By Sandra Palacios
Polynesia: a group of islands full of colorful flowers, waterfalls, beautiful dancers moving to the drums and excellent food. Seems like the perfect way to relax at the end of week. Surrounded by flowers, waterfalls, exotic dancers, gardens and a spectacular dance show that represents all the islands — Hawaii, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand — Mai-Kai, a restaurant-show place in Ft. Lauderdale, offers all the happiness and hospitality of the Polynesians, only a few miles from home.
If the smell of the islands doesn’t entice you to come in, the fresh fish, piña coladas and flower shirt-clad hosts will welcome you to enjoy what will be an unforgettable experience. Dinner guests take in the famous Mai-Kai dance show while they enjoy Cantonese lobster or Thai duck with curry. The drums carry the rhythm, accompanied by guitars and beautiful dancers who wear gorgeous gowns woven by hand. Numbers like the wedding dance, the knives and fire dance and the drumming competition are all choreographed, directed and designed by Mai-Kai owner Mireille Thornton. One of the most exciting moments of the show is when two of the dancers jump on stage and present their mind-blowing fire and juggling number. Three exotic dancers follow, moving their bare feet to the island rhythm, and some daring guests will go up on stage and attempt to follow their steps.
To keep the party going after the show, the bar offers a long list of liquors, wines and cocktails like the Samoan Grog, a mix of rum and citric juices, and the Piña Passion served inside a coconut. Mai-Kai’s menu includes meats, fish and exotic Asian food, prepared on a Chinese stone and wood oven, grill or wok. There’s also sushi, sashimi, filet mignon and roasted duck.
This restaurant-show opened its doors in Ft. Lauderdale more than 50 years ago. Rooms are decorated with waterfalls and flowers, the outside garden makes for a more romantic atmosphere, and two main lounges offer dim lighting and a great view.
Mai-Kai, 3599 N. Federal Hwy, Ft. Lauderdale, 954-563-3272; happy hour daily from 5-7 p.m. On Wednesdays, buy a drink and enjoy the sushi bar on the house. Reservations recommended.