The décor, by Vanessa Guilford, takes deep turquoise as its predominant color note, and includes large murals, teakwood floors, bamboo ceilings, a 30-foot-long lava-rock bar top, and cut-metal screens that evoke Polynesian masks.
It’s an expansive vision of tiki culture the likes of which New York has not seen since the days of Trader Vic’s and the Hawaiian Room of the Hotel Lexington. “New York’s been waiting for it,” Mr. Miller said. “And honestly, I feel like people have been waiting for me to do it.”
Mr. Miller, 47, is one of perhaps a half-dozen figures who spearheaded the recent tiki renaissance in the United States, and the only one without a bar. Instead, he has spread the aesthetic through an itinerant tropical party called “Tiki Mondays.” The event began in 2011 at the SoHo bar Lani Kai (since closed), and later put in time at the Gold Bar, Mother’s Ruin and Pouring Ribbons.
He worked at ZZ’s Clam Bar, Major Food’s pocket-size cocktail and raw bar in Greenwich Village, and in 2014, the partners asked him to pitch his idea for a bar. For the presentation, Mr. Miller had leis mailed from Hawaii, and brought in an act called the Hula Belly Sisters. It worked.
“My idea was Trader Vic’s meets ‘Mad Men’ meets ‘Pirates of the Caribbean,’” Mr. Miller said. Food will include pu pu platters and what Major Food boasts will be a “best-of-class Crab Rangoon.”
The four-panel folding bar menu, modeled after Trader Vic’s, lists 19 cocktails, four large-format shared drinks (one is served in a fish bowl) and two virgin cocktails. Among them are a few originals Mr. Miller has popularized over the years, like the Double-Barrel Winchester, which employs four different gins to create a panoply of flavors; the Fiddler’s Green, a cross between two classic tiki drinks, the Blue Hawaiian and the Montego Bay, served from a slushie machine; and the Smokin’ Sarong, a mélange of Scotch, coconut, tea and honey.
Speaking of sarongs, Mr. Miller, who promises to be at the Polynesian every day for its first year, will wear one as host, just as he often did at “Tiki Mondays.”
“Everyone knows I will be in a sarong,” he said. “Sarongs will be optional for staff.”
The Polynesian, 400 West 42nd Street, Manhattan.
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