Mai-Kai Restaurant: Some Things Only Get Better With Time
Mai-Kai is a Polynesian restaurant in Oakland Park, Florida. It opened in 1956 and it is one of the few Polynesian restaurants still open to the public in the South Florida area. The Mai-Kai restaurant was started by two brothers by the names of Bob and Jack Thornton. The brothers remembered visiting a place similar to Mai-Kai growing up in Chicago and decided to bring their vision to South Florida.
Most South Floridians know about the Mai-Kai restaurant and Polynesian show, and usually go there for special occasions or to share an experience with their out-of-town guests. My first experience at Mai-Kai was about 11 years ago. My husband took me on a date to Mai-Kai to celebrate our anniversary. For us, and so many others, Mai-Kai holds some of our greatest memories and a pieces of our love stories.
Recently, my husband and I went back to Mai-Kai to rekindle old memories and to see this restaurant that seems to withstand the hands of time. Also, it didn't hurt that the Goapp [an app that offers discounts and deals at restaurants and local events in the South Florida area] was offering a free entree with the purchase of a entree of a higher cost.
We pulled the car over when we saw the blazing tiki torches and bright lights beaming the renown Polynesian restaurant's name in lights. The main building is one story with a large A-frame roof. When we walked inside, we were transported to a Polynesian island very far away. The restaurant has an open floor plan to allow most of the indoor dining rooms to see the show. It also includes a bar, a stage in the center of the restaurant, a gift shop, and a tropical garden outside with a quieter dining area surrounded by waterfalls, tiki torches, and Polynesian artifacts.
We started our date night with drinks. I ordered the "Mai Tai" and my husband ordered a "Barrel O'Rum." The drink recipes are the same from the original owners, and trust me....they are not holding back on the alcohol. The "Mai Tai" looks like a fruity drink and comes with a delicate hibiscus flower, but it packs a mighty punch. There are plenty of drinks to choose from, and not all of the drinks are very strong. You can see your level of alcohol strength on the menu. The "Barrel O' Rum," which was intended for my husband, was actually my favorite. It had 2 oz of dark rum, 2 oz of light rum, and lots of fruit juices. It also was a strong drink, but I enjoyed my tasty sips.
For our appetizers, we ordered the honey shrimp and the "Pu Pu Platter." The honey shrimp is not the menu , but it can be made if requested. The Pu Pu Platter comes with egg rolls, crab rangoon, and Tahitian cheese tangs. I'm originally from New York, so I always say that New Yorkers know a good slice of pizza, bagels, and how a egg roll should taste. Trust me, you have to order the egg roll! It was beyond delicious!
For our main entree, we ordered the 20 oz rib-eye steak and the fried snapper. If you were wondering if your eyes were deceiving you, I actually meant to write 20 oz. This rib-eye reminded me of an artifact from the Flinstones cartoon show. It was a huge piece of steak, and I would like to say that it could be eaten by two people, but my husband proved that it is a solo dish. This dish came with potato au gratin and snapped peas with a sweet ginger flavor. I was only able to get 3 bites of the steak because I could tell that my usually generous husband did not want to share his food that night. He said, "I think this is the best rib-eye [steak] that I have ever had in my life!" It was delicious. It was cooked to perfection. I could taste a sweet glaze with each small bite he gave me. The side dishes were just as good! If you're a meat lover, there is no need to look any further than the rib-eye. My fried snapper and fried rice was just as big and came with three sauces. I enjoyed the coconut curry sauce and the sweet chilli sauce the best. Also, the fried rice was scrumptious!
Shortly after dinner, it was showtime! The tables are in a community setting so you get to enjoy the show more like a family than an audience. The show was educational and entertaining! The host took the audience on a journey through countries, culture, dances, and a fire show. The dancers are energetic, passionate about their art, and even pull a few lucky guest onto the stage to participate in the show.
Would I recommend it: Absolutely! If you live in Florida and you have never been to Mai-Kai, it is time to make your grand appearance. If you have been there before, the food is even better than before! If you are a tourist, it's a great place to get a good dinner, watch an amazing show, and share a few laughs with family and friends.
Extra information: The restaurant and the show are very kid friendly. Also, sit in the main dining room for the best seats for the show. The rooms on the left and right have visibility of the show, but not as good as the central seating.
Mai-Kai Restaurant website: http://www.maikai.com/