Bali Hai

2230 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego CA 92106
$$ Hawaiian

Located at the eastern tip of Shelter Island, with a boat dock stretching from the back door, it is no surprise water is the predominant theme at Bali Hai. Taking cues from Island cultures from Tahiti to Polynesia, the historic Tiki-themed restaurant invites diners to a sensual escape of island pleasures. The menu is filled with rich and exotic dishes including Lobster Wontons, Chicken of the Gods, and Kailua Pork Loin, and the bar offers—what else?—famously authentic Mai Tai’s. Sunday Champagne Brunch attracts such a large crowd that the dock out back is often packed while eager boaters dine inside.

Waterfront Paradise

Review by

The Bali Hai is one of San Diego's most historic restaurants, with a long-standing reputation for being an exclusive purveyor of Polynesian food and entertainment. Originally part of a Newport Beach chain known as 'The Hut' in 1953, it was acquired a few years later by its former Manager and fledgling restaurateur Tom Ham, who later gained fame as one of our city's most prominent entrepreneurs.

Renamed 'Bali Hai', soon after the release of the movie by the same name, the restaurant quickly soared to incredible popularity because of its unique Polynesian, Cantonese, and Mandarin-style cuisine. Also featured, was a highly celebrated Polynesian floorshow in the downstairs South Pacific Room, which eventually became a drawing card for many well-known members of Hollywood's motion picture community.

Over several decades, numerous things at the Bali Hai have improved with the times. As my guest and I walked upstairs on a recent trip to their dining room, however, we were struck by something that simply hasn't changed about this place …not one diner has anything less than a spectacular view. The structure's distinctively rotund design allows each table a panoramic vista of San Diego Bay and the city skyline beyond, which is a sight that is particularly impressive at night. The motif is intensely steeped in the culture of the south Pacific islands, and easily prompts some visitors to relive pleasant memories from past trips to Hawaii or Tahiti.

We were quickly seated by our adept and congenial server, Victor, who got us started with a couple of the Bali Hai's signature Mai Tai cocktails. These drinks were really something special, and were noticeably better than many similar renditions that I have had in Hawaii and Mexico. The Head Bartender has been here for over 30 years. In fact, they have even had instances where loyal patrons who have just flown in from the tropics, have come immediately back to the Bali Hai for a taste of 'the real thing'. These folks already know this is one lounge that remains scrupulously faithful to the original, potent recipe from Trader Vic's that was born in the middle of the last century.

The food that accompanied these libations was nothing less than stunning. Victor brought us a selection of tasty appetizers, along with a beautiful seared Ahi dish that rivaled anything I have been served at the best local sushi bars. The wonton skin nachos, with their pineapple guacamole salsa, offered a flavorful new twist to an old favorite, along with tangy, barbequed rib-lets that had a flavorful 'island touch'. Also served, were a few freshly made vegetable egg rolls, succulent crab cakes and one of my favorites, coconut crusted shrimp. These large prawns were crunchy, richly flavored and especially good when teamed up with the special dipping sauce that was provided.

Next came the house salad with a signature dressing laced with sesame oil. The lightly smoky flavor of the sesame along with the perfectly crisp mixture of exotic microgreens worked together to artfully cleanse the palate, as well as set the stage for the main course.

Our entrees were absolutely mouthwatering. My guest had the formidable fish sampler, which included ample portions of grilled salmon, Mahi-Mahi and seared Ahi fillet, alongside a pile of freshly steamed garden veggies and a serving of mashed, redskin potatoes. She valiantly ate every bite that she could, but still ended up having Victor box up leftovers from her generous feast for later consumption.

My Schezuan chicken was combined with vegetables, hot red chilis, fresh pineapple chunks and noodles, and then quickly stir-fried in a special sauce to create an authentic tasting dish, which would have been the pride of any Chinese chef in the province. In addition to their talented Executive Chef, Kim Martin, the Bali Hai also retains a certified Wok-Chef, which becomes readily apparent to those sampling any of the classic Asian dishes on the menu.

We stared out over the moonlit harbor while savoring a piece of dense, chocolate brownie topped with coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce, and a tropical variation on a classic, French dessert; mango crème brulee.

The Bali Hai is a great restaurant to visit for a special occasion, as well as for dinner. The surrounding, tropical flora and fauna along with its bayside location make it a perfect place for reunions, wedding receptions and parties.

Those who have never been here before should really give the new menu a try. Older patrons, who remember the Bali Hai of the 1950's and 60's, owe it to themselves to drop in again soon for an updated dining experience that will surprise and delight them. Of all the praises that could be offered as an endorsement, none are more appropriate than the Hawaiian designation for a first place contender, …and Bali Hai is, indeed, Noka Oi!

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Business Info

  • Address: 2230 Shelter Island Drive, San Diego CA 92106
  • Cross Street: Anchorage Ln.
  • Location: Point Loma & Ocean Beach | Shelter Island
  • Cuisine: Hawaiian | Pacific Rim |
  • Cost: | Inexpensive
  • Category: Fine Dining
  • Star Rating:
  • Reservations: Recommended
  • Dress Code: Casual Elegant
  • Meals Served: Lunch | Dinner |
  • Parking: Street |
  • Payment Options: VISA | Amex | MasterCard | Discover | Diners Club |
  • Corkage Fee: 10.00 | Per Bottle
  • Staff: Kim Martin | Chef de Cuisine
  • Phone: (619) 222-1181
  • Features: Full Bar, Ocean View, Sunday Brunch, Outdoor Seating, Private Room, Prix Fixe Menu, Smoking Area, Takeout Available, Wheelchair Access, Personal Wines Allowed, Lounge / Bar,
  • Occasion: Child Friendly, Romantic Dining, Dining Alone, Meet for a Drink, People Watching, Special Occasion,


Bali Hai - Chef Kim Martin
Bali Hai - Bali Hai

Business Hours

Reservations Available
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Lunch - Main Dining Room 11:30 a.m. - 3 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 5 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 4:30 p.m. - 10 p.m.
Brunch - Main Dining Room 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Dinner - Main Dining Room 4 p.m. - 9 p.m.
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Customer Reviews & Ratings

4.5 out of 5 stars based on 1 votes