Restaurant Review: Taste of Bali

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Wondrously, exotica can sometimes be uncovered in the most unexpected of locations. Like a potentially soul-deadening Bethel Road strip mall initially only distinguished by a cheapie second-run movie theater. Yet here, at least for the curious or serendipity-prone, lies a gateway to one of the few cuisines still largely underexposed around these parts: Indonesian.

Taste of Bali is a small enclave of unusual flavors awaiting courageous foragers and deserving-of-more local restaurant rangers. The place is pleasantly decorated with bamboo plants and accents, color travelogue photographs of frilly temples and brightly clad indigenous dancers, shiny hanging fabrics and traditional Balinese shadow puppet-adorned lampshades.

In this fun setting, distinct -- and cheap -- Balinese dishes are served. A great intro to this kind of food, whose grilled and stewy curried things might remind diners of Thai cooking with a bit of Indian thrown in, are the rijsttafels.

Deriving from the Dutch for "rice table" (the Netherlands has an old colonial link to Indonesia), rijsttafels are like combo/sampler platters that arrive in compartmentalized "bento"-like trays. Taste of Bali offers five such "special sets" and here I'll describe a couple of them.

The Adventurous (Set #2, $10) contains: risol -- a golden brown, panko-crunchy spring roll with a creamy chicken and veggie filling; opor ayam -- uniquely white curry-sauced chicken; gudeg -- a vegetable called jackfruit that incredibly eats convincingly like a shredded meat roast; pancit gorang -- a fat pouch of chicken in a rangoon-type fried wrapper; sate ayam -- expertly grilled chicken skewers with a teriyaki-type glaze; and buncis -- green beans awakened by a thin but potent garlic sauce.

The Spice Lover (Set #3, $11) has: a simple salad (I sub in sayur asem, an unusual veggie soup sweetened with tamarind); rendang daging -- a spicy beef pot roast and a favorite of mine; telor balado -- the craziest egg you ever ate, it's hard-boiled, fried and coated in a luridly red chili sauce; sambal gorang kentang -- imagine sweet and hot home fries; ayam bumbu rujak -- chicken curry; and sate ayam (see above).

Each set is served with a large mound of steamed rice, and for price, variety and novelty, these combo meals are quite hard to beat. Check out Taste of Bali.

Taste of Bali

2548 Bethel Rd., Northwest Side 614-459-7230