Entertainment :: Theatre

Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Islander Revue

by Steven  Skelley
Contributor
Friday Mar 2, 2012
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The Polynesian culture of the South Pacific inhabits some of the most beautiful islands on our planet. When European explorers arrived, they wrote home that they thought they had discovered paradise. The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Islander Revue in Fort Lauderdale. is the perfect place to experience a little bit of that Polynesian paradise vibe.

The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Islander Revue originally opened in 1956. The iconic South Pacific design cost more than $1,000,000. It was the most expensive restaurant built anywhere that year. The success of Mai-Kai was quickly apparent as it earned back that $1,000,000 investment in its first year, making it "one the most successful restaurants of its time."

Pia Dahlquist, Mai-Kai’s Director of Sales and Marketing believes the show and restaurant are so successful because they offer "an escape from everyday life and stress. It’s like escaping to Polynesia without leaving home."

The Mai-Kai’s design is quite simply incredible. It features eight Polynesian-style dining rooms, the Molokai Bar, a gift shop, a tropical garden, multiple waterfalls, and the Polynesian Islander Revue stage.

The Mai-Kai also contains an impressive collection of genuine Polynesian artifacts. Some are more than 100 years old. An actual shrunken human head is displayed in the Samoa room. Some authentic pieces were so valuable that they were uninsurable and had to be placed in museums, according to Dahlquist.

Stepping into the dimly-lit Molokai Bar is like stepping into the bowels of a 200 year-old sailing vessel -- but one in which bartenders and waitresses wear colorful sarongs. The ship design includes sheets of water constantly cascading down the outside of the windows to simulate a heavy rainstorm.

Having traveled to the South Pacific myself, I found the Polynesian Islander Revue at the Mai-Kai to be both entertaining and educational. A sarong-clad narrator led the audience on an island-by-island music and dance tour of Polynesia. A live band performed selections from each island culture using both native and modern instruments while a team of female dancers performed hip-shaking choreography that had our audience cheering.

Two bare-chested male performers shared several warrior ritual dances. Their talents with spinning fire staffs had the audience cheering and clapping loudly throughout their performance.

Two bare-chested male performers shared several warrior ritual dances. Their talents with spinning fire staffs had the audience cheering and clapping loudly throughout their performance. There is good reason that this is the longest running Polynesian show in the U.S.A. Not even Hawaii has a longer running Polynesian show!

There is a special dinner and show package that includes appetizer, entree, dessert, and show. Shows are offered at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Dinner theaters are notorious for less-than-quality food, but the Mai-Kai is a pleasant surprise. The made-to-order dinner entrees include the following: Teriyaki Chicken, Almond Chicken, Panang Curry Chicken, Pineapple Chicken, Thai Red Curry Chicken, Sweet and Sour Chicken, Mushroom Beef, Szechuan Beef, Teriyaki Beef, Mai Kai Orange Beef, Spicy Beef with Almonds, Sweet and Sour Pork, Panang Curry Shrimp, Singapore Chili Shrimp, Cantonese Shrimp, Scallops Singapore, Lobster Cantonese, Lobster Tahitienne, Lobster Bora Bora, Seafood and Shrimp Combinations, Grouper, Mahi Mahi, Atlantic Salmon, Seafood Noodles, Pad Thai, Roast Duck, Mandarin Pressed Duck, Thai Red Curry Duck, Peking Duck, Barbecued Pork, Barbecued Baby Back Ribs, Filet Mignon, New York Strip Steak, Ribeye Steak, Filet Mignon Madagascar, Rack of Lamb, Lobster Tail and Surf and Turf.

My Teriyaki Chicken Platter was served with fried rice. The portions were large and the food was served steaming hot.

The Mai Kai Cocktail menu is huge! It is divided into sections by the strength of the drink, and some of the creative concoctions include the Mutiny, Shrunken Skull, Zombie, SOS, Black Magic, Chocolate Typhoon, and Deep Sea Diver. I sampled the Zombie. It was like a Mojito on steroids!

The Mai-Kai is also one of the hosts of the immensely popular Hukilau festival each Spring. The festival brings together lovers of Polynesian Pop and Tiki Culture for "a magical Polynesian weekend in America’s Vacationland!" Visit http://www.thehukilau.com for more information about the 2012 event.

The Mai-Kai Restaurant and its Polynesian Islander Revue offer a truly unique and pleasant dinner show experience that highlights the Pacific Island cultures that seem as mysterious today as they must have seemed when the European explorers first encountered them in their island paradise.

The Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Islander Revue is located at 3599 North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale. For more info, visit http://www.maikai.com.

Steven Skelley is a published author of several nonfiction works and the novella The Gargoyle Scrolls. He has been a newspaper columnist, travel writer, news writer, music director, creative arts director, theater reviewer and tennis instructor.

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