Tommy Bahama’s Tropical Cafe

I rarely get to see my closest girlfriends anymore. As we get older, our lives seemingly become more hectic with the juggling of families, careers and pole-dancing classes. So when we do find the time to hang out, the last place we want to go is some nightclub where we’re pestered by loud music and obnoxious men who think a $5 drink is reason enough to put us in headlocks and spit in our ear as they shout excitedly about the latest self-help book they’re writing while collecting disability for an unfortunate staple gun incident.

Happily, we’ve found a far more pleasant alternative.

My friends and I have discovered that Tommy Bahama’s is an oasis of girly pleasures. It looks good, smells good, and offers a wide array of elegant “rhum” drinks and innovative Caribbean-inspired cuisine—there’s even an “island lifestyle” shop attached for post-dining retail therapy—as well as a hospitable staff that meets our every gastronomic whim and suave local musicians who croon softly to us every night.

Hell, we would date “Tommy” if we could.

The menu is formidable—not as much for the number of options it offers as for the complexity and combination of fresh island flavors in each item. Dinner entrees can veer from a Port-au-Prince pork chop marinated in maple syrup and fennel, served with a port wine demi-glace and a grilled pineapple and vegetable skewer brushed with balsamic vinaigrette and garlic butter, to a simple Chilean sea bass, seared, oven roasted and seasoned with a fresh basil and toasted walnut olive sauce, served with grilled asparagus in a lemon garlic oil.

We opted to sample the appetizers and rum drinks instead, starting with mojitos and the Antigua Quesadilla. The mojitos ended up being too perfect to deviate from, what with their unique mix of Tommy Bahama Golden Sun Rum, hand-pressed mint, ginger and limes, vanilla bourbon and ginger beer. So the “rum sampling” pretty much stopped there.

And we really only took a moment to marvel at Tommy’s unique take on the standard Latin sandwich before devouring it with much ravenous glee. It came in the form of taste-bud-dazzling layers of asparagus spears, spiced Monterey jack cheese and goat cheese sandwiched between crisp flour tortillas, and topped with tangy tomato jam, lime sour cream and Queso Fresca.

While the other two ladies fought over the remaining triangle of quesadilla, the smartest of us—that would be me—continued ordering: Loki-Loki Tuna Poke, a fresh ahi Napolean layered with guacamole and capers, served with flatbread; South Seas Scallop Sliders, sauteed jumbo sea scallops with Asian slaw, fresh basil, tomato and chipotle aioli with crispy onions on soft mini buns like little scallop burgers; and Tommy’s World Famous Coconut Shrimp, which prompted the couple next to us to admit that they had just finished eating, “like, 50 of them.” It’s served with a marmalade-like papaya-mango chutney.

Meanwhile, I was still stuck on the pre-app four-point, warm round of freshly baked bread with what our bartendress called “crack butter”—whipped with honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and a little ginger.

The next time we meet, we’re gonna get crazy with the salad selection—there’s the pulled roasted chicken salad “Junkanoo,” the St. Croix chopped salad with chicken, bleu cheese, apples, mac nuts, sweet corn and bacon, the Aruba Arugula with seared jumbo shrimp and scallops, the marinated and chargrilled tenderloin over mixed greens or the blackened ahi atopo fresh arugula, spinach and carrots in a lilikoi vinaigrette.

Who knows? We may even go really wild and order dessert.

 

The ladies will also be at Tommy Bahama’s for the Maui Film Festival at Wailea’s “Starry Night Moondance” on Thursday (June 14) from 10 p.m. to midnight. $50 in advance, $75 after June 11. MTW

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