Being the first time I've ever been to a Trader Vic's, I have to say I was very much surprised on how good it was. Not that I had low expectations, but it was way better than I had imagine Hawaiian / Asian Fusion cuisine could be. First things first... start off with a nice strong drink from their Tiki Bar. They have a huge variety, and who can say no to a drink from the people who invented the Mai Tai. I went with the Big Kahuna which came topped with a flamming lime .... interesting, crowd pleasing, and tasty. If you're there for more than just drinks, I'd recommend several items on their dinner menu. The lamb by far was my favorite. It was flavorful and tender. Cooked perfectly in their Han Dynasty old smoking oven. My second pick would probably be the Miso Sea Bass. Although it's "normal" for a Asian fusion restaurant, it was cooked perfectly with just the right amount of miso. The sea bas was tender, flakey, and buttery ... just perfect. The pork chop was pretty good as well, not super juicy but not dry either. The portions were at least pretty good. Lastly, their cheese cake was awesome. We also had the banana fritters, but they were more "regular". I'd definitely go again, but I have to save up. It ended up being a little pricey at $60 / person (tip + tax included)
I was a bit hesitant to eat here due to having shellfish allergies, but my son wanted to give it a try. I took a look at the menu before we were seated and saw that there were some "safe" dishes for me to try, so I figured why not. I wasn't very hungry so I ordered a "Fork and Knife" Caesar Salad. I wanted to get a lunch-sized portion but we were too late for that, so our server suggested that I get the Garden Fresh Starter Salad and substitute the dressing with Caesar which actually was pretty good and just the right size. It was perfectly complimented with warm, crusty bread. My son was quite hungry and ordered the Penne Pesto and substituted halibut for the standard Blackened Salmon. The dish also featured kalamata olives, sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms. I'd say from the cleanliness of the plate that the dish was quite tasty. In spite of how chaotic the place was - it was a Friday night, the Lakers were playing, and there were concerts at both the Nokia Theatre and the smaller Club Nokia - we were seated quickly and served promptly. I'll definitely go back when I have more of an appetite, and will update this review accordingly.
If you are hungry for good old crunchy fried fish then go! The chips are not particularly good; I barely touch them, in fact. Everything else on the menu is OK if you want a fried food fix. (As you may have gathered this is not exactly a place you'll want to tell your cardiologist you sneak off to from time to time). It's all about FRIED shrimp, mushrooms, prawns,scallops,etc. If they could fry the cole slaw they probably would! Thus it's a little like carnival food, and can be fun once in awhile. As for the staff taking orders, they are a rather dour lot; I have honestly never seen a smile there once. Perhaps being around all that boiling grease is unpleasant. More likely, it is nothing more than a language issue. I have almost always found their counter staff a little hard to understand, but so what? Bring on the fish! It is what it is, (and sometimes I marvel that it remains in business; one would think it would go the way of, say, Pioneer Chicken, which was a grease-lovers' delight as well.) It's a guilty pleasure once in a while and the fish is yummy.