The Roanoker - September/October 2014 - 106
CHINESE-POLYNESIAN AT ITS BEST
THE INTERIOR AND THE VIBE HAVEN'T CHANGED MUCH
SINCE THE 1972 OPENING. BUT THAT DOESN'T PRECLUDE
AN OPEN, INVITING, CLEAN ATMOSPHERE, AND GREAT
MOAI DESIGNED BY NUNO LEZON FROM THE THENOUNPROJECT.COM
PALM TREE DESIGNED BY BEN BIONDO FROM THE THENOUNPROJECT.COM
TAKES ON CLASSIC DISHES.
106 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2014
I AM UNABASHEDLY A FAN of 1950s and 1960s
kitsch. If you asked me to name my favorite period of
furniture, mid-century modern would be my immediate reply. Those robin egg blue bathtubs and bubblegum
pink toilets in ranch houses? Love them. "Mad Men"?
Obviously one of my favorite shows. And as a native
Atlantan who lived less than five miles from the east
coast outpost of Trader Vic's - the California-based tiki
restaurant that single-handedly introduced Americans
in the 1930s and 1940s to fruity cocktails and Polynesian cuisine - I hold a soft spot in my heart for Mai
Tais and pu pu platters.
Enter Fiji Island, Roanoke's own Polynesian restaurant. Opened in 1972, Fiji Island has been upholding
the Trader Vic's tradition for well over 40 years now.
Charles "Charlie" Chang took over the restaurant from
his brother in 1975 and manned the kitchen for several
decades, deftly crafting and serving Chinese-Polynesian fusion along with a side of his friendly cheer. These
days you'll find him greeting guests at the front door
and circling the dining room, striking up conversations
with diners. It's not unusual to overhear the inside jokes
between the regulars and Charlie, and if you're lucky
you might even be invited to share a table and drink
with some of them.
Upon entering the dining room, it's hard not to notice how unchanged it feels from when it first opened.
Nothing is shabby or dirty, it just holds an air of knowing about it. After all, the dining room has seen the likes
of Elizabeth Taylor, among other more local celebrities.
Black walls host back-lit vibrant Polynesian paintings
depicting dragons, tiki totems dot the service floor, and
every table is set with not just cutlery and napkins, but
also a plastic lei for each guest to wear. It's impossible
not to feel like every meal is a party at Fiji Island - and
that's a good thing.
To fully experience Fiji Island, ordering a pu pu Tray
for the table is a must. The appetizer features shrimp