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Sneaky Tiki

Island Meets Clubland

The cult of tiki has long been associated with thatched roofs and torches, bamboo bars and tropical beauties -- more retro than sophisticated. Which is why true tikiphiles might be disappointed by SOMA's new Sneaky Tiki. If you're looking for vintage Polynesian pop, look elsewhere. This is tiki with a spoonful of style, a modern twist on the island theme with a thoroughly polished look and a tasty tropical-influenced menu.

The entrance sets the stage: a black podium stands in front of a wall built with large bubble aquariums, glowing aqua and filled with tropical fish. The main dining room, which seats up to 70, is dark and sleek with a full glass-counter bar, several semi-private booths and a room with deep chocolate walls full of low-lit tables. Adjacent to the dining room is the more colorful Tbar lounge that houses another bar and a more distinctly tiki theme including resin tiki heads mounted on the wall with bright hues and a fair bit of funk.

With two full bars and a tiki theme to uphold, the drink menu is obviously a draw. Specialty island drinks (think fruit puree and tropical flavors) abound, and the ginger lychini ($8) gets the party started.

The menu design gives a "Mission: Impossible" vibe as does the music, a cross between island tunes and 60s television spy themes. Our meal began on the right foot when a black-clad server brought out a bowl of crispy wonton chips and a pair of stellar dips -- a sweet, cool mango ketchup and a cilantro-jalapeno puree with quite a kick.

After wolfing down the wontons, my guest and I started with the pu pu platter ($12.95), a glorified bar food sampler. The crisp, greasy (and addictive) calamari rings were the most tantalizing item, with the bacon-wrapped chestnuts running a close second. Skinny, fried sweet potato strings were tasty but sharp, literally, and after a couple pokes to the cheek, I moved on to the lackluster "spicy" wings which were actually not spicy at all -- our least favorite item. Tuna tartare ($10.95) and baby ribs ($8.95) were the most enticing of the other starters.

The entrees are numerous, with several dishes intended to be shared, like the aloha cowboy steak ($39.50) and the luau pork ($27.95). The garlic basil tofu ($8.95) and banana leaf steamed bass were hard to pass up, but I went with the coconut curry shrimp ($16.95), an appetizing row of prawns doused in spicy curry served on a banana leaf. I was delighted by its richness, though the peppery spices tended to overwhelm the other flavors. My guest enjoyed the stir-fry beef ($15.95), tender strips in a sticky sweet teriyaki sauce, which was fresh and filling.

I'm rarely disappointed by dessert, and Sneaky's menu was no exception. We narrowed it down to the two most appetizing options, then went with our server's recommendation and ordered the fondue (we'll be back for the ginger apple doughnuts). The pot of supposedly chipotle-flavored chocolate (tasted semi-sweet to me), came with an array of cubed fruit, including mango and pineapple, as well as teeny tiny Rice Krispy squares and ginger cookies. After such a heavy meal, I'm glad we went with the lighter fare.

The space is definitely the focus of Sneaky Tiki; the sleekness is gorgeously executed and the tiki theme is stylishly implemented. The menu seems to be catching up, but have a few of those fantastic fruity drinks and you won't even care.

Asian Fusion/Caribbean