Monday, June 21, 2010
Friday afternoon, The Dread Dormomoo, Loen, and I headed north to Smyrna, TN to revel in Polynesian kitsch with Gothgeek and fam. The Omni Hut is a fifty-year-old tiki restaurant in Middle Tennessee, and is a wonder. The history of the place is found on their website, and I invite you to visit it. As I opened the door, I breathed in the redolence of an early-sixties family restaurant. We went in, saw the South-Seas hostess, who took our party info on a little spiral pad. The small lobby had chairs, a small aquarium with a few fish, and several lovely anemones. Next to the tank was a stack of magazines for those easily bored with the sea life.
We entered the dining room through a beaded curtain, and were politely seated by our waitress. She gave us menus, and took our drinks order. The Omni Hut has existed for fifty years without a liquor license. How have they stayed in business without selling beer and spirits?
Great food, great service...
Patrons are welcome, nay, invited to bring whatever potent potables they wish. More on this later.
GG recommended the TAHITIAN FEAST:
EGG FLOWER SOUP, BORA BORA (Bacon Wrapped Pineapple Chunks), WON TON, CRAB RANGOON, EGG ROLL, RUMAKI (Bacon wrapped Chicken livers and water chestnuts dredged in island sauce.), POLYNESIAN PIT RIBS, BEEF TERIYAKI STICKS, SHRIMP PANAMANIAN, TAHITIAN TID BITS, SWEET & PUNGENT PORK, CHICKEN CHOW MEIN, SHRIMP-FRIED RICE.
The appetizers came out on a flaming Pu-Pu tray. with one tray sufficing for three adults (four, if one is prudent to remember that these are, in fact, appetizers) The drinks for our table were iced tea, and Hawaiian Tea, which at $3.50 for a bottomless glass is a delicious steal. It consists of fruit juices, coconut syrup or milk, a cherry, and a paper umbrella (Ooooooooooooh, exotic!) over perfect drug-store soda-counter crushed ice.
It may actually have some tea in it to keep it honest.
It is by all intents a Virgin Daiquiri. This underscores the importance of the BYOB policy, for given a bottle of one's favorite spirit, and the Hawaiian Tea, one could be well anaesthetized by meal's end. Now, I do not practice public intoxication, nor do I condone such; I merely project probabilities, here. The drinks boy (I pretend I am an adventurer from the '40s) kept all the drinks well filled. Perhaps the Liquids Lad would be better, but I doubt it.)
After the appetizers settled, (and in future, I would settle for the appetizers, and maybe an entree) the meal arrived: SWEET & PUNGENT PORK, CHICKEN CHOW MEIN, SHRIMP-FRIED RICE. All were lovely, delicious, and also delicious.
But you could have that at any Asian or South Seas dining saloon (I speak with watering tongue slippery-ly in cheek), but the raison, the thing of it all is the tiki ambiance. Tiki masks and carvings festoon the walls, with Day-glo painted tropical flowers, all excited by hidden UV lamps. The big aquarium in the wall of our room was filled with large goldfish and koi, I believe, with the obligatory suckerfish to tidy up the glass. The Polynesian mania of the '40s and '50s lives on in the Omni Hut. Grab your Tiki shirt (available at aardvarktees.com !) and visit the place. The service is equal in attentiveness and competence to the best (real) Japanese restaurant I have frequented. This is by no means a "fine dining" establishment -no putting on airs and discussing Kubrick and Truffaut. It is fun dining in the not-Happy-meal sense, that of friends and family islanding out for an evening, having different nom-noms from normal, and being cared for by an attentive and friendly staff, soaking in the '50s exotica. The background music is Island, but not obtrusive...truly atmospheric.
Please treat yourselves to the Omni Hut sometime. It WILL be a treat.