I recently watched friends and acquaintances profess their undying love for tiki culture in the well-received documentary, "Plastic Paradise." With a Polynesian bruddah-in-law, hapa-haole nephew, and a mother who spent many of her formative years on the island of Oahu, I feel like there was no escaping my own predilection for Polynesian pop.
|Incredible logo and art direction by Kevin Kidney|
As much as I enjoyed the program, I was a little disheartened at the documentary's discussion of the fundamental role Chinese food played in the tiki movement; it made me think of Hong Kong Inn, Ventura, CA's recently-shuttered outpost of 1960's-era Chinese food and Polynesian entertainment. I was sad that I'd never had the chance to enjoy the hopistality of the Kwan brothers who opened Hong Kong Inn in 1964. Seeing Hong Kong Inn's final Facebook post that read, "After 48 wonderful years, 100,000 Scorpions and Mai Tai's, 3,600 Polynesian revues, 10 children, and 15 grandchildren, the Hong Kong Inn of Ventura will be closing its doors on November 30, 2012. We're retiring," I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to survive on the myth, the legend that was Hong Kong Inn.
|Hong Kong Inn - Ventura, CA|
Good wicky wacky tiki tacky always begins with a good sign!
Then one happy day, about two weeks ago, my uncle sent me a beautiful picture.
|"Grand Re-Opening: Under New Management"|
Could it be true?!
Without dallying, I hopped straight onto the Google and searched for documented proof of Hong Kong Inn's rebirth. I nervously dialed the phone number that I found online, half expecting a disconnected line or an interminable ringtone. I was overjoyed at the sound of a sweet human voice who confirmed the restaurant's reopening and the perpetuation of Hong Kong Inn's finest traditions. At the very first opportunity, all available members of the wacky tacky adventure team hit the road for old Hong Kong.
|Emily was so happy when she learned that at Hong Kong Inn she wouldn't |
have to make a choice; they have Chinese AND American food!!!
|The rest of us were immediately impressed by the lanterns, the twelve-foot mural of |
Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, the highly-decorated bar, and the awesome placemat graphics!
|I have never considered the position of celebrity-chef, Gordon Ramsay, a particularly enviable one; on top of the |
daily root touch-ups and impossible highlight maintenance, there is the relegation of all that shameless, persona-propagating, coronary-inducing, red-faced bellowing to Friday nights on the Fox Network. Never let it be said, however, that I am not a sucker for a good makeover. I don't want to intimate that Hong Kong Inn is a prime candidate for Ramsay's "Kitchen Nightmares," but it wouldn't take much doing, in terms of decorating and recipe revision, to make it a "Kitchen dream come true."
Instead of dwelling on paltry, culinary quibbles, let's take a moment to observe Jesse
performing what I can only assume is a tiki mating ritual - the offering of the half-eaten rib.
Even if the food at Hong Kong Inn isn't the very best "Chinese & American Food" you've ever eaten, I'm told that the wealth of rum-infused tropical drinks more than makes up for any deficits. Plus, the real purpose of our pilgrimage north of the Los Angeles/Ventura County line was Hong Kong Inn's finest offering, the "Polynesian Review!"*
|"Expressions of Polynesia," the exotic, island-style floor show as masterfully|
presented by the talented performers from Kealoha & Company, is Hong Kong
Inn's greatest legacy.
Usually it's a bad night when a pair of poi balls makes intimate contact with another
very significant pair but nothing could dampen the fun of participating in the show!
|My poor poi performance notwithstanding, the whole show was wonderful!|
My very favorite performers were actually a dynamic mother-daughter duo.
Tina (mother) was the stage manager, musical director, comic relief, and
songstress for the evening; if you've never heard the bone-chilling beauty
of Polynesian harmonies, then do yourself a favor and find Tina ASAP. Her
daughter was a premier dancer among the spectacular troupe; I was so taken by
her dancing, particularly the mind-blowing, Tahitian duck walk, that I completely
forgot to capture it on video.
We had such a great time at Hong Kong Inn; by the end of the evening, all typical restaurant protocol was broken as we chatted, mixed, mingled, and table-hopped. Hong Kong Inn's Polynesian review had all the luxury of a lavish luau and all the honest charm of a homespun hukilau.
|Mahalo, Mauru'uru, and Fa'afetai, and Xie Xie to Kealoha & Co. and Hong Kong Inn!!!|
If you have a taste for tiki, if you want for wacky tacky, if you long for old Hong Kong, be sure to make your way to Hong Kong Inn. Go for the chow mein, stay for the ALOHA!!!
Hong Kong Inn
435 E Thompson Blvd
*The Polynesian Review is only performed on Friday and Saturday nights from 7:30-9:30PM (early arrival is highly recommended)
Cheers and Talofa!