Today was the perfect day to visit Vancouver’s newest and downtown’s first tiki bar. It was the first of many rainy days to come, so this vibrant and brightly coloured lounge was the perfect oasis, in which to imagine the sunnier days of summer once forgotten.
“Sneeki Tiki” is the new hotel bar, located at the lobby of Granville Street’s “Best Western”, And today they invited myself and a handful of others to help celebrate their grand opening in style. The bar is easy to spot with its straw thatched patio and citrus coloured bar stools. Colourful planters lined the fenced off area with a bounty of fake greenery that includes tropical blooms, tall grass, and pineapple fruit. But sadly the rain pouring down on the uncovered space meant that the party was moved to the inside.
And to be honest, I preferred it much more. It was thoroughly decorated to bring to life the tiki theme and to help whisk you away to some where warm. Somewhere, where you order the frozen drinks they serve and sway to island beats they play. Ceiling to floor the theme was consistent. Straw panels lined the room, the ceiling was plastered with maps of the tropics and pineapple decals. Their tiki mascot found its way around the room: in the carved wooden masks and columns, the decorative paintings and figures, and in the glassware that they poured into. Woven rattan chairs and wooden tables faced the stage in the corner. It’s back drop was a hand painted surf scape. Blue skies, colourful pointed boards, and green leaves.
Tonight this would be the background and stage that local and award winning Polynesian dancers would perform on. This night was the perfect test to see how the crowd responded, and if there was a market in Vancouver for regular Polynesian dancing to be held at “Sneeki Tiki”. Based on how much fun I had and how enthusiastic the crowd got tonight, I would say that is a yes!
They performed several sets where they wowed us with their traditional story telling told through colourful garments, acoustic instruments, and the impressive speed in which hips were swaying. They danced with hand gestures, handheld instruments, and hoot and hollered aloud to get the crowd going. There were costume changes, feats of strength, and a portion that would have been simply magnificent if they were able to incorporate fire into the act.
As for the drinks, the menu mimicked a treasure map with 19 different cocktails organized by “islands”. “Signature islands”, “classic islands”, “sneeki islands”, and “tiki bowls”. We would try a handful during this visit. Half the fun was seeing what glasses each came in and how decorative the cocktail would get in the name of their theme.
The “Mai Tai Redux” was the “Sneeki Tiki’s” take on the classic Mai Tai. Amber and pineapple rum, apricot brandy, orgeat and faleum syrup mixed with pineapple and guava juice. It was as tropical and tasty as it reads.
The “Blue Hawaiian” is a popular sweet and frozen cocktail given its colour. Light rum, blue curaçao, coconut cream and pineapple juice. This is a staple at any sunny, all inclusive resort; so it gave me flash back of fond memories with every sip.
The “Tinder surprise” was a created in house a blend of Vodka, Kahlua, and orange bitters topped with more bitters. Compared to how easy and tasty all the other drinks were, this one made you grimace with every sip. It wasn’t a smooth and creamy drink like what you’d expect from one mixed with Kahlua. Nor was it a simple and clean, it just felt like it wasn’t gibing.
The “Stormy D.” was a play on the dark and stormy but lighter. It is made with dark rum, lemon grass syrup, and pineapple juice; topped with ginger beer. It was much lighter with the beer and drank just as such.
The “Pineapple Express” was a fun one with light rum, falemum, pineapple fruit and pineapple juice. A refreshing juice-like cocktail that I would order again.
But truly the one to get and the bar’s showstopper is the “Scorpion bowl”. This is a larger serving of drinks to share between 2-3 people. It is 4.5 ounces of light rum, brandy, triple sec, orgeat, talemum, cane sugar, guava, and papaya juice. It comes in a special bowl and set a flame. A little cinnamon sprinkled atop of the lit sugar cube gives the table some theatrics.
But sadly none of these are part of their happy hour menu, also known as “Tiki Hour”. Instead, you can take advantage of their discounted food menu between 4-6pm. Their speciality wings go for $4 less, you pay a couple of bucks for a skewer of chicken satay and/or chicken corn dogs, and vegetable gyozas run at $2 less. We would get to try a few of these and some of their other menu items as a sampling.
“Polynesian wings”, chicken wings tossed in a blend of pineapple juice and spices, available in mild or spicy. They were sweet and salty, juicy wings, easy to slide into your mouth and pick clean with your teeth. A great bar staple that they are doing their way.
By comparison the “Chicken satay on skewers” were dry and bland. The menu described it being served with a peanut or yogurt dipping sauce; and had we had a saucer of it, things would have tasted much better.
The “Veggie gyoza” was your standard gyoza: chewy dough surrounding a nugget of mixed vegetables seasoned with plenty of garlic. This too was missing the sauce that it was advertised with: a ponzu and chilli oil sauce
But the “Thai Brussels sprouts” were the best of the appetizers served in this particular platter. A great texture and garlicky taste to balance out the bevy of sweet drinks.
The “Coconut shrimp” was panko shrimp in their secret tiki recipe. It was crispy and plenty tasty.
The “Poke crunch” were deep fried cubes of ahi tuna and onion topped with furikake and Japanese mayo. It was an interesting take, incorporating the popularity of deep frying onto another popular food trend. However I didn’t like how the frying inevitably cooked the salmon and changed the ideals of poke altogether. I would have advertised it as fried fish or just left it as regular poke.
I found the “Maui sliders” a little dry as was. The pineapple buns filled with braised short rib and a kale slaw were best taken with a scoop of the shredded pickled cucumber that it came with. And a nice sweet mayo or tomato would have been great additions to inject some moisture into the mini burger.
By contrast, I much more preferred the “Bao dan”, especially with the use of the chewy, white dough buns. They were stuffed with braised pork belly, and pickled daikon and carrots. It was tender meat with briny vegetables, in a fluffy hamburger bun. No complaints.
My table mates weren’t as thrilled with the food overall. Whereas I invited them to look at it through the windows of a bar. This isn’t a restaurant, it is a tiki bar, which are typically known of their drinks. And like many bars, the food comes second. The idea is that you take down a couple of drinks, and follow it with plenty of salty and carbo-loaded hand held snacks. And the above were ideal for accompanying beers, and plenty of sugary cocktails. And if you look at it in this light, everything was as expected and terrific.
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
I liked the how wholistic the entire experience was. From start to finish you walked in and were immersed in the well cultivated tropical setting. The drinks take you in and the live entertainment keeps you. I will definitely be coming back with a bunch of friends in the near future. This was so much fun, and will definitely make a great escape this cold and wet winter season. Don’t deny your cravings.
1100 Granville Street, Vancouver BC, V6Z 2B6