September 27, 2021

It’s tiki time for evening with Venue Unknown | Food

Even if dreams of an island getaway are on hold, we’re all ready to get away from our homes. Venue Unknown is here to help with Let’s Tiki, its first in-person event in over a year.

Of course, when you talk about tiki in Bakersfield, it’s likely that thoughts drift to Tiki-Ko, the downtown bar that has been offering to-go drink kits but remains closed to the public. A fondness for the business definitely inspired the theme of the upcoming event.

Venue Unknown founder Jennifer Sanderson said this latest pop-up culinary experience started, “Honestly, just from missing Tiki Ko.”

“Tiki Ko had been previously featured on a walking tour of downtown that Venue Unknown did way back in June 2019, but I’ve always wanted to do a big event with them,” she wrote in an email. “I always thought it would be in their new basement bar, but … outside for a tiki party actually works really well.”

The outdoor shindig will take place April 10 in the parking lot outside The Kitchen that is conveniently across the street from the K Street bar. With the help of plants and florals from House of Flowers, the lot will serve as a “Polynesian paradise” for groups of two or four seated apart who will enjoy a five-course menu designed by The Kitchen’s chef Richard Yoshimura and cocktails mixed by Tiki-Ko bartenders.

Sanderson said decided to offer the in-person event after offering months of takeaway date-night packages based on response from past event attendees, who were “cautiously optimistic” in a Venue Unknown survey.

“People are ready to get out and do things, if those things are done safely,” she wrote.

Dinner starts with appetizers of karaage chicken or cauliflower in the same Japanese fried preparation and either pork or vegetable dumplings. Next up is a coconut curry carrot soup, then the fish course of seasonal fish or tomato “tuna” and tofu, both served with garlic black bean sauce, coconut jasmine rice and spring vegetables.

The main course is koji-rubbed New York strip steak (eggplant steak for vegetarians) with a sweet onion soy reduction, sautéed mushrooms and scallion mashed potatoes.

Dessert consists of chocolate matcha mousse cake with almond dacquoise.

Roy Scarazzo, who owns Tiki-Ko with wife Sonya, said they jumped at the chance to again partner with Venue Unknown.

“We’re always stoked when they want to include us in anything,” he wrote in an email.

Taking a cue from the Asian flavors in the menu, the Tiki-Ko team worked out four complementary cocktails.

“Richard always comes through with amazing dishes so we wanted to do something that would vibe with the menu and the Asian favors. (Bar manager) Freddy (Lwin) came up with a delicious palm sugar and lemongrass syrup that we’re using in a daiquiri with a Jamaican overproof rum. We’ve also worked out a version of the Burma Shave with lychee nut purée and Barbadian rum. And we’re starting it off with a tiki aperitif, the Bermuda 100, with gin, Campari, orgeat and pineapple and lime juice.”

Tiki-Ko bartenders Bernardo Soriano and Jorge “Spongie” Reyes will conduct demos of the drinks during dinner service and fellow mixologist Gabby Osdale will be joining their “longtime/former service industry homies” as servers, Scarazzo said.

Sanderson said she is looking forward to seeing people and hosting a group, even with social distancing.

“I’ve really missed events. … We can’t wait to see everyone, and hope guests bring their tiki spirit! Tiki attire is strongly encouraged.”

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.