It has been quite some time since I last dined here, except for an event several months ago. Many of my friends like Tommy Bahama for its casual environment, friendly service and consistent menu. I am no different. Usually, my friends and I come for lunch, but on this evening, we are here for a casual dinner. We arrive during happy hour — 3pm to 6pm — and take the opportunity to order a couple of small bites off that menu. Did you know that they also have late night happy hour, from 9pm until close every single day, at the bar?
One of my favorites at Tommy Bahama is Coconut Shrimp ($8 happy hour) and during happy hour, you get three of these large shrimp coated with a crispy coconut crust. The shrimp have a good snap and the papaya mango chutney is sweet tart, giving it an even more tropical feel.
The Duo of Dips ($7 happy hour) offers a ramekin of Zesty Pub Cheese, and another of Spiked Guacamole — although I’m not sure what it’s spiked with — served with house made chips. They are both excellent with a cocktail or two, although on this evening, none of us are drinking. I like the guac with the cheese on the same chip!
If you’re looking for another item to munch on while sipping on cocktails, Wild Mushroom & Apple Flatbread ($14) utilizes apples currently in season, along with wild mushrooms and goat cheese as toppings. A handful of arugula tossed in a simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing makes for a fresh contrast on the palate. Truffle oil is usually not my favorite, but the drizzle does not overwhelm, so I’m okay with it.
As we move onto entrees, there are a bunch of new menu items I’m interested in trying. If you’re looking for a salad, the Grilled Shrimp Cobb ($18) is really good. A traditional Cobb salad in every sense of the word, it is generously dotted with smoked bacon, avocado, egg, vine-ripened tomatoes, but with the addition of charred corn salsa, all tossed in a Maytag blue cheese vinaigrette. The grilled shrimp is a nice change from chicken.
If you’re a burger fan, look no furtuer than the Smoke House Burger ($16) made with a beef pattie ground fresh daily in-house, comprising a mix of sirloin, chuck and ribeye. The potato bun is also layered with sharp cheddar, BBQ ketchup, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato and onion, making it quite a delicious mouthful indeed. The accompanying fries are majorly addictive and I had to move the plate out of reach in order not to over eat.
I want to try the Macadamia Nut Encrusted Snapper ($29.50) because I’ve always enjoyed fish dishes here. The plating is very average, but I am so surprised by the distinctive taste of macadamia so I know there is a good amount of it in the crust. The wasabi soy beurre blanc is subtle, without the nostril hurting pungency of the wasabi. However, it is the almond rice that blew me away. I like eating the snapper with the rice as it reminds me of comfort food I am familiar with. I will be ordering that rice as a side from now on.
The most delicious item of the night is Kona Coffee Crusted Ribeye ($36). Those of you frequent steakhouses for that stellar piece of steak should just come here when that meat fix hits. This 13-ouncer rubbed with Kona coffee and spices is tender, juicy, and a perfect medium rare. It is brushed with garlic butter and we find it very hard to stop eating. The cauliflower-chive mash is fluffy, and the lemon arugula is nice and tart. Combine these all together and you’ll get the satisfaction of a perfectly cooked piece of meat, and fresh arugula to cut the richness between bites.
Those with a sweet tooth may find it difficult to choose when the dessert tray comes to the table. However, the best part is you can choose half a portion of dessert — I had NO idea even after years of patronage — which means you can order more than one to share. My favorite is the Key Lime Pie ($6 half portion), mouthpuckering tart with a buttery graham cracker crust.
There are never any surprises at Tommy Bahama and I mean that in a good way. I always know exactly what I’m going to get when I dine here. Food is always consistent, service is friendly and the atmosphere is as casual or as formal as you want it to be.
Tommy Bahama Island Grille
854 Avocado Ave
Newport Beach, CA 92660