Photos: Los Angeles Has A New Boozy, Tiki Supper Club
Tiki as a trend comes and goes, but for tiki-philes, coconuts as drinkware and Hawaiian shirts are always apropos. For them—and those who might be persuaded by the rum-drenched lifestyle if only for a night—there's now an underground supperclub in L.A. dedicated to the cause.
The Coconut Club, a self-proclaimed "tropical-kitsch dining adventure" that pops up at different venues around town, is the work of one chef, two cocktailians, and a charismatic host. It is essentially a multi-course dinner party with around 30 guests, plenty of tropical drinks, a gong, and a big screen that runs a psychedelic loop of beach-themed film and television clips (Gilligan's Island and Savage Beach, included) in the background.
Hosted at Sonny's Hideaway in Highland Park, the most recent date started off with a cocktail hour, which patrons were permitted to join after giving the password at the door. Each was then handed a cup of rum punch, ladled from a pineapple-embossed punch bowl, naturally. Snacks, including spiced nuts, house-made yucca chips and baby bananas, were presented in a multi-tiered wooden hors d'oeuvres tower straight out of a 1960s issue of Sunset Magazine.
The stiffness of the first drink, and every one thereafter, quickly created a mingling atmosphere, which is a good thing because seats were assigned for the evening's dinner portion, and strangers sat face to face for a couple of hours. Luckily, The Coconut Club attracts interesting and friendly characters—at our table there was a bona fide tiki expert who had traveled the country's top tiki bars and had tales to tell, a renowned pastry chef, an ice cream empire owner, and a popular cocktail blogger.
The menu, created by Chef Andy Windak, who says he was inspired to contemporize the cuisine of "old school tropical supper clubs of the past," is a whimsical affair from beginning—a pineapple-shaped bread roll with a matching pat of butter—to end—a volcano-shaped rum cake complete with flowing maraschino lava. It could be argued, however, that the humor went a smidgen too far with the baby octopus salad, which is presented with an umbrella toothpick sticking out of the little sea creature's head.
That transgression was made up for by the meal's highlights, including the pupu platter with duck bao, coconut chicken and coconut-braised yam, which is served on a torch-lit plate; and the main course of thinly sliced, rolled kurobuta pork belly and asparagus on top of macadamia nut mash.
As is common for supper clubs, there tends to be a lot of downtime between courses, so it's important that the booze flows, and it does. Created by Elana Lepkowski, who writes the Stir and Strain blog, and cocktail consultant Nathan Hazard, the five drinks served throughout the night are well conceived and easy to down. The strong and tasty Coconut Cocktail Club mixed with Selvarey white rum, passionfruit, maraschino liqueur, and coconut-macadamia-cardamom foam comes in the requisite hollowed coconut, and the very literal "Shrimp Cocktail," a coconut-shrimp topped glass of pineapple-infused pisco, coconut-lemongrass syrup, lime, egg white, and bitters is all sorts of fun.
"The Coconut Club is all about reverence, elevation and whimsy. My standard is always to ask myself but is it fun? about a cocktail I'm playing with. If it excites me and feels fresh, while essentially rooted in Tiki, it's a keeper," says Hazard.
"It's such a special event," says repeat customer Jay Wade Edwards of Cypress Park, "It's just fun and they put a lot of work into making it an event, not just a dinner."
And that was before the five cocktails.
The Coconut Club returns to Sonny's Hideaway November 17. Tickets can be purchased at their website.