The trendy Vancouver hot spot, The Shameful Tiki Room, has made its way east to Toronto and has set up shop in the Parkdale neighborhood. With the spot’s signature mysterious vibes, the sights and sounds of the outside are shuttered away as you enter a brand new world where magical rum-based cocktails and unique and tasty food options beckon. From the dark and mystifying ambiance to the hang ten tunes on the speakers, not to mention the vast and exotic drink menu, the Shameful Tiki Room brings vintage style Tiki culture to Toronto in a way that would surely make Trader Vic proud.
First off, what is Tiki? In Maori culture, Tiki is the first man ever created and today the term tends to refer to wooden or stone carved humanoid statues that culturally represent a family’s ancestry. These humanoid statues inspired a young Texan traveler named Ernest Raymond Beaumont-Gantt, during his visit to the South Pacific, to open a restaurant themed around the Tiki. He later changed his name to Donn Beach and called his restaurant Don the Beachcomber in 1933. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, aka Trader Vic, adopted the Tiki theme for his chain of restaurants and the theme took off as a way for Americans to, in some way, connect with the Polynesian background of the new State of Hawaii.
The Shameful Tiki Room brings what people tend to associate with Tiki culture – rum punches, beachside shacks, rattan furniture, and bright colors – together in a dark and intriguing setting, think Hawaii at night, that is truly transporting. The dark element of the place means you truly do lose a sense of time and space as you soak up the rum and snacks.
First and foremost, The Shameful Tiki Room is known for their drinks. The first page of their menu is all exotic rum-based cocktails and features some familiar concoctions, like the Mai Tai, Blue Hawaii and the ever-dangerous, do NOT attempt to operate heavy machinery after imbibing, Zombie. There are, of course, many that were certainly new to me like the Tiki Puka Puka, which also comes with a Level 4 alcoholic strength warning, and the Nui Nui.
As you’ll likely be in attendance with family or friends, the Bowls are certainly the place you want to start. These are large-scale drinks meant to be shared by two or more. My review partner Vance and I opted to start with the Mystery Bowl ($25) that was not only served to us in an adorable seashell complete with pineapple leaf, a gorgeous orchid flower, and flaming lime halves as garnishes, it was presented to us with a clang of a gong and a chant “Myyyyyyystery Booooooooowl”. The drink itself is a “mysterious blend of juices, rums, and secret spices” that certainly tastes like pineapple and… something else.
Though the Mystery Bowl was plenty for two people, and we figured we both had about two drinks’ worth out of that one bowl, we had to go in for more. The Red Jack ($13) called to me with its mouth-watering blend of strawberry, apricot, lemon, coconut, honey, and rums. It came in a goblet with a charming paper boat garnish. Vance opted for a Suffering Bastard ($11); intrigued by its name and that it’s one of the few non-rum based drinks. We appreciate how The Shameful Tiki Room takes care to not only serve classic vintage Tiki drinks in their original form but that they also take the time to credit the original bars and bartenders who created them. The Suffering Bastard is credited to acclaimed bartender Joe Scialom at the Shepheard Hotel in Cairo and it’s a drink made with a blend of lime cordial, ginger beer, Angostura bitters, gin, and brandy.
To mop up our excesses, we dove into the grub menu and started with the Pu Pu Platter ($30), an assortment of their six featured appetizers – the classic Crab Rangoon which is an original from Trader Vic himself, Maui Coconut Shrimp, Huli Huli Meatballs, Jerk Chicken Skewers, and Veggie Momos. This appetizer assortment is incredible. Great flavors from all of them with designated dipping sauces to provide more zing. Vance loved the Veggie Momos while I was over the moon with the Coconut Shrimp. We also tried their Tiki Tacos ($4.95, one per order) and had one of each, Kahlua pork, Kina beer battered fish, and deep-fried cauliflower. Vance loved the pork; I found the cauliflower had a nice mellow rounded flavor that would have benefited with a good dose of hot sauce.
Their menu listed their Tuna Poke ($14) as voted one of the best in the city, so we had to try it. Served with tortilla chips, it’s a delicate and vibrant blend of savory, briny, and sweet flavors and contrasting textures that has certainly earned it that title. In case all of that wasn’t enough, we had the Pineapple Fried Rice ($8) as well. Although it was enjoyable, I found the other menu items we ordered had more flavor and this tasted mostly of soy.
We capped our evening with a couple of non-alcoholic drinks in place of dessert. Vance had the Designated Driver ($6) which was a combination of lime, cinnamon, orange, pineapple, bitters, and soda; would make for a great breakfast drink. I chose the Sip Sip Safari ($6) which features a blend of coconut, lemon, passion fruit, grapefruit and a grenadine float. Garnished with a piece of dehydrated (almost petrified) slice of grapefruit, the drink itself is divine.
The Shameful Tiki Room is a great place to be for a night out with friends and drink. We loved the ambiance and décor of the space, though perhaps it can be too dark inside. We sat in a booth with a lamp over us providing just the right lamination we needed but I did watch other people rely on their cell phone flashlights just to read the menu. A few more scattered lamps around would do the trick while still maintaining the mysterious night atmosphere.
The menus at The Shameful Tiki Room have recently been updated which makes now the best time to grab friends for a night out and explore what new excitements they have in store. There’s something here for everyone, and their great non-alcoholic menu makes even non-drinkers feel welcome (and not stuck with Coke or Sprite all night).
Keep in touch with their social media pages for live entertainment announcements and remember to let loose, have a great time, and drink responsibly.
Review and Food & Drink Photos by Samantha Wu
Lead Photo and Tiki Mugs are courtesy of The Shameful Tiki’s Public Facebook Profile