Umbrella Drinks

Trader Vic’s

The second best thing about Trader Vic's is the appetizers. The Beef Cho-Cho is simplicity itself -- strips of beef served satay-style on skewers -- but the meat is tender and juicy and the presentation is pure Vic's: You get to sizzle the steak yourself over a flaming, bright-purple hibachi. The Cheese Bings are like tiny grilled ham and cheese sandwiches, crunchy and golden brown on the outside, volcanically cheesy within. The Cosmo Tidbits are a (rather minuscule) compendium of the Trader's greatest hits: Crab Rangoon, an irresistible combination of crab meat, cream cheese, and crisp wonton skin; big, juicy deep-fried prawns; moist little spareribs; and slices of rich, smoky barbecued pork from the venue's once-revolutionary wood-fired Chinese ovens. All can be ordered at the bar to accompany your cocktails: one of the Bay Area's more pleasurable dining options.

A good thing, too, since there isn't much worth mentioning about the venue's entrees and desserts. Back in 1946, the Trader wrote that in his restaurant "Chinese, Javanese, or Tahitian dishes have been changed to suit American tastes for the simple reason that my customers, for the most part, like good food, well cooked and seasoned, but their taste buds aren't educated enough to take foreign dishes first hand with appreciation." (Example: the aforementioned Crab Rangoon.)

We the customers have progressed in our culinary education since then, at least somewhat, but Trader Vic's is still largely marooned in the Truman era. The Bongo Bongo Soup, a piping-hot, satiny-smooth purée of oysters and spinach, is still delicious, but the lamb curry is heavy and perfunctory and barely spicy, despite its fetching array of seven condiments; the seafood taro nest of lobster, scallops, prawns, and whitefish tastes like second-rate chop suey, and the barbecued quails, moist and succulent though they are, are almost devoid of taste despite their foray into those smoky Chinese ovens. The macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi, spiky and buttery at once, is the menu's only entree with an exciting flavor, and even it was overcooked and dry. The chocolate macadamia tart, meanwhile, is a dense, chalky mess; the Kona ice cream flambé, despite the Sturm und Drang, is merely so-so ice cream with rudimentary chunks of pineapple and banana; and the Polynesian snowball ain't nothin' but a scoop of ice cream with chocolate sauce.

Belly up to the bar and survey the Gilligan-esque décor at Trader Vic's.
Anthony Pidgeon
Belly up to the bar and survey the Gilligan-esque décor at Trader Vic's.

Location Info


Trader Vic's

9 Anchor
Emeryville, CA 94608

Category: Restaurant > Eclectic

Region: Emeryville


(510) 653-3400. Open for lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; for dinner Monday through Thursday 5 to 9:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday 5 to 10:30 p.m., Sunday 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Happy hour with complimentary appetizers Monday through Friday 4:30 to 7 p.m.

Reservations recommended. Wheelchair accessible. Free valet parking.

Public transit: Call Emery-Go-Round at (510) 451-3862.

Noise level: convivial.

Mai Tai $7.25
Scorpion $8.50
Beef Cho-Cho $7
Bongo Bongo Soup $6
Seafood taro nest $21
Macadamia-crusted mahi-mahi $19
Kona ice cream flambé $6

9 Anchor (at Powell), Emeryville

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Still, I'm glad I wore the tie: The Trader certainly did add something to the collective culinary ozone.Belly up to the bar and survey the Gilligan-esque décor at Trader Vic's.

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