Where did you go when you wanted a meal outside of the norm, 20 years ago, in Bali? It was all happening in Kuta. Lunch at Made's Warung, dinner at Un's, Poppies, TJ's, the new kid on the block Kori on the other Poppies, or at the fledgling Café Warisan out in the rice paddies, still trying to decide whether it was Italian, Vietnamese or French?
The Kori restaurant has lasted the distance! Situated only 100 metres behind the ill-fated Sari Club, in central Kuta, its longevity is a tribute to its management, its good value, and the loyalty of its customers. It continued to operate even in the immediate aftermath of the disaster, unlike others who closed up and ran.
Kori has become a fixed part of the Bali dining scene. Whilst the menu covers a number of cuisines and styles, not unlike those of many leading hotels, the food quality is never in doubt. For its regular customers, and they number many, Kori is a bit like an old pair of jeans, comfortable and non-threatening. You can sit in the main body of the restaurant, up on the mezzanine or out in the pleasant rear garden courtyard.
The menu is broken down into small descriptive sections. The 1st thing on the menu is a list of available breads [Garlic Sticks, Tuscan Sourdough and Focaccia with dips or a mix, simply called the Bread Board]. Whilst I normally detest separately charged bread at least these are worth the price. The mixed plate is the best option.
The first group of Appetisers includes Malai Koftas, very mildly spiced vegetable fritters in a light curry sauce, a small salad on the side. The Kori Win Sum Basket is a mini Asian pastry feast [wonton, spring roll and samosa] with both mango chutney and a sweet and sour dipping sauce. Super star of the entrees is their Prawn and Mango "Margarita" Cocktail, fresh prawns chopped with papaya, pineapple, and mango, dressed in tequila cocktail sauce.
Later in the menu there is a Yellow Fin Tuna Sashimi selection, but served Mediterranean style with roasted tomato, olives, feta cheese and wasabi [just to throw in a Japanese connection]. There is an excellent Chicken Salad, the meat cooked in cajun spices then tossed in greens and an unusual passion fruit dressing. Other salads include a Thai Beef Salad, thin strips of seared tenderloin combined with glass noodles, more International than the traditional Yum Neau. The entrees, like all sections of this menu, present a touch of many different cuisines. In fact there is something for everyone.
Soups include a Tortilla Bisque with fresh bamboo prawn ragout and avocado cream. Young sweet corn is used for the Javanese Corn Soup, creamed corn with chives and cumin. The Seafood Chowder combines mussels, prawns, tuna and squid.
The Tasmanian Salmon is just about perfect! It is coated with sesame seeds and grilled with a miso mustard sauce. Quite a surprisingly large slab of salmon it is too. It is served on mashed potatoes with bok choy. Kori's Exotic Seafood Spa is a combination seafood plate of scallops, prawns and a fillet of fish, lightly poached in a turmeric and ginger bouillon.
Singaporean Chilli Crab is available as are Fresh Lobsters, which can be grilled with Pernod butter or served mornay-style [thick cheese sauce]. The Giant Hanging Seafood Grill [pictured] is alternating pieces of prawn, tuna, snapper and squid on an iron skewer. A Seafood Platter served on a stick! Whilst simple old Fish 'n Chips is just that.
The Twice Cooked N.Z. Lamb Shanks have been casseroled with mushrooms and other vegetables. The Roasted Lamb Rump has been seasoned with Moroccan spices and is served with baked vegetables and onion marmalade. The Spare Ribs are substantial, and come with mashed potatoes, corn on the cob and lashings of homemade barbecue sauce.
Hot Stone Cooking is something that has never appealed to me but it is undoubtedly very popular in a number of Bali restaurants. At Kori you can select from Prime Beef Fillet, Pork Medallions or Yellow Fin Tuna. A tray of hot stones is placed in front of you and you proceed to cook your own dinner, as you like it. With your meal will be a baked potato, vegetables and dipping sauces.
Whilst many dishes are Asian inspired, a few are more direct. A Balinese Pepes Ikan [mahi-mahi cooked with spices all wrapped in a banana leaf] and Semur Daging [beef stew] and Udang Goreng Mentega [king prawns sautéed in garlic and oyster sauce] from Indonesia. There is a Thai-style Green chicken Curry and a Bombay style vegetarian curry of Potato and Cauliflower.
Desserts include both the normal and a few unusual ones. A caramel flavoured Crème Brulee, the Apple Crumble is served with ice cream, as is the Chocolate Pecan Nut Pie. A Cheesecake is topped with mango and markisa, served with a warm fudge sauce. The sensational Sticky Toffee Date Pudding is smothered with butterscotch sauce, and ice cream. The Black Rice Pudding Spring Roll is the Balinese offering, with vanilla custard and palm sugar syrup.
A well-balanced wine list and a selection of Cuban cigars to savour, turns the evening meal into a pleasant social occasion that may spread over many hours. Even the extensive Cognac range is reasonably priced.
It is easy to see why Kori has weathered the storm, and lasted the distance.