Every once in a while, my partner and I enjoy going on a romantic, grown-up date, with a fancy setting; exquisite, elaborate food; and service that rivals the court of a maharajah. This was not one of those times. Now, don't get me wrong, I love a fancy outing in a fancy place with fancy food and fancy bathrooms and fancy napkins and fancy fancy fancy, but I'm generally pretty low key. And sometimes, you just want to venture out to a place where the food is great, the company is decidedly adult, and you can just relax and have some you time. Enter Banzai Bar in Point Loma.
Banzai is billed as a "dive bar," and from the outside, I'd believe it. Neon sign, unassuming, hidden entrance -- but as soon as you walk inside, it's quite nice.
The service is "order at the bar, then we'll call you when your food and drink is ready," so English pub-style service, which is kind of rare these days. I actually like the casualness of it, rather than so much ceremony, just good food served simply.
We started out with some drinks, because cocktails are always a good idea. I had an old-fashioned, my favorite, and S had the No. 20, with bourbon, blackberry, lemon, and bitters. The presentation was gorgeous, and the flavors were perfect. It's intensely satisfying to sip on the perfect cocktail in great weather while you chat happily with your dining partners.
The menu has bar fare with a few gourmet bites to satisfy any craving. After some recommendations, we decided to try half orders of the poke tacos and the ginger wings. The poke tacos were one of my favorite bites. Small "tacos" served in a fried wonton wrapper shell, stuffed with tuna poke and topped with pickled carrot and wasabi cream. The combination of fresh fish, crunchy shell, and seasoning flavor is irresistible.
No bar menu is complete without some wings, but these wings were special in that they were glazed with a ginger-soy sauce, and cooked to perfection. Lean and not greasy, they were a nice bite that didn't feel too messy for polite company (although I'm not sure that wings would ever be black tie fare).
If a burger is on the menu, it's a pretty good bet that S will order it. We had a pretty good feeling that the burgers wouldn't disappoint at Banzai, so he tried the jalapeno bacon burger with some of the garlic parmesan fries. The burger was very tasty, juicy, and the jalapeno-bacon combination was perfect. Thick bacon, and charred jalapeno peppers mixed into spicy jack cheese. You have to try it!
Another featured menu item is the bowls, heavily Hawaiian influenced with Ahi tuna, chicken, and, of course, poke. I've vowed to eat as much poke as possible in 2016, so my choice was the big, beautiful poke bowl. Look at that beautiful pile of yellowtail seasoned with soy and wasabi. The poke bowl is offset with edamame, pickled carrots, cucumber, and freshly grilled pineapple. Underneath the fish is white rice, so it's quite a filling dish. Delish and served with chopsticks to give the real poke feel.
Banzai Bar is 21+, so it's definitely a date night place for mom and dad or you young things without kids! I loved the experience, and this visit won't be my last.