What an unfortunate time to open a new restaurant in Bali, October 2002! The fact that Pala is obviously surviving, with quite a busy lunch and dinner trade, says a lot about its pedigree.
It is a stylish European bistro. Polished wooden tables with wall mirrors and vibrant colours everywhere. An L-shaped area, banquettes along one wall, the room is wrapped around an indoor sunlit garden. The place is fresh, modern and alive, and gives the impression of being very business like, yet smartly casual at the same time.
If you want to linger over lunch or dinner then meet up in the relaxing small wine bar, opposite the entrance, first. Sit at the modern bar or recline on the lounges, whichever you prefer. All personal taste, but for me: bar stools for drinking, tables and chairs for eating and lounges for watching TV.
A reasonable selection of wines are available by the glass: Australian, Chilean and French They range from Rp.30,000 up to Rp.65,000 [for the light, but pleasant, Phillip Island Pinot Noir].
Whilst the lunch menu presents a variety of salads and something for the itinerant snacker [exotic sandwiches], it is surprisingly light on traditional entrees. Obviously designed with businessmen in mind rather than relaxing tourists or local residents. For those who only have the time, or the appetite, for a single dish meal.
However what is presented suggests that you are in any major business oriented city of the world. Take your choice of rare beef dishes, Italian style in a Carpaccio or Thai style in a Yum Nua with a difference, lemon grass scented with glass noodles and chillies.
The house salad is a mixture of greens, herbs and marinated goat cheese, with a vinaigrette and grissini. The Pasta Salad is with just-seared chunks of tuna and a very spicy tapenade, whilst the Indonesian Gado-Gado comes with a pleasant tangy peanut sauce. The Lumpia [spring rolls] are different to most. Stuffed with a vegetable mixture they arrive with a sweet and sour marmalade of fruit.
For soups, a traditional Indonesian Soto Ayam with glass noodles and a luscious little quail egg, or an unusual Leek soup, with chunks of oxtail throughout.
Many of the luncheon mains are ?one-course specials? to speed up those busy business lunches. A Singaporean Seafood Laksa [a blend of egg and rice noodles with seafood in a coconut milk curry broth], Nasi Campur or a Mie Goreng, and that traditional English lunch: Bangers and Mash [sausages and mashed potatoes for those who do not understand].
The evening menu, although more extensive, is still kept quite simple. Very bistro-ish in style!
A very fresh Salmon Tartar consists of chopped Tasmanian Salmon, with lime and coriander. An unusual Chicken salad has breast strips coated with a pleasant curry sauce, resting on greens. The Ratatouille with Tiger Prawns is eggplant, zucchini, capsicum and tomato coulis with grilled tiger prawns.
The tasty Prawn Croquettes are creamy inside, and the Pasta Salad is black [squid ink] topped with scallops. A simple tasty entrée is the plate of Smoked Fish. It comprises slices of salmon, marlin and trout with a wasabi cream sauce. Nice washed down with an icy glass of dry champagne, but isn?t everything?
The mains have more cheese than nutmeg. The Asparagus and Potato Salad is topped with mozzarella, as are the vegetables in the Seafood Selection [salmon, red snapper, scallops and prawns].
A Veal Chop is served with a seeded mustard sauce. The New Zealand Lamb Fillet is with rosemary and more ?gratin?, this time on the potatoes. The Tenderloin of Beef is perfectly pan-fried with a green peppercorn sauce. If you want a good steak, you have found the place to visit! The accompanying fried potatoes look like a Belgian waffle, and thus disclose the chef?s secret.
A modern version of the classic Canard a l?Orange This time the duck breast is in an orange and nutmeg [there had to be one somewhere] sauce, with a vegetable rosti.
Desserts are fairly standard. A Cheese Plate, Tiramisu or Profiteroles. The Chocolate Mousse has scoops of both white and dark chocolate [Belgian of course]. All with good quality and fair prices.
Pala is an unusual restaurant so modern and stylish you forget you are in Bali. No problem if you want to get in and out quickly, but still very pleasant in which to linger for an hour, or two.
Ladies, to really relax after lunch you can always visit the other half of the building, a luxurious Beauty Salon.
You can always arrange to meet your friends in the smart wine bar afterwards...if they recognise you after the reconstruction work. Maybe even go back to Pala for dinner, afterwards. At least you won?t have far to walk!