ALOHA... FROM ST-JÉRÔME?
: : A few months back, M.T.A.S. member Fred “Dag-Tiki” Sarli began raving about this tiki joint he’d found while on one of his many business trips to St-Jérome. He left me one of his trademark extra-long answering machine messages about it (“... they’ve got hanging chairs in the bar!”) and excitedly told other Society members about it as well. “How good could it be up in the middle of nowhere?” we all thought. In fact, even Fred tried to downplay the place once we‘d all decided to make a date to go up and take a look at the restaurant/bar, called Aloha. : :
: : We piled into two cars and drove 45 minutes through freezing rain and hail up to downtown St-Jérome. And there, on the town’s main drag, sat this big Polynesian hut and a sign welcoming us... “Aloha.” Our collective “wow!” was followed by another when we walked through the entrance and got our first glance at Aloha’s outstanding decor. This was the genuine article… too much to take in from the vantage point of our table for 12 (located inside one of the restaurant‘s many little grass shacks), we sprang out of our seats before ordering our first drink and took a walk around the place. Cave-like walls, a footbridge over running water, palm trees, thatched roofs over the tables (including many cozy tables for two or four), mesh on the walls and ceilings, plenty of hanging lamps, tikis, spears, maps of Polynesia, and a bar separated from the dining area with bamboo curtains! And yes, at the bar, hanging from the ceiling were two rattan chairs in which to sit, swing... and drink! : :
: : We made our way back to our table and, of course, began by sampling some of the exotic grog. Aloha features a selection of familiar tasting but differently named drinks. No Mai Tais, no Aku-Aku Coconuts, no Bolos. No, Aloha has a whole other slew of crazy names for its drinks, all served up in a variety of attractive mugs and bowls: the Bamboo, the Cocoboo, and, my choice, the Flaming Tahitian! This big bowl o’ booze was brought to me with a flaming volcano sitting right in the middle of it all. What a treat! Drink up, then blow out the flame and suck up the volcano’s hot lava (Sambuca)! : :
: : Aloha features an à la carte menu... this is a nice change from the usual Chinese-American buffets found at other Polynesian restaurants. Keeping with my “flame” theme for the evening, I decided to order something else that would be brought to the table on fire. As our appetizer, Betty and I shared the Habachi Platter which featured a tasty selection of finger foods (egg rolls, chicken wings, pork loin, beef on a skewer) on a rotating platter in the middle of which was a flaming hibachi on which you can warm the food; this is of course more commonly known as a Pu-Pu Platter at many other Polynesian restaurants. The main course for almost everyone at the table was the Aloha Beef, a stir fry of tender beef strips, water chestnuts, peppers, onions, and assorted vegetables in an exotic sauce. Desserts were great too, including ice cream parfaits spiked with more booze. : :
: : One visit was all it took to make Aloha my preferred tiki bar on the M.T.A.S. list. However, a few other members still feel very strongly about the Jardin Tiki, which, although completely different from Aloha, is admittedly hard to beat. A guy named Ed who was hanging out at Aloha’s bar, told me that he also thought the joint was the best he’d seen... and he’d been around. In his work for one of the airlines operating out of nearby Mirabel Airport, Ed got to travel a lot and had visited numerous Polynesian watering holes (including several in Hawaii, and the great Mai Kai in Florida) but he keeps coming back to Aloha. The friendly waitresses at Aloha introduced us to the restaurant’s proprietor, Nick, who’s owned the place for the past 5 years (although Aloha has been around for just over 21 years). Who’d have guessed that a place like this could exist in St-Jérome. Believe it or not, we actually had a hard time getting a reservation, and the place remained packed the whole time we were there. Get yourself up to Aloha whenever you can... I guarantee a truly exotic experience that’s well worth the drive! : :
Aloha 78 de Martigny West
Saint-Jerome, QC J7Y 2G1
John Trivisonno © 1999
Aloha has sadly undergone a few renovations. A few key elements have been changed that have knocked it out of the Number 1 spot on my list of local Tiki bars. It's been "opened up" a little, making it brighter and airier. In doing so, some elements of decor have gone missing... This is no good. Also, due to "maintenance problems," the water feature (and the wonderful little footbridge that went along with it) have been removed. To cover up the obvious hole this left in the floor, the whole floor has been re-done in ceramic tile. Again, this is not so great... Aloha is still worth a trip though. It's still a nice place... what's left of the decor is pretty good, drinks are decent, and the food is still quite good.
Aloha is no more. A mediterranean restaurant called Gaia stands in its place. Same building, no traces of tiki on the outside. Haven't visited but I can only imagine its interior has been further stripped of its decor since my update from a decade ago.
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