Well, isn’t this place more fun than a barrel of shrieking monkeys aged in rum.

Located at the edge of the Baker District on S. Broadway, it’s quite the jazzy throwback to the Polynesian-crazed mid-century era of Trader Vic’s—all bamboo & sunset hues, fishnet-strung & blowfish-shaped lanterns, ukelele-playing hula girls & booths upholstered in embossed alligator print.

Since Adrift doesn’t seem to have a website or even a Facebook presence yet (hey, like it really is the 1950s!), I snapped the cocktail & small-plate menus (click to enlarge)—you’re welcome indeed.

 Given that 6 of us covered a good chunk of both over the course of our stay, I’ve gotta give props to our server, clad in some sort of flowery caftan, who managed to keep the entire order straight without writing it down—smooth! We started with drinks, natch; my favorite among the 3 (unpictured) I tasted —which are mostly fresh & fruity tiki classics—was the Suffering Bastard, a blend of gin, brandy, ginger beer & lime cordial, garnished with mint, that kept sweetness in check with spice & citrus notes.

As for eats, I admit I kind of pined for just 1 or 2 old-school snacks like rumaki or spareribs, but the contemporary, non-cheesy versions thereof were overall pretty swell—better than I’d expected, certainly.

I’m anointing the barbecued beef-tongue potstickers Dish of the Week not because they were the best thing I’ve had in the past 7 days—they weren’t even the best thing I tried at this meal—but they were the most intriguing. The minor problem was the blandness & chewy texture of the dumplings, more like unwieldy ravioli than silken guotie; but the filling, with big chunks of tangy, tenderly marinated tongue, proved a nifty innovation on pork—& shiso leaves plus a zesty sweet-soy dressing ensured the slaw beneath was more than just a token attempt to round out the plate. Soft, savory-sweet fried green-plantain patties in coconut-rum drizzle went down way too easy as well.

Although the below brioche toasts were too hard—the stuff really does go stale so fast; might as well not use it if you’re not equipped to keep it fresh—the little coins of airy foie-gras mousse, awfully tough to top in themselves, came smartly, subtly enhanced with drops of tea-thyme syrup.

And though the black-bean sauce on the fried calamari was a touch too sweet for me, & the squid itself not particularly flavorful, the light, ultra-crunchy breading had a lot going for it—I almost thought there were crushed nuts in there. Macadamia, maybe? If not, kudos for the illusion.

I passed my threshold for voluntary ahi-tartare consumption years ago, even topped with avocado mashed with crabmeat. But some friends who ordered it offered up a yucca chip whose delicacy I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the likes of before—so thin & crisp it evoked phyllo. Impressive.

Top marks, however, ultimately went to—color me surprised—the most seemingly stolid of selections: lemongrass-roasted, pan-sauced chicken thigh alongside coconut black beans & pineapple-tossed rice, all perfectly cooked & harmoniously aromatic & flavorful.

Just goes to show that cheeky retro flourishes on the one hand & novelties on the other, delightful as they can be, don’t always trump square fare, even for a jaded so-&-so like me.

Adrift Tiki Bar on Urbanspoon