Back in time

We saw Skyfall last night.  I loved it, Gail hated it.  I thought it was great movie making, taking the Bond franchise back to more interpersonal action and away from the silly pyrotechnics.  Gail thought it was too long.  Gail thinks most movies are too long.  She likes one act plays, too.

One important thing about Skyfall is its return to Bond’s roots.  There are many references to the older movies, especially the very early ones.  It feels like old home week for a Bond fan.

And that takes me to dinner.  Because we went to the AMC theater in Emeryville, Gail got the brilliant idea to go to Trader Vic’s, and it was a hoot.

I’d never been there, although I grew up reading about the place in Herb Caen’s column.  The iconic location in San Francisco is long gone, but the one on the water in Emeryville soldiers on.

Going to Trader Vic’s is like stepping back in time to the early 70’s when Vic Bergeron ruled his food empire and the Tahitian/Polynesian architecture and decor were cool instead of retro.  We gave our car to the valet, and went back in time 40 years.

It seems like it would be impossible to make Trader Vic's any more kitschy, but then they added the Santa hats to the Kiki gods

It seems like it would be impossible to make Trader Vic’s any more kitschy, but then they added the Santa hats to the Tiki gods

I suppose I should have had a Mai Tai (a Trader Vic’s invention) in honor of the place, but I’ve already had a cocktail this year.

The room is pleasant, especially if you appreciate retro chic.  Naturally, everything that didn’t move was draped in Christmas colors, which clash with the regular jungle green and beige color scheme.  The windows looking out on the Bay must provide a wonderful view in daytime; we got to enjoy the sight of the many sailboats in the Emeryville marina draped in Christmas lights.

It really is a nice dining room.

It really is a nice dining room.

Decor is interesting, but what about the food?  The menu is in keeping with everything else–Hawaiian, polynesian, what have you.  There is a definite Chinese bent to the menu, as well.  All of the meats are cooked in a pair of enormous wood-fired ovens on prominent display as you walk in.  I should think it is like walking into the best restaurant in Honolulu in 1957.

Odd though the menu might be, the food is good.  I started with the Tuna Poke, cubes of raw tuna and avocado served with Taro chips:

Tuna Poke

Tuna Poke

The poke (which is pronounced poke-y)  was first rate.  Very fresh sashimi grade tuna, ripe avocados, crisp taro chips.  This is better than a salad anyday.

Brad had the Trader Vic’s version of mu shu pork:

Boneless pork chop, mu shu pancakes and vegetables.

Boneless pork chop, mu shu pancakes and vegetables.

This is essentially the traditional mu shu pork, except that there was an entire boneless pork chop instead of little shredded strips of pork.  A steamer with the pancakes and a gravy boat of plum sauce completed the arrangement.  Very good, very interesting.

I went with the coconut curry, served in a very old fashioned style with a 7 condiments in a setting made for the purpose:

Chicken coconut curry with 7 condiments.

Chicken coconut curry with 7 condiments.

The curry comes accompanied with pineapple, raisins, pickles, tomato chutney, chili sauce, sunflower seeds and shredded coconut, to mix in as you choose.  A bowl of rice is on the side.  It wasn’t perhaps the best curry I’ve ever had, but I enjoyed it.  Gail had the lamb curry, and thought it was wonderful.

Iris ordered the mahi-mahi, and cleaned her plate.

The food must have been good, we were all too full to consider dessert.

Going in, the question in my mind was “Is Trader Vic’s a local classic, or a has-been tourist trap?”  The Bergeron family still owns and operates the joint, and they are staying true to the original, in style and in spirit.  I think I’m going to call this a local classic–you might not want to eat here every Friday night, but it’s clearly a place you want to experience.
Trader Vic's on Urbanspoon


4 thoughts on “Back in time

  1. OMG, we saw Skyfall at Emeryville late yesterday afternoon
    … we must have almost run into you guys! We both liked the movie.
    I personally appreciated some of the return to a little camp and
    the tongue-in-cheek references. Our post theatre dining was not
    quite as exciting as yours; turkey bolognese with sautéed mushrooms
    and carmelized onions on whole wheat pasta. 🙂

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