So here we are. The first time I’m writing content exclusively for DKLoMakan, and I’m pretty excited about it! One of the many reasons I decided to start my own blog was to get a chance to write highly-detailed single restaurant reviews, and I finally have the chance to do so with this forum. So without much ado, here we go!
Last Saturday night WW (my fiancée) and I visited Bali, a little restaurant that we have always loved but have not been back to for quite some time. I’ve heard mixed reviews about the restaurant since our last visit, with some people saying that the quality has gone downhill, while others stating that everything is still hunky-dory (who the hell still SAYS that?). Curious, and a tad famished, we decided on going back there.
Now for the uninitiated, Bali is an interesting place. It’s meant to be a Southeast Asian restaurant, but it is cooked by a Cantonese chef who has had experience in working with Southeast Asian spices. I’m not sure whether she’s actually worked in any of these countries, but the result is that the place serves up a fusion-esque combination of Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, and Thai food. What sets it apart is that its ‘fusion’ does not a Westernized version of said cuisine, but rather one that is adapted to the Cantonese audience. That’s right, the entire wait staff and almost all the clientele (as far as I can tell) are Cantonese-speaking and have strong Cantonese roots, predominantly from Hong Kong.
The first time I found this out, this was pretty much tantamount to blasphemy. Here we have a restaurant that calls itself Bali, but does not speak almost anything other than Cantonese (English is totally hit-or-miss), serving no real authentic Indonesian food (Bali’s in Indonesia, in case people are wondering), and barely has anything to do with the region. But then I tried the food, and I was quite amazed at the quality and taste of everything that I tried. I’ve softened my Amish-like puritan stance since then, told myself to shut up and enjoy the food, and lo and behold I found myself liking it more and more.
So when we walked back in to the restaurant last Saturday night, I was full of anticipation about the food we were to enjoy. Usually, we get their special $25 combo dinner for two, which served us two soups, two satays, a curry dish, a noodle dish (i.e. Pad Thai), and desserts. This time however, we decided to each get the new dinner combo for one, which has pretty much the same ingredient but with a larger variety of mains. I had the coconut chicken soup, the volcano chicken satay, Hainanese chicken rice while WW had the same soup, the ‘regular’ satay, and curried beef brisket.
Firstly, the soup. This is definitely, for us, a major highlight of the restaurant. You simply must try the coconut chicken soup, as it hits all the right notes. With a very subtle hint of lime amidst an ocean of rich velvety (and slightly spicy) coconut millk broth, this soup is truly, to quote a Singaporean expression, “DIE-DIE MUST TRY ONE”.
The satays came next. They were all extremely tender and flavourful. The regular ones are grilled while the volcano ones were battered and dipped in a sweet sauce reminiscent of teriyaki/thick kecap manis, an Indonesian sweet soy sauce. For those who prefer a more subtle flavours, get the regular one. The quality of the meats were still every bit as good as we remembered it, so much so that I’m willing to overlook the fact (somewhat) that my volcano skewers came AFTER my main. Meh. It’s a Chinese restaurant. Lower standards are to be expected in terms of food order.
Finally, on to the mains. This is where the experience falls a bit flat. Usually we get the Pad Thai, which was always very good and not too full of that glowing sour red ketchup synonymous with 99% of ‘Thai’ places around town. This time we decided to venture and try something different. My Hainanese chicken rice, for starters, was tasteless. This is unacceptable for Southeast Asian cuisine. The meat was tender and smooth, but it was so void of any taste whatsoever that I’m pretty sure they didn’t put any seasoning on it. This is not what Singapore’s national dish is supposed to taste like, and it wasn’t even close. The rice itself was almost undistinguishable from plain white rice, another strike. WW’s curry was tastier and was definitely reminiscent of the days when we used to buy the combo for two, with good quality cuts of meat that were very tender, but this time we found it to have too much tendon. So this may be a personal preference, but we were somewhat disappointed by that too.
Service-wise, we’ve frankly always found that, apart from the owner or her daughter, the service is pretty subpar. So this wasn’t a big issue. The restaurant (like many similar places) loves to hire what seems to us to be inexperienced cheap labour who are around 90% unable to speak English, and this is something that grates me somewhat. They were very ‘matter-of-fact’ when speaking to us, without actually being curt, and didn’t seem to give a care about the quality of serv-, you know what, that sentence sounded more ridiculous the more I say it. “Quality of service?” By old auntie-aunties in a Cantonese restaurant? Bitch please.
Overall, I would still recommend the restaurant to those who are curious about this interesting Canto-Southeast Asian concoction. It’s not bad (actually my previous reviews about this place had been glowing, but that was probably because we were served by the owner, who was kindness itself) and the coconut chicken
soup is to die for in my opinion. The quality of the meats have always been very good, and there’s nothing overall that is an overt problem. In addition, the ambience of the place itself is nice, the interior is very clean, simple, and sleek, and the red cloths draped as decoration are a nice touch.
Just stay away from the Hainanese chicken rice (unless you love your food bland – and if so what’s wrong with you) and remember to have low expectations of the servers.
Now go get that soup.
–Final verdict: Boleh Makan!
10 E Wilmot St
Richmond Hill, ON L4B 1K9