Mai Tiki Bar is a sweet escape!
Tucked away behind an unmarked door inside TigerLily sushi bar (formerly Antihero), the Ferndale-based speakeasy tiki bar is a whimsical kaleidoscope of colors and flavors: the perfect contrast to the muted winter landscape soon to befall Metro Detroit.
Mai offers an array of tropically inspired drinks served in the way characteristic of tiki bars: in visually arresting ceramic tiki mugs bedecked with fun garnishes such as mint leaves, pineapple wedges, and orchid blooms – or half a flaming lime (that’s the garnish for The Zombie!). The bulk of Mai’s specialty cocktails incorporate rum and fruit juices – another trait characteristic of tiki bars. But the drinks are much more nuanced than the ones you’d find at a stereotypical tiki bar (those kinds that cater to tourists in popular vacation spots). Mai’s incorporate interesting ingredients such as orgeat syrup, cinnamon, and pomegranate.
Take one of the drinks I ordered, The Jungle Bird. Its blackstrap rum, Campari, and demerara syrup melded with pineapple and lime juices to make a drink that was one part sweet, one part bitter – and one hundred percent delicious! I especially enjoyed the molasses flavor brought by the blackstrap rum.
But humans can’t live on wonderfully nuanced liquid libations alone. When you’re in need of nourishment after downing a Mai Tai or two, look to Mai’s food menu. The assortment of plates offer something for everyone, from veg lovers to meat-focused folks to seafood fanatics intrigued by the Mai Tiki Shrimp, Aku Roll, and three kinds of fish tacos (salmon, hamachi, and tuna).
I went the veg and meat route, ordering Mai’s Chicken Karage and Shishito Peppers. A flavorful yuzu chili aioli accompanied the tender Chicken Karage. And wonder accompanied the Shishito Peppers! The cooked peppers were topped with bonito flakes, which were moving – writhing all over the peppers.
Apparently, this is a common occurance. Bonito flakes are shaved dried fish; when sprinkled on hot foods, the heat causes them to rehydrate, and they start wiggling as a result. But it was my first time experiencing this phenomenon, and it was hard to shake the feeling that they were alive. Order those Shishito Peppers and play a party trick on your friends!
Party trick or not, visiting Mai Tiki Bar is a shindig in itself. Vibrant ambiance and compelling food and drink make it a escape worth taking.
231 W. 9 Mile Rd.
Ferndale, MI 48220