A handful of hounds met last night for happy hour at the Tonga Room. Two of us arrived by 5:15 and already you couldn't get a table. People were camped out and saving seats all around. We snagged two bar stools as a starting point.
We ordered two mai tais ($7.50 each, $1 off) and paid $7 for all you can eat appetizers. By the time our next cohorts arrived, the buffet line was snaking around the dance floor.
Results were mixed. In some ways, the food was better than expected. Spareribs were meaty and decent quality pork, if not enhanced by any noticeable sauce. Fried won tons and egg rolls weren't bad, although I couldn't tell you what was inside, and a giant wok of thick noodles with cabbage and long beans was surprisingly decent.
Cocktails varied. Mai tais were pretty good, if low in alcohol. My Blue Hawaii was undrinkable. Service was generally surly. Our waitress checked back once at 7 to see if we wanted any more drinks at happy hour prices and then again to place a sign on the table that there was $5 cover charge after 8. No one noticed we hadn't finished any of our drinks.
The rain shower and pirate music were amusing. One friend commented the water reminded her of the hourly produce spray at Safeway.
The atmosphere is virtually unchanged since I first walked into the Fairmont 20 years ago (when there was still a doorman in charge of pressing the F into the ash trays) and maybe longer than that. Beautiful wood, maybe insufficiently ironic or kitschy. The tourists seemed happy enough, although it's hard to know why.