(BOSTON) – There something about tiki bars that can transform the doldroms into a delight: fun drinks, colorful decor, shareable, exotic eats. At a brand new spot in Boston’s South End called Shore Leave, the classic tiki experience is getting spiced up with a more refined, modern twist.

“Shore Leave is our below ground tropical vacation bar. We are actually just about two flights underground here in the South End,” explained partner and beverage director Ryan Lotz. “I always describe this space as feeling like you’re in the kind of ballroom of a ship, because you don’t really feel like you’re underground.”

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“You get to hunker down and forget about everything outside, whether it’s the climate, what your day was like, and then just hang out with some friends, drink some cool tropical drinks and eat some delicious food,” added Chef Colin Lynch.

Colin is the driving force behind all that delicious food, which is inspired by the cuisines of Southeast Asia, and executed with fresh, local ingredients. There are Filipino Barbecue Ribs, Lemongrass Chicken with coconut sticky rice and lettuce wraps, Tuna Tartare with avocado and crispy noodles, Salt and Pepper Pork Rinds with pineapple git sauce, Crispy Rice Salad with rock shrimp and radishes, and traditional Japanese style, spice-rubbed, double fried Chicken Wings.

Double Fried Chicken Wings at Shore Leave (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“Super crunchy, then a bunch of lime zest and lime juice to put on there for some acid,” Chef Colin described. “I think they’re unbelievable chicken wings. They’re so good you don’t need a sauce to dip with them.”

If you do want to get saucy, Shore Leave’s signature Dan Dan Wontons are the way to go.

“Dan Dan noodles are a really traditional Sichuan Chinese dish. It’s traditionally a noodle dish, and we wanted to turn that into a kind of dumpling,” Ryan said.

Dan Dan Wontons at Shore Leave (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“It’s pork filling but it’s whipped with a whole bunch of fermented black beans. Then we have pickled mustards that make up a sauce with some of the Sichuan chili oil, a bunch of scallions. It’s all those flavors but wrapped up in individual bites so they’re really, really easy to share,” Colin explained.

Another popular bite is the Pork Belly Bao, or you can get it with a local twist if you go for the fried clam version.

“It’s like having a clam roll when you’re down at the Cape, but we’re doing it with a little more Asian flair,” Colin said. “It’s the very soft bao roll that’s steamed, and then we make a tartar sauce using a whole bunch of chopped serrano chilis and some Dashi pickles. Then we toss that with some shredded cabbage and that goes in the bao with the fried clams.”

Fried Clam Bao at Shore Leave (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

If you are craving something bigger than just a few bites, check out the Katsu sandwich, featuring a thin-cut pork cutlet and kewpie mayo on impossibly soft and rich Japanese milk bread. Or you can go all in and order the lacquered Rohan Duck.

“It’s an incredible whole roasted breast and confit leg meat. That gets roasted with honey and then it comes with moo shu pancakes that we make in house, the bao buns, a ton of herbs and condiments,” Chef Colin described. “It feeds easily four incredibly hungry people, up to eight people who want to snack.”

Rohan Duck at Shore Leave (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

As for the drinks, well, they might be even more fun, flavorful, and colorful than the food. They are mixed right in front of your eyes, served in all kinds of crazy, custom-made ceramic vessels, and garnished with plenty of flair. Take for example, the eponymous Shore Leave cocktail.

“We have taken a local rum from Ipswich, from the Privateer Distillery, which is a silver rum. We’re blending it with a Jamaican rum. We’re going to add in a little bit of passion fruit for that tropical flavor, some lime for some acid, molasses which is just a really traditional New England flavor, then a little bit of angostura bitters for some spiciness,” Ryan explained.

Drinks are mixed right in front of you, served in crazy, custom-made ceramic vessels. (Image: Phantom Gourmet)

“That drink is going to be a big pop of flavor. It’s going to be tropical right off the bat. You’re going to get a lot of acidity, but you’re going to get a lot of nuance from the rum, especially the two different kinds of rum. You’re going to get richness from the molasses. It’s awesome.”

“The most important thing for people to come is this is like escapism at its best,” Chef Colin said. “You come down, you forget about everything else that’s going on. Just sit back and enjoy each other’s company.”

You can find Shore Leave at 11 William E. Mullins Way in Boston, and online at shoreleaveboston.com.

Watch Phantom Gourmet on Saturdays and Sundays at 10:30 and 11 a.m. on myTV38.

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