Restaurant Development & Design

JAN-FEB 2018

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J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 8 • r e s t a u r a n t d e v e l o p m e n t + d e s i g n • 1 7 False Idol San Diego When guests order drinks like the potent punch Alkala the Fierce at False Idol, they will be shaking in their seats — thanks to a volcano that erupts with a rumbling roar, spewing smoke and lava, that rattles the banquettes. Besides the flaming volcano, the tiki bar also boasts an indoor waterfall. "We spent six months of engineering figuring out how to create the water and fire features. We installed servos to shake the seats, and the 90-foot water feature requires pumping massive amounts of water," says Arsalun Tafazoli, co-founder of CH Projects, the San Diego-based hospitality group known for its boundary-pushing, design-forward concepts like Ironside Fish & Oyster, Polite Provisions, Noble Experiment and UnderBelly. San Diego has a long association with tiki culture, says Tafazoli. During the 1950s, the city boasted over 40 tiki bars (now extinct). Today, the city hosts the annual Tiki Oasis, a major convention devoted to Polynesian pop culture. The company saw a need for a new kind of tiki bar, combining prin- ciples of current cocktail culture with groundbreaking decor. CH Projects partnered with cocktail and tiki authority Martin Cates, owner of Smuggler's Cove and Whitechapel in San Francisco, to craft False Idol. The secret entrance to the 40-seat bar is hidden behind a walk-in cooler in the company's Craft & Commerce restaurant. Every square inch of the 1,000-square-foot space is decorated with artifacts, such as tra- ditional Papua and Maori-style masks and a ceiling covered with over 400 glass buoys and petrified pufferfish. "We wanted to create an immersive experience with this organic, undersea environment. It's all part of the escap- ism component that is so important to tiki concepts," says Tafazoli. CH Projects enlisted the exper- tise of some famed tiki artists: Bosko Hrnjak created elaborately detailed wood-panel carvings that adorn the main bar and the walls, while Ignacio "Notch" Gonzalez combined traditional design elements into a cohesive whole. The duo also designed a bespoke False Idol tiki mug for the venue. An extensive collection of over 300 different rums on the back bar is an impressive focal point. The bar itself is a mini museum dedicated to local tiki history. Supported on a base of custom-carved panels, the top is a bamboo-sided, glass-topped case displaying memorabilia from local tiki establishments. "People loaned us their collections, relics from now-extinct tiki bars — original menus, napkins and matchbooks," says Tafazoli. Every piece is unique, and customers always Porco Lounge & Tiki Room oc- cupies 2,800 square feet and has 75 seats, mostly square high-tops and stools. The patio seats 40 and includes a big waterfall feature. "That's a huge plus because people love to sit outside, and we can plant exotic foliage instead of the fake stuff," Was says. The patio also sports traditional tiki torches. Inside, fire is limited to Flaming Scor- pion Bowls; thatch and bamboo make torches a fire hazard. A display of over 2,000 tiki mugs lines shelves in the bar. Was started the collection by searching thrift stores; then, customers started to donate them. "It's amazing how fast mugs accumulate," Was says. For actually serving drinks, he had master carver Danny Gallardo, aka Tiki Diablo, design a set of tiki mugs. Many tiki drinks are garnished with umbrellas and swizzle sticks shaped like monkeys, palm trees and other fanciful motifs — mementos customers can take home as souvenirs. Porco's original bar top was in bad shape, so Was got the idea to place the collec- tion of swizzle sticks he'd amassed over the years on the bar, then flood it with clear epoxy. It's a big attraction. "Most of these bars don't exist anymore," he says. "People see them and say, 'Oh, yeah, I remember that place.' Every swizzle stick tells a story." Despite Porco's dark atmosphere, the bar is fairly well lit to display the bartenders' skill in action. "That's our altar," Was says. "It's impressive to see bartenders handling two shakers at once and building a dozen drinks at a time." Customers can enjoy the show from all over the room. "Tiki is not just about what goes in the glass; it focuses on the whole experience. Decor, music, fashion — so much comes into play creating a tiki concept," says Was. "Tiki is escapism without getting on a plane. You can walk down the block, enter a tiki bar and be whisked away to paradise." At False Idol, every square inch of the 1,000-square-foot space is decorated with artifacts. Image courtesy of Zack Benson

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