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Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tiki Cocktail Adventures: Tiki Lounge

Le Tiki Lounge
26 bis rue de la Fontaine au Roi
75011 Paris

Since 1931 when Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt aka Don the Beachcomber set up the first tiny tiki joint in Hollywood, this kitschy culture has been injecting a bit of South Pacific fun into cocktails and given birth to some of world’s most notorious rum based drinks like the mai tai and the Zombie. Tiki style bars and drinks have experienced a resurgence over the past several years with hotspots like PKNY (New York) and - my favorite - Smugglers Cove (San Francisco) garnering international attention for their transcendent tiki drinks. This month Paris has finally taken to the trend with its first dedicated tiki bar: Tiki Lounge.

Tiki Lounge is kitted out with all the appropriate decor details: masks and carvings, creaky rattan furniture, and ceramic mugs. Blowfish lamps hang from the ceiling alongside glass floats. On the night of my visit, a few customers sat at the small thatched bar chatting with the friendly owners while south seas sounding music - with a bit of Tom Waits thrown into the mix - played in the background.

Thanks to the tiki theme, the menu diverges from the usual multiple vodka-based choices and features mainly rum. While they do offer a few things like caipis, mojitos and cosmos, the nine tiki options are front and center. All but two are rum-based, with the exceptions being a Waikiki Breeze with tequila and an Eastern Sour with whisky. Most of their classic tiki cocktails like the mai tai, missionary's downfall and pina colada mainly adhere to simplified standard recipes. Drink prices are 8 Euros and drop to 5.5 Euros during the 18h - 20h30 happy hour.

I started with one of tiki's most familiar and debated drinks: the mai tai (theirs contains two types of rum, orgeat and 'citrus.') While this isn't the exact recipe I might use, I was pleasantly surprised. Based on experience I was preparing for an overly sweet alcohol masking mix. But, you could taste the rum through the light touch of orgeat and citrus and I enjoyed it (espeically at happy hour price). They also offer their own "Tiki Lounge Mai Tai" which includes pineapple juice and grenadine. I was less impressed with the tequila based Waikiki Breeze and I was really hoping one of my drinks would have come in a coconut shell or tiki mug. While we were sampling, the crowd was growing and an hour or so later, the place was busy with a hipstamatic young crowd who were probably grooving on the themed vibe as much as (or more than?) the drinks.

Thanks to the friendly atmosphere and novel (to Paris) ambience, I enjoyed my visit. However, I think there are some areas where they could amp things up the drinks front. I'd like to see their current offering of 5 rums bumped up. I think a more extensive offering of tiki drinks diverging from just the most popular ones could be interesting. And, just for fun, I’d like to see their bar munchies move from crisps, carrots and dip to something more theme-appropriate.

From a strictly drinks perspective, the Tiki Lounge can't compete with some of the internationally known big boys of tikidom or even some of the bars in town like Prescription or Curio who occasionally feature a tiki option on menu and have the range of rums and necessary ingredients to pull them off with aplomb. But for nightcrawlers seeking the whole tiki experience – deco and all - this is currently the only place in town to get it. It may be just baby steps, but it is a valid start to the tiki trend in Paris.

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12 Comments:

Blogger Sugar Daze said...

Adding this to my places to visit - it's been ages since I've been to a tiki bar & miss the ambiance. Not so sure it was ever about the drinks. Glad to have your opinion on the Waikiki Breeze (I'm a tequila gal myself) and I probably would have ordered it. Thanks as always for the awesome suggestions, Forest!

January 19, 2012 at 10:22 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

My pleasure, as always! And thank you for the nice feedbak. Yes, I thought the tequila would be an interesting twist. It wasn't bad - i just liked the mai tai much better.

January 19, 2012 at 10:36 AM  
Anonymous Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

I'm divided about Tiki bars. On one hand, they're fun, but I prefer more serious bars and drinks. Maybe I spent too much time at Club Med drinking watered down sweet cocktails to enjoy them! ;)

January 19, 2012 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger virani said...

Nice Review.
As a tikifanatic, I agree with your review, the drinks could be better, but the place is the only tiki bar in Paris, and they did an awesome work with the decor and the mood is perfect. I'm a regular now. Next time, have the "Missionary Downfall", pretty good !
Corinne : maybe you haven't been to the best tiki bars like the Tiki-Ti in LA, Mai Kai in Florida, Smuggler's Cove and Forbidden Island in SF, Trader Vics everywhere... that serves fantastic cocktails.
I'm very serious about drinks, and I still think there is nothing like a good rum tiki drink when done properly.

January 21, 2012 at 10:35 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Virani: Thanks for the input! So, what do you think? Is this going to kick off the opening of more tiki joints in Paris??

January 21, 2012 at 10:47 AM  
Blogger virani said...

I sure hope so ! I've been waited for years to see a tiki bar here.
I honestly love the place, it's way better than lots of other neo tiki bars that I visited around the globe (places that closed fastly).
It's the way it should be : dark, filled with tikis, vintage art as well as new but tastefull art selection, they will have their own tiki mugs soon (yes, I agree, that's the way it should be), music is right, they will also add special events in the basement with a dj booth (exotica, 50's and 60's music, hawaiian), maybe some snacks could be a plus, as well as more tiki drinks but they are just starting...
hey, for the beer drinker, they even have Hinano, the Tahitian beer.

January 22, 2012 at 2:48 AM  
Anonymous Paris wedding venues said...

Seems a pretty good idea. We will recommend you to our clients. it is worth trying, and it is well-situated.

January 25, 2012 at 7:18 AM  
Blogger Celeste said...

If you like tiki bars and tiki drinks, check out the cocktail recipe books by Jeff "Beachbum" Berry. Tiki drinks aren't supposed to be sugary swill that one of the other commenters mentioned. As someone else posted, the Mai Kai in Florida USA is the place to go, and Trader Vic's. I've been to the Tiki Ti in Low Angeles too. Get Berry's books, they are fantastic.

January 27, 2012 at 7:46 AM  
Blogger Dan Robinson said...

Wife and I are taking our first trip to Paris in September and she ran across your blog. We are really enjoying and and am excited to try some of the places you highlight. I love Tiki Bar's myself.

Thanks for sharing.

January 27, 2012 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Forest said...

Celeste: Thanks for the suggestion!
Dan: Hope the blog will be helpful for your visit and you can always drop a mail if you have a specific question or are looking for something that's not on the blog!

January 28, 2012 at 12:43 AM  
Blogger The Sentimental Suitcase said...

Oh man looks like fun! We used to love a little hole in the wall tiki type place on rue de lappe near the far end. The older lady who runs it offers 5 dollar cocktails till midnight and comes with a little something to eat. You know that one?
XO
Sam

January 30, 2012 at 9:02 AM  
Blogger Forest said...

Sam: you're just going to have to get back out for a visit and we can try it! :)

January 30, 2012 at 1:37 PM  

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