is the only Trader Vic’s location left in Germany (or continental Europe, for that matter), since the closures of Trader Vic’s Berlin (2003-2009) and Trader Vic’s Hamburg (1990-2013). The restaurant is located in the basement of the Bayerischer Hof, an historic hotel that’s a favorite of politicians and celebrities. To the right of the main hotel doors is a blue awning underneath which a Marquesan tiki stands sentry.

Stairway

This entrance leads straight to the staircase descending into this subterranean tiki retreat. It’s flanked by carved tiki poles and decorative metal tiles. (If we’re drawing comparisons, I’d say the tapa-covered spiral stairway of Trader Vic’s London may be more impressive, but Trader Vic’s Munich has the edge when it comes to the rest of the decor.)

Reception

Here, you’ll be greeted by more tall tikis and the reception stand. Straight ahead is the bar and lounge area, while the various dining rooms are to the right.

Bar

On a future visit, I’d try to snag one of the small tables in the bar area, since it’s in the middle of the action. It was a bit confusing to figure out where the lounge seating technically stops, but we were told that anything without a tablecloth is up for grabs. (We checked back here later in the evening and the whole section was full, so I’d recommend arriving on the early side.)

Interior

The space is a labyrinth of interconnecting rooms and it can be difficult to get your bearings, especially if you’ve had a few Mai Tais. But who wouldn’t want to get lost in these gorgeous surroundings?

Dining area

The bamboo and woven matting ceilings are laden with glowing glass fish floats, outrigger canoes, pufferfish lamps and fish trap lanterns. Underneath this medley of textures and ambient lighting, diners are seated at rattan peacock chairs and green banquettes.

Chinese ovens

A glassed-in room houses the large wood-fired Chinese ovens, a signature of Trader Vic’s restaurants. A small sign describes (in German) that the temperature reaches nearly 500°C (around 900°F) and the oak imparts a subtle, smoky flavor to the meat that’s hung inside to cook.

Tableau

We were brought to a table in the farthest section of the restaurant, not too surprising since we hadn’t made reservations. (We had called earlier in the evening and were told it wasn’t necessary for that particular night.) Above our table there was a pretty little tableau of glass fish floats, shells and fake orchids and foliage. (Since we were in a semi-private alcove, I didn’t feel like I wasn’t making too much of a spectacle photographing the meal…)

Crab Rangoon

When you see the menu prices, you will remember you are in one of the fanciest hotels in Munich. Most of the main dishes are in the 30+ euro range, though there are a couple options for about 20 €. Of course, there are Trader Vic’s signatures like the cosmo tidbits platter, ham and cheese bings, bongo bongo soup, etc. Crab Rangoon (11,60 €) is one of my favorites so we had to start with that, especially since our German friend had never tried it before.

Barbecued duck

The menu seems much more extensive than what you’ll find at other remaining locations. (I noticed overlap from vintage menus from Trader Vic’s Beverly Hills.) It was a little overwhelming trying to decide on a main course from all the curries, continental fare (lobster Thermidor) and Chinese oven and wok specialties. I eventually settled on the barbecued duck breast with Polynesian spices, pineapple, mango chutney and Hawaiian potato gratin (30 €). (I don’t know what was supposed to be Hawaiian about it, but it was tasty.)

Wok-fried kangaroo

Our friend chose one of the chef’s specials, which was wok-fried kangaroo with ginger, prunes, shiitake mushrooms, sugar peas and scallions (24,50 €). He wanted to take the opportunity to try a more “exotic” meat than the pork that’s so plentiful in Germany.

Trader Vic's drinks

You’ll find all the classic Trader Vic’s cocktails, naturally, plus the Munich Sour. (The server told us it’s just like the London Sour, but with Cognac instead of Scotch.) I went for the Tiki Puka Puka (16,90 €), while our friend selected the Suffering Bastard (12,30 €) intrigued by the novelty of the name. The drinks were potent, to be sure, but could use a little more finesse. Thankfully, the fantastic setting helps one overlook any flaws.

Trader Vic's sign

If you’re traveling through Germany, be sure to take a momentary detour from the beer gardens and stop in for a Mai Tai at Trader Vic’s Munich. This treasure is like stepping into a tiki time capsule. It’s central and not far from the Marienplatz, Frauenkirche and other sightseeing attractions. As this menehune in the sign helpfully points out, Trader Vic’s is open every day from 5 p.m.-3 a.m.

Trader Vic’s Munich
Bayerischer Hof
Promenadepl. 2-6
80333 München, Germany


Related Posts:

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 1 – Kon Tiki

Germany Tiki Tour, Part 2 – Die Blume Von Hawaii

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Trader Vic’s – London Hilton on Park Lane

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After checking out the Moai and other antiquities at the British Museum, we had planned to meet up with a friend at Trader Vic’s. This was the first overseas location of the chain, opening in 1963 in the London Hilton on Park Lane. (Trader Vic’s once had a franchise partnership with Hilton hotels, but most of those restaurants have closed.)

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The entrance itself is kind of magical, with a giant chandelier and beautiful tapa cloth wrapping around the staircase that takes you down to the restaurant. Also at the top is a display case with some of the standard Trader Vic’s souvenirs, but at prices that will make you cringe if your currency is on the weaker side (£20 for the coconut mug!).

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There was a close call this summer when the hotel suffered a fire in the basement kitchens, but luckily Trader Vic’s needed only minor repairs. They were only serving a limited menu while we were there, and had closed off the lounge area on the right. (The restaurant is scheduled to fully re-open on November 1.)

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We were seated up on the left in the dining room. The decor is topnotch, with carved tiki poles, suspended outriggers, fish floats, large shells and bamboo, but I particularly liked the nautical touches of the lanterns, model ships and small yacht club flags along the wall.

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Between these spaces is the bar, where an amplified acoustic guitar player was performing. Alas, the music was too loud and the wrong style (Latin) and detracted from the ambience. Earlier in the night it was filled with businessmen sipping scorpion bowls. (But sadly no werewolves drinking Pina Coladas…)

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In recent years Trader Vic’s has censored their original menus by making the ladies much more modest, so it was amusing to find this saucy sign.

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I always like to order the signature drink of that particular Trader Vic’s, and here it’s the London Sour (£9), which Trader Vic himself made for the restaurant’s debut. It’s composed of Scotch whisky with orgeat, orange and lemon juice. (At other Trader Vic’s, it’s made with Bourbon and dubbed the Eastern Sour.) I don’t drink much Scotch so I was a bit hesitant about this one, but I loved it. The balance between sweet and sour was just perfect.

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Now if only I had quit while I was ahead. Instead I was intrigued by the section of the cocktail menu that went beyond the Trader Vic’s classics and ordered the Wanilla (£13.50), made with St. Aubin vanilla rum, pineapple, “a touch of Mandarin” and Prosecco. I had hoped for something fruity and bubbly, but there was an artificial taste to this that was a total turnoff.

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Minor missteps aside, it was such a thrill to visit one of the original Trader Vic’s. It was also great chatting with one of the friendly hosts about Trader Vic’s—he seemed impressed by my enthusiasm. 🙂

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Trader Vic’s is located in the Mayfair district just east of Hyde Park and is quite convenient to slake a thirst after sightseeing. Plus, Mahiki is less than a kilometer away so you could turn the night into a tiki bar mini-crawl. (Definitely hit up the Mahiki first, though, for reasons that will be explained later.)

Trader Vic’s
London Hilton on Park Lane
22 Park Lane
London, W1K 1PN, United Kingdom
020-7208-4113

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

Trader Vic’s Los Angeles – L.A. Live Downtown

While many major cities lack even one Trader Vic’s, Los Angeles is lucky enough to have two! (Sort of. The Beverly Hills “lounge” is a story for another time.) This is one of the newer locations of this historic tiki chain—it opened in 2009 in the LA LIVE complex downtown.

Being so close to Staples Center, the bar is the perfect spot for a postgame drink—win or lose. Suffering Bastards are particularly popular when it’s the latter. Happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3 p.m.-6 p.m., offering discounted appetizers and a handful of $6 cocktails (Mai Tai, Bahia, Navy Grog, etc.).

The dining room does an elegant take on tiki decor, with high, angled ceilings, lots of bamboo, lanterns, green booths, green Chinese tiles and beautiful tapa cloth covering some of the walls. It’s a lovely oasis amid all the glass and steel of downtown.

I always try the signature drink for each location, here it’s the Big Kahuna ($12) made with light rum, undisclosed fruit juices, passionfruit, grenadine and brandy. Even better, you can order it in a Tiki Farm mug specially designed for Trader Vic’s LA. We also opted for the Peach Tree Punch ($10), a sweet slushie-like drink with light rum, peach, orange and coconut

It’s widely assumed that the food at tiki spots usually doesn’t compare to the quality of the drinks, but Trader Vic’s has a reputation for serving pretty good grub. The meal starts off in a unique way, with bread and peanut butter!

The Bongo Bongo soup ($8) is a classic Trader Vic’s dish, and according to Jeff Berry’s Taboo Table, this velouté of oysters and spinach was inspired by a special type of clam the Maori ate in New Zealand. It kind of looks like a swamp and it has a very distinct flavor that’s not for everyone, but I liked it.

Mr. Baseball is a bit of a pyromaniac so he loved that the Beef Cho Cho ($11) was served with a mini hibachi to finish cooking the seared steak with soy sake sauce.

And what could be a better follow-up to meat than…more meat? He thought the wasabi crusted filet mignon ($32) was well-prepared but he wasn’t so crazy about the smoked Asian ratatouille. It looks like they’ve added Hawaiian spiced fries to this item since we dined there awhile back.

I was really blown away by the chai tea duck with yam-scallion puree, long beans and sherry ginger reduction ($24). It was so tender and flavorful. Overall we had a wonderful meal and our server couldn’t have been nicer.

Trader Vic’s has also teamed up with the Regal Cinemas at LA LIVE to offer a dinner and a movie special that includes a three-course meal and movie ticket for $30 per person, just in case you needed yet another reason to get down there.

Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon

UPDATE: Sadly, Trader Vic’s LA closed March 18, 2014.