Malaysia has many different ethnic origins, centuries of migration from neighbouring countries has resulted in many different cuisines merging into what is now everyday Malaysian.
Tiger Palm brings them all to you on one menu. Indian, Chinese, Thai and the odd English touch all add to the indigenous Malay. The early settlers from China, especially the traders from the Malacca Straits merged their own cuisines with that of Malay forming what today is referred to as Nyonya cuisine.
This is the 4th Bali restaurant from the Sarong Group [the 7th in S.E.Asia] and chef/owner Will Meyrick has once again achieved what for most is impossible, a full restaurant from day one! His constant exploration of the cuisines of Asia is fully on show, but once again it is some of the Thai influenced dishes that stand out!
Since chef first arrived in Bali [Husk at the ex Sofitel, Seminyak] he has insisted on presenting all dishes as they should be, not sweetened to the taste of the un-adventurous tourist. He cooks Thai, Thai! And he does the same for all other cuisines. It works!
At each of his previous restaurants Will has always produced a Salmon Salad, that has immediately become one of his signature dishes. All were excellent but this one is unique. All are Thai influenced. In fact I can think of no better way to begin any Asian meal than with a Thai salad, the refreshingly hot and sour taste really gets those taste buds working.
Cubes of salmon are just seared then tossed with paper-thin cucumber strips, onion, chilli and mint, sprinkled throughout with sesame seeds. On top are strips of salmon skin that have been fried till crisp, crunchy! All Thai salads use fresh sweet fruit to balance the chilli, in this one pineapple segments perform that task admirably. The ingredients are perfectly balanced, the trademark of a true professional.
The other salads are also excellent if you can drag yourself away from the salmon option, which I find difficult to do. A Malay Rojak [with green guava, mango, rose apple and yam bean], an Indian Rojak [prawn fritters and fried dumplings with potato, egg, cucumber and tofu], and the Nyonya Bihun [prawn, ginger flower, mint and dried coconut] offer a smorgasbord of refreshing salads.
Chinese dim sum have become a standard in just about every menu in S.E. Asia, as Spanish tapas have on many western menus. They certainly have in Malaysia. Char Sui Pork Buns, Har Gow, Cheong Fun [rice noodle rolls] stuffed with prawn or braised shredded beef are all great to snack on. Jalan Alor is very different, smoked chicken wings with a belacan sambal [fish paste].
The curries on offer are mostly seafood. Prawns can be Kandar, from Penang in the north, strongly flavoured with okra, fenugreek [the wonder spice], black pepper and curry leaves, or Siamese [pineapple, Kaffir lime, Thai basil and coconut milk]. Fish curries are headed by an original Nyonya with coconut milk, curry powder, okra and freshly chopped coriander. Asam Rebus is a sour fish curry with cauliflower, banana blossom, ginger flower and laksa leaf.
Ayam Hitam is a sweeter chicken curry using sweet soy to soften the flavour of the curry leaves. The Lamb Shoulder is an intense and unusual curry; it has been slow-cooked with cumin, coriander and tomato. The Duck Korma is a green chilli curry with almonds, mint, coriander and potato.
The great Chinese fish dishes are all invariably steamed. Here they do a whole fish with sour plum or with picked lime, garlic and green chilli. Otak-Otak is Malay but this uses banana leaf to wrap the minced fish in after being spiced with Thai basil, betel leaves and coconut. A Nyonya Peranakan dish is fish that has been deep fried till crisp, with ginger flower, chilli, tomato and tamarind.
Street Food is always to the forefront on any Will Meyrick menu, at Tiger Palm it has its own little section; a Chicken Leg from the tandoor with or without chilli, Fish marinated in green chilli, coriander, mint, yoghurt or Duck roasted with gailan and plum sauce. Many stir fries but for me the Asam Usang was very special, very large prawns cooked with garlic, chilli, tamarind, mustard seed and curry leaves. A typical WM special, a mouthful of taste!
Early morning, late afternoon after lunch, and after 11.00 p.m, at the bar Tiger Palm also offers snacks, their Kopitiam menu.
All the restaurants that Will Meyrick has set up all have similar Asian menus, yet all are uniquely different. The one standard is the incredible balance he achieves using so many different ingredients, they make one total taste yet all can be identified.
My only 'complaint' at Tiger Palm was about the waiter asking if I wanted 'spicy' or 'moderate' [another word for non-traditional tourist junk food]! I am sorry but if you leave out or reduce the quantity of any ingredient then you have immediately altered the great balance of the dish, which is the reason why you came here in the first place! It is all these extreme taste sensations that make Asian food so exciting. Just do what they do; order contrasting and complementing dishes then eat from them, on rotation, all at the same time, interspersed with a spoonful of rice between each.
Tiger Palm is a winner, that man has done it again!