Just by hearing the name --- Tommy Bahama --- I had already pictured what the restaurant looked in my mind. I was seeing beach theme, tiki cocktails and over the top decorations. But, as I walked up the spectacular spiral staircase, part of my assumptions were confirmed, but yet my vision had been pleasantly exceeded. This jaded New Yorker felt as if I was transported onto a lovely tropical island and I was about to seriously decompress.
We were brought to a corner table overlooking New York’s bustling 5th Avenue where we saw yellow cabs whizzing by. The décor was impeccable, everything you’d imagine from the clothing store itself was represented; bright whites and beige and cascading blue colors sprinkled throughout the restaurant.
I wholeheartedly choose to embrace island life, particularly when I met recently-appointed head chef Jeremie Tomczak. He is now at the helm of the New York City outpost of Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant & Bar, which has been in operation for the last five years. The chef, who held gigs at famed restaurants including Aquavit, Marcus Samuelsson’s Red Rooster Harlem and the French Culinary Institute, is clearly passionate about what he’s doing with food.
While the menu often stays the same throughout the various locations (read: world famous coconut shrimp with papaya mango chutney), Tomczak is putting his own stamp on some newer items including the cilantro ginger crushed mahi-mahi; the ahi poke with sea asparagus, maui onions, furikake, tobiko, avocado and sriracha aioli; and the Kona coffee crusted ribeye with cauliflower steak, lemon arugula and garlic butter.
The menu is very accommodating to a variety of diets, creating options that are gluten free, vegetarian and nut free. The staff, most notably the Chef and manager, are extremely knowledgeable about what ingredients are in their dishes and know how to communicate that clearly to their customers who have dietary restrictions.
The wide range of dishes celebrate Island life in all of its forms, with offerings reminiscent of Hawaii, the Caribbean and Asian dishes, in a variety of forms. “For the Fresh Sheet, I like curry along with mango and coconut sauces,” said Tomczak. “I like to balance flavors so they work together and nothing stands out too much.”
But it’s not just the food that’s a huge draw—it’s most certainly the tiki-inspired cocktail menu that offers tipples such as a mango habanero margarita, a dark and stormy or a handcrafted pina colada. Consequently, the secret is out with some of local New Yorkers, Tommy Bahama’s happy hour at its Marlin Bar downstairs has become a hot spot for after-work catch-ups when people are looking to unwind. It’s certainly one of the Big Apple’s best kept secrets.