Back in the early 1980's, when anyone wanted a 'foreign' meal in Bali, they most often went to Kuta! In more recent years, Kuta has become more of a sanctuary for the local tourist element. Since the Kuta Tragedi, businesses in the Poppies Lanes area have suffered greatly. Many did not make the transition, but Un's, Poppies, Kori and that old original T.J.'s, have soldiered on!
With the constant change in Bali's restaurants, any establishment able to weather the storm for more than 20 years must be doing something right. Particularly when their location area changes as much as Kuta has!
What most of the world knows as Mexican food is really an American creation. Some call it Cal-Mex, others Tex-Mex. I am sure there is a difference, just like there must be between Wendy's and McDonalds, but who cares?
For all its faults, Americanised Mexican is easy to eat, as long as you love cheese? I do, so I have been guilty of devouring many tacos, enchilladas, fajitas, nachos and the like, in many different countries of the world. Strangely enough the classiest 'pure' Mexican meals I have ever enjoyed were on my many visits to La Cucaracha [the cockroach] in London's theatre district.
T.J.'s is a pleasant watergarden setting in Poppies I, not far from Jln. Legian. Closed off from the bustling surrounds, it really is a pleasant oasis. A perfect place to switch off from your problems of the day, relax at their bar with one of their famous margharita's, and contemplate the menu of cheese fixes!
How can you begin this style of Mexican without a Guacamole Dip? Throw in a plate of Nachos [crisp tortilla chips with refried beans, mild green chillies and that usual covering of melted cheese], and even a serve of Buffalo Wings [spicy chicken wings with a blue cheese dip] and you have the perfect starting point. Pick at them whilst you sip your drink, and peruse the rest of the menu. You already know it is going to be a long night?
If you prefer a bit of a variety, there are always Taquitos [deep-fried corn tortillas stuffed with shredded beef], Flautas [flour tortillas rolled with spicy chicken and cheese, then deep-fried] or Quesadilla [soft flour tortillas filled with chilli con queso and cooked on a dry griddle].
The Baked Potatoes are stuffed with a mixture of bacon, onion, chives and cheese, and even the Burgers come with a chilli sauce!
The ever-popular Tacos are excellent at T.J.'s. Here you can choose from chicken, beef or healthy beans as your filling in the crisp U-shaped corn tortilla, together with the usual lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, sour cream and that special sauce. Served with Mexican rice, and refried beans, the secret is to eat them without sending shattered shards everywhere! Definitely an art that takes much practice!
Enchilladas are soft flour tortillas, stuffed with beef, chicken or beans, together with tomato, onion, cheese and a tangy sauce. Again with Mexican rice and refried beans.
Fajitas are strips of marinated beef or juicy pieces of chicken breast, grilled with green and red peppers and onions. Roll your own soft tortillas and add sour cream, chopped tomato and onions, together with dollops of that avocado guacamole.
For two Tortillas with an International flavour; an Indian Chicken Keema [minced chicken, aubergine and ground cashews simmered in Indian spices, wrapped in a tortilla, and served with mango chutney] or Prawns in a Red Thai Curry [combined with onion and coriander, Thai spices and coconut milk, served in a tortilla with chilli sauce and pickled condiments]. Both very unusual, very filling, and full of flavour that packs a punch! My type of food!
Seafood variations include Camarones Escorpionadas, prawns in a Creole style sauce with guacamole, a salsa and sour cream, all on a bed of savoury rice, or a Pescado Vera Cruz, fillet of fish with a tomato salsa, sweet corn, beans and steamed potatoes.
TJ's does breakfast! Whilst this Kuta icon is well known as the best Mexican in town, very few also realize that it opens its doors early every morning to present a variety of breakfasts, as well. Needless to say their Mexican Breakfasts are the most popular. Huevos Rancheros are oven-baked eggs on a cornmeal base with refried beans and a mild [early morning after all] tomato salsa, topped with melted cheese of course. Tostadas de Huevos are scrambled egg on a crisp corn tortilla with bacon, refried beans, cheese, sour cream and salsa. Both with fresh juice and coffee for just Rp.35,000++. For Non-Mexicans there are eggs with bacon, tomato and hash browns, toast juice and coffee. A good way to wake up in the morning. A reasonably priced wine list and friendly service make a pleasant sojourn. You will have consumed so much food, you will be vowing to miss all meals tomorrow!
It may not be gourmet fare, but it is still great for a change, whenever you are in the mood for a simple feast, with a bit of spice!