The Tonga Room has been officially crossed off my bucket list! A Polynesian, Hawaiian Island, South Seas tropical experience. It is a place everyone should go to once in order to say “been there, done that”. I can’t believe it has been around since 1945 and it took me this long to get there. Once you go it is not a place you would frequent. However it could be a place you return with out of town guests for a tropical retreat from the city buzz. We had a great time with friends celebrating a birthday. We went for the full experience, umbrella drinks and all. If you do go, here are my tips and comments.
- If on a budget skip dinner, get there before 5 to get into the bar when it opens, order a drink at happy hour prices ($6-7) and pay the $10 for the buffet to give the food a try. This way you get to experience the place, have an island cocktail but not drop $300 bucks on dinner. We arrived at 5:15pm and the bar was already full but there were only a few people left in line so make note, the later it gets the longer the line becomes.
- We went traditional Tonga ordering the group meal for four. It was pricy at $50pp considering it was basically Chinese food but remember it’s the atmosphere and tropical experience you are paying for in a fancy SF hotel. If we would have ordered a la carte however it would have been more. What was nice about the group meal was it gave us variety and the opportunity to try many dishes. It included 3 pieces of 3 different appetizers for each of us (a spring roll – the maple mayo dipping sauce was the best, a rib and a chicken satay skewer), 3 entrees and one veggie to share (Mongolian beef with oyster mushrooms was to die for and I would have taken a doggie bag if I would have been heading home next. I never had an oyster mushroom, loved the ruffled edges along with the tender beef all smothered in oyster sauce. It wasn’t spicy like I expected but tasty none the less; Dragon Chicken was good; Firecracker Shrimp a bit bland vs spicy as the name might imply; Green Beans in a garlic black bean sauce was very good especially considering I don’t care for green beans), rice and a dessert for each (a deconstructed banana cream pie, very tasty and just the right size).
- If it was just the two of us or if it is my second visit I would go for the a la cart fresh fish flown in from Hawaii, ranging from $26-28.
- Drinks were also pricy but not too bad considering what we ordered and where we were. Like I said we went for the full experience and shared the Scorpion fishbowl at $32 which was cheaper than individual Mai Tai’s at $12. The Scorpion is served in a large ceramic bowl, with umbrellas, pineapple and the longest straws ever. It was pretty comical as the four of us maneuvered for our spot in the bowl.
- The bar area isn’t huge so be early to get the best spot but since getting in is a challenge in itself don’t be picky. There more tables than bar seats and since the bar faces the back corner wall I would go for a table.
- After 8pm you are charged a band cover even if you were seated prior to 8pm so make sure if it is getting close to 8 and you are almost done that you cash out before they tack on another $8pp band cover. It is very odd that they charge those who are seated, especially considering the prices. If you are still drinking you shouldn’t be charged. If you are just taking up space then I might understand.
- The décor reminded me of “Pirates of the Caribbean” in Disneyworld but less intimate and rambling. The tables are positioned around the rectangular pool built in 1929, the band (after 8pm) sits on a floating barge towards the back of the pool, over the pools perimeter, every 20 minutes it rains, accompanied by thunder which gives you that outdoor tropical rainforest feel so ask for a seat next to the pool rail and enjoy.