MIAMI BEACH, Florida. (Tanabi) – Saturday February 20, 2016.
One of Miami’s most decorated and beloved celebrity chefs, Ralph Pagano, has opened what is to become Miami’s first full-blown Tiki concept, Naked Tiki.
As many will recall, Chef Pagano, is the brainchild of several Naked concepts in Miami: Naked Taco (at The Dream Hotel), Naked Lunch (located inside the University of Miami Life Science & Technology Park) and now, Naked Tiki (located inside the Stiles Hotel at 1120 Collins Ave., Miami Beach). Naked Tiki is significant as it marks Miami-Dade’s first foray into a full-tilt Tiki concept, something which a lot of restaurants and hotels in the area have been flirting with in recent years but have not been fully committed to.
Tanabi teamed up with Tiki expert, The Atomic Grog blogger, and Palm Beach Post journalist Jim “Hurricane” Hayward for a sneak peek before the crowds arrived.
Located inside the Stiles Hotel, Naked Tiki boasts a multilevel paradise consisting of roughly 2,500-square-feet of space divided into three separate areas. Up front, there’s the nautical-themed main bar – The Coconut Bar, while downstairs introduces time travelers to a sleek lounge area with an adjoining restaurant called The Bamboo Lounge, complete with a smaller tropical islander bar called The Shark Bar. Finally, a lush outside seating area includes three small swimming pools and decorative moai-laden gardens for guests to enjoy a twinkling starry evening sky.
On Saturday night about 250 people descended upon the Stiles Hotel sipping on Mai Tai’s and Scorpion Bowls that transported them to faraway tropical isles. Guests included Emmy award-winning actor and producer Vincent De Paul, Honduran filmmaker Guillermo Ayestas, and Syndicated News’ Dena Stewart and Stewart Stewart.
Naked Tiki’s concept is simple: to pay tribute to Tiki culture and to become a haven for classic cocktail lovers dedicated to embracing recipes of bar masters from the days of yore; our favorite drink of the night was the famed Aku Aku (an original recipe developed back in the 1960s in Las Vegas) and Tiki’s signature drink, the Mai Tai.
As we walked around the outside pool area, we observed numerous Tiki torches, string lights, teakwood furnishings, and giant custom moai. Dancing hula girls greeted guests with leis and live Polynesian fire dancers put on an authentic revue show towards the end of the night. As we walked, Chef Pagano explained, “I have been a fan of Tiki for a long time and I am thrilled to put one on the map in Miami Beach.”
Naked Tiki’s rum-soaked cocktail list spotlights updated classics from yesteryear (for example, muddled mint in our Aku Aku), and included themed drinks (the famed #88 which utilizes tequila), large-format punch bowls, and frozen daiquiris. We tried the delicious Barrel of Monkeys, Mai Tai, and the Aku Aku, which according to Chef Pagano, uses fresh squeezed juices, in-house infusions, homemade shrubs, and fresh seasonal ingredients from local farmer’s markets.
With a choice from a tantalizing array of exotic dishes, we chose Naked Tiki’s famed Pu Pu Platter (a delicious mixture of spicy tuna poke, real lump Crab Rangoon, steak Negimaki, sticky wings, and BBQ spare ribs) and handmade pork and ginger Dim Sum, among tempting appetizers, and over 15 Cantonese-inspired preparations.
Tiki bars have a special place in American booze lore and Naked Tiki is a testament to all who have come before in bringing you hand crafted cocktails and island inspired dishes in a traditional Tiki setting.
The comeback of Tiki (which had it’s original heyday in the middle of the 20th century) is not only a natural progression of the craft-cocktail movement, but also the country’s first viable cocktail culture form; Tiki drinks are so complex in nature and require so many hard-to-find ingredients that Tiki drinks are viewed as the ultimate craft cocktail expression.
“A lot of that growth is being driven by the craft cocktail scene finally embracing Tiki, plus the slow revival of the economy. This is giving smaller, risk-taking entrepreneurs the motivation to open Tiki bars,” Jim ‘Hurricane’ Hayward, said during our VIP tour. “Of course, there’s a worry among the hardcore Tiki purists that growth may be coming too fast and that the new establishments aren’t grounded in the traditions of the past.”
If you’re brand-new to the Tiki scene or extremely skeptical about its legitimacy, rest assured that Naked Tiki is the real deal. Despite misleadingly ending up as a kitschy architectural footnote, the Tiki aesthetic has a surprisingly cosmopolitan and intellectual provenance, which people are slowly beginning to realize. It’s pretty fascinating to see Tiki making a comeback, thanks to passionate enthusiasts like Chef Pagano, whose numbers are growing steadily.
Tanabi and “Hurricane” Hayward also caught up with Chef Pagano at this year’s 2nd annual The Art of Tiki: A Cocktail Showdown event hosted by Rhum Barboncourt at The Surfcomber Hotel in Miami Beach; the Art of Tiki is a competition featuring bartenders from some of the most noteworthy Tiki bars across the United States, including the world famous Mai-Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, and Branden Powers’ newly-opened, 24hr Tiki bar in Las Vegas, The Golden Tiki.
While neo-Tiki’s crowning achievements may be San Francisco’s Smuggler’s Cove and Chicago’s famed Three Dots & A Dash, the Tiki scene is now in full flower in locales as far-flung as Miami, Poland, London, Moscow, and Slovakia.
So, stop on by to Naked Tiki at The Stiles Hotel and spend an evening in paradise where you’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of exotic tropical cocktails in which rare rums, spices and fruit juices go into making the most exquisitely refreshing drinks you have ever enjoyed, while cares of the outside world seem far away from this wonderland of music, Cantonese cuisine and whispering waters.
Mahalo to the Tiki Revival!
Naked Tiki, 1120 Collins Avenue (inside The Stiles Hotel), Miami Beach, FL 33139 (305) 307-5890. www.nakedtikimiami.com #GetLeid #GetNaked #NakedTikiMiami