Tiki Got Your Tongue?

dining_hulasAfter work, I enjoy an occasional Happy Hour with friends, co-workers or my spouse. It’s a time for transition, when the day’s important issues are discussed and then left behind as we sashay into the dinner hour. On Tuesdays at Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room, Happy Hour lasts all night, and with its multi-faceted pupu menu the appetizers can easily become dinner.
I began with a $5 happy hour Painkiller, no, really, served in a stout Mai Tai glass. A base of orange juice (instead of the traditional pineapple) was combined with Appleton’s gold Jamaican Estate rum and the froth of Coco Lopez coconut. A grating of nutmeg topped this perfect slow-sipping tumbler of paradise.
Thin rice paper was wrapped around leaves of romaine to make four Vietnamese Spring Rolls ($5), each stuffed with clouds of white tofu, shredded carrot and marinated daikon radish. Thick peanut dipping sauce was a little sweet, as expected. I really liked the green and spicy chili-mint dip, which also went well with Samurai Beef Sticks ($5).
The marinade had sweetly caramelized on these four edible swords stacked with smoky, cubed, grilled beef. The morsels were tender but for an occasional bit of gristle.
Three Vietnamese Fish Cakes ($5), with oil surfacing around the tart and piquant salmon-colored aioli, were thin, chewy and filled with bits of red peppers and micro-thin slices of green onion.
And don’t forget Mahalo Mondays at Hula’s when 10 percent of proceeds are donated to local nonprofits, or Sunday’s bottomless mimosas from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. | KP

Hula’s Island Grill and Tiki Room, 221Cathcart St., Santa Cruz, 426-4852. Full bar. Serving dinner 7 nights a week from 4:30 p.m. until close, lunch Friday through Sunday from 11:30 a.m. Visit hulastiki.com/sc_video.htm

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