Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cocktails in the City - Tonga Room & The Hurricane Bar

If you've read a San Francisco guide book or have visited SF before, chances are you've heard about the Tonga Room at The Fairmont Hotel. 

Jim, Jose, Mijo and I went to the Tonga Room for our Thursday cocktail hour. Can you believe I've never been here before? It is themed so it is on the tacky-looking side of the scale. But did I have a great time? Absolutely!

I love our once a month Thursday libations with our friends Jim and Jose. Not only they are fun to hang out with, they also know their drinks well. They also enjoy exploring new cocktail venues with us.  I cannot say they are regulars at the Tonga Room, but they've been there a lot of times already. Mijo has also been there as well. It was my first time.

I am not sure if the Tonga Room is a tourist attraction, a landmark, a destination or just a drinkin place? There were plans to close down the Tonga Room a couple of years ago and I remember Mijo and I lining up one Friday evening so we can drink there before it closes down. The line was so long that we eventually left after waiting an hour in line. So finally there were no long lines on Thursday. It was meant for me to be there last week. :)

The photo below is the view from the California St. side of the Fairmont Hotel. It was raining and cold that night.

I am not an expert on Tiki bars and I am not a fan of themed bars and restaurants either so I tried my best to have an open mind for this happy hour. From the outside, this bar seems very different from our cocktail venues such as Ame Bar at St. Regis, Top of the Mark, Seasons at Four Seasons Hotel, etc. When we got inside, I gasped because of the tropical themed interior design and with a matching thunder and rain and a fake lagoon to complete that tropical feel. I was told the MGM designed the interior of the Tonga Room. If you've been to The Fairmont Hotel, the Tonga Room is million miles away in terms of style.
Tonga Room - Fairmont Hotel

Putting the themed interior aside, I was impressed with the available tropical cocktails served at the Tonga Room. It was a challenge picking just one. I decided to go for the Tonga Itch because I thought my first drink here should have a Tonga in its name.  The cocktail includes an array of ingredients - vodka, rum, orange curaçao & pineapple juice, topped with grenadine. It was super delicious and very refreshing! The drink came in this huge glass which may contain twice the amount of the usual cocktail serving.

Tonga Room -Tonga Tart

Mijo ordered a Pina Colada containing white rum blended with pineapple juice, coconut syrup & cream
strawberry, banana, or passion fruit.  Jim ordered Bore Bora which includes rum, banana liqueur & grand marnier mixed with fresh pineapple juice.  Jose ordered Chi Chi containing vodka blended with fresh pineapple juice, coconut syrup & cream

Tonga Room - Libations

We decided to pair these refreshing cocktails with an order of sweet potato fries, calamari and crab sliders.
Tonga Room - Food pairings

On the pool or the lagoon, there is a live band playing classic rock, 70s and 80s music.  There is also as small dance floor for people who wish to show they have rhythm. As for me, Mijo and our friends, we were contented with just catching up with what is everyone is up to.

Tonga Room - Hurricane Bar

There was no long lines on Thursday evening. After two hours, the themed setting of the Tonga Room grew on me. I finally get the tiki appeal. After all, it is a San Francisco institution. You just have to go there, sample a drink or two and savor all that tiki goodness the venue has to offer. I am glad we went. I absolutely recommend this place to locals and tourists alike.
Tonga Room - Crowd

The Tonga Room & the Hurricane Bar is located inside The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco's Nob Hill neighborhood.


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