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What's the deal with Bali Hai?

OK, I have passed this place on the freeway so many times and am always wondering whether it would be worth stopping by (even for the kitsch value). Am I right that it's one of those cheesy 1950's era Polynesian places? Is it even worth a try? Is it the kind of place you can get ridiculous fruity drinks with umbrellas in them? What's the ambiance like? I usually see a few cars in the parking lot but I wonder if it ever gets actually crowded, say on the weekends.

While we're on the topic - I have seen a few mentions of Kowloon on the boards, and wonder if there are other similar places around Boston that might be worth checking out for a laugh. (And yes, I am familiar with the flaming volcano room at ECG.)

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  1. *shudder*
    I went to Bali Hai once and refuse to go back. My boyfriend and his friends go for the Mai Tais and boneless spare ribs.

    I'm pretty sure the last update they did was to add Keno to the bar area.

    1. The place used to be a pretty seedy place in the 80's. It's famous enough for the late Amazing Crowns to write a song titled "Trouble at Bali Hai", which is about the guitarist basically crashing his car into a cop car in the Bali Hai parking lot.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Chrispy75

        A+ for the Amazing Royal Crowns reference.

      2. The Bali Hai is god awful, even keeping with the cheesy polynesian theme. The Kowloon is definately the spot for fountains, volcano's, umbrella drinks and surprisingly decent cheesy americanized Chinese food. Sit in the fountain room and remember the pupu platter and Zombie's!!

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          1. Thanks to Joyce Chen, Boston had a plethora of Polynesian rests. in the 50's. A lot of these places are throwbacks to this era in every sense of the word. In one place, near Newton Centre, you can eat under a fake thatched hut and "look out" at a wallpaper view of a beach. I've generally found that these places have awful food. I'd take decent dumplings over kitsch any day. My parents had their rehearsal dinner at Aku Aku!

            2 Replies
            1. re: Chocolate Mousse

              Pardon a pedantic history interlude, but Joyce Chen was not about Polynesian food at all. She is a local culinary Revered Person for introducing and popularizing authentic Mandarin cuisine in the US, starting with her Cambridge restaurant in the late 50s, later with a popular WGBH cooking show and cookbooks. Thanks to her, millions of Americans sought out Peking duck, hot and sour soup, and moo shu pork instead of chop suey and chow mein.

              She coined the term "Peking ravioli" for pan-fried potstickers, and invented the flat-bottomed wok for use on electric cooktops. She might have had a pupu platter on her menu as a concession to local tastes (I don't know, I never did get to visit her place), but she should be remembered first and foremost in connection with Beijing cuisine.

              (And yes, Aku Aku was really dreadful.)

              1. re: MC Slim JB

                My first meal at Joyce Chen was revelatory. I was taken by a teacher, who ordered all of his favorite items for a group of receptive kids. Though I was only 15, I knew that I was in the presence of greatness. After this meal, I could never eat Americanized Asian food again. Joyce Chen brought a new cuisine to many people in the area, and was a true destination.

                I only made it back once before her empire imploded. I still bore my DC about these two special meals every time we drive by the original restaurant's site.