Date visited: 23 July 2011
I want Asian, and I will have Asian post-haste!
And so it was that Clinton, in a sudden anxiety attack to cross more countries off our list and to kick his Asian-food craving, found Bali Bali, an Indonesian restaurant in London, on Shaftesbury Avenue.
It’s rare these days that we make an effort to head back into the city on a Saturday night. I don’t know, there’s something about being OK with the couch and a bottle of Pinot that indicates 1. domestic bliss; 2. self-acceptance; 3. getting old. Tonight, however, Clinton was determined to sample the beef rendang that he had read such excellent reviews about. We exited a busy Leicester Square tube station and picked our way through the heaving crowds of excited tourists, making our way down Shaftesbury Avenue, passing one pre-theatre restaurant after another until we stumbled into Bali Bali, with its early 90s decor of florals and peaches and tiny tables crammed together.
We were shown to our table by a Buddha doppelganger, who then happily left us in peace to examine the menus while he looked after his other tables. All evening he served us with a stern efficiency and refused to succumb to my ridiculous brand of blond humour. “What makes the Indonesian prawn crackers different from normal pawn crackers?” “They’re bigger,” was his dry, unfazed reply (perhaps the query was not uncommon).
I ordered gulai sotong, squid cooked in spicy, coconut gravy which was lovely. But the rendang, something between a curry and a stew, really did stand out and was as delicious as we had anticipated. The beef was melt-in-your mouth succulent, a tribute to the slow cooking method used, and flavoured with spices and coconut. We cleaned our palates with a kue dadar, a traditional Indonesian coconut pancake served with coconut milk.
Verdict: While Bali Bali could probably do with a face lift to bring it into this decade (even century) the delicious food, great prices and fantastic service left us in no doubt as to why this is a favourite and why customers just keep coming back.
A further note on rendang. The dish originated from the Minangkabau people and was traditionally served at festive occasions. Readers of a CNNGo poll voted rendang first place in the World’s 50 most delicious foods.
So, what do you think is the most delicious dish from around the world?