If you are one of those people who stayed away from Bali Hai because of the food, now is the time for you to go back. I’ll admit to thinking that way – I could count on one hand the times I ate at Bali Hai (including a Sunday brunch with my parents) because I didn’t enjoy the menu options and I didn’t really like the food. It was kind of like you were paying for the pretty view and tiki atmosphere. Which is great, if that’s the reason you were at Bali Hai, but not great if you expected to enjoy your meal, too (sorry, but it was true).
The grand opening/media party was a lot of fun and gave us a glimpse into the new menu Chris Powell created, but it really only touched the surface. So, when JWalcher Communications invited us to enjoy dinner at Bali Hai, I jumped at the opportunity. I was really excited to see a bunch of seafood dishes that would (hopefully) showcase the fish instead of just breading and frying the suckers. We headed over on Thursday and prepared to take a good look at this revamped menu.
We got there earlier than our reservation was set, but I think it turned out for the best because we had enough light for me to take some pictures (with the iPhone, sorry for the quality). Travis had a Singapore Sling (I’d say it was bright and zesty… not too syrupy and actually kind of balanced on the booze). I stuck with an iced tea. We ordered appetizers and a basket of bread was brought out. Nice, slightly warm, soft sourdough bread. The butter is salted, so if you’re used to unsalted butter, take note. We really enjoyed the bread and when we found out it comes from the Point Loma Bread & Cie, we knew why. It’s also the same soft, tasty bread that envelopes the sandwiches at Point Loma Seafoods. Good stuff, I’m telling you.
I was really sad the calamari ran out at the media party, so I knew I wanted to order it as an appetizer. Li hing mui is that sweet-tart seasoning you find on everything from gummi bears to Chex mix to dried fruit in Hawaii. I wasn’t sure how it would be incorporated into a calamari dish and I really wanted to find out. You get a plate of rings, decorated with sliced radish (two kinds!) and julienned carrot strips, all sitting over a drizzle of a tart citrus sauce. The calamari are tender and the li hing mui is pretty subtle. If you’re familiar with it, you’ll taste it in the breading. If not, you probably won’t really notice it overall. I loved it and would definitely order it again. One of the popular appetizers is the pho dumplings, which are good, but we also got a good taste of them earlier. Travis ordered the soup do jour, which was crab bisque. A mound of crab, corn, and herbs is then surrounded by one of the lightest (but flavorful) bisques I’ve ever tasted. Definitely no krab here!
Good miso sake cod is hard to find (actually, Nobu makes a tasty version, but then you have to go to Nobu and I don’t really want to) so when I saw it on the menu, I wanted to try it. Bali Hai says it’s a “lau lau”, but it kind of isn’t. To me, lau lau is surrounded by spinach or some leafy green that gets in the way of the tasty bits. But, the Bali Hai lau lau places a piece of black cod over Portuguese sausage, drizzled with an orange sauce (is that the kabocha?) and a sprinkle of lomi lomi salmon. I found the miso sake part to be pretty light and kind of covered by the sauce, but what makes the dish is how perfectly the fish is cooked. Travis said it was like a marshmallow in his mouth – light and fluffy and delicious. It’s just flake and light and perfect. It’s how fish should always be served (why do so many places find this hard to do?) The halibut is one of the most popular entrees, I’m told, and if it’s anywhere near as good as the black cod, that will be my next order.
For some reason, Travis ordered the duck. I can’t remember him ever ordering duck, but I know he does like it. As much as I enjoyed my dish, the duck was absolutely delicious. It’s served over this onion-y gravy with pearl onions, english peas, cherry tomatoes, and baby carrots. The duck was so tender, it practically melted in your mouth. Travis really enjoyed the gravy and onions, not so much the tomatoes. I loved the whole dish. It may sound strange to order duck at the Bali Hai, but it turned out to be a really good choice. Yum.
Then we got to the dessert menu, and I had a really hard time choosing. I basically want to try everything on the dessert menu (but, I also have a heck of a sweet tooth). We ended up with the pineapple, rum baba, and coconut sorbet and the banana springrolls. The banana springrolls are another best-seller, but Travis was swayed by the white chocolate and pretzels in the description. Of the rum baba dish, the sorbet was our favorite. It was like pure coconut in a creamy, smooth sorbet. I could have eaten a whole dish of that. The rum soaked baba was a little too sweet for us, but the pineapple was delicious.
Now, the springrolls… three springrolls deep-fried, then dipped in white chocolate and crushed pretzels. With a smear of caramel on the plate. The springrolls were still warm, still crispy, yet the chocolate wasn’t running off the end. I guess you could use a fork and knife, but I just picked one up and went for it. Melty chocolate, salty pretzels, crispy shell, and sweet bananas? I don’t know how you could go wrong with that. It’s actually making me hungry just thinking about it. If you end up ordering just one dessert, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with these. Next on my list is the chocolate lava cake (because I like to see how different places do it) and the sundae.
Entrée prices average about $20 (some are a little less, some are a little more). You’re not going to get an overloaded plate of food, but you will get enough to make you full. If you think prices are a bit too high for you, think of it this way. Too often you end up paying for the lovely view (and it is such a lovely view of the water at Bali Hai) and dealing with mediocre food. Now, you may pay a little bit more for the view but you get to really enjoy some great food. Or, you’re paying for great food and getting an awesome view to go with it!
Both Susie and Larry Bauman stopped by to say hello and see if we were enjoying everything, which I thought was very nice of them!
As we were finishing up our desserts, Cami and Jeff walked in. What are the chances? Cami said her duck was kind of too salty and that the crackers with the ahi tartare were stale, but the lau lau was good (I know! We ordered the same entrees!) I remember the crackers being stale at the media party, but I attributed it to just being out for a while on platters. If they’re always going to be stale, then that’s something to address. I didn’t think Travis’ duck was salty at all… so I guess proceed with caution. All I know for sure is that the new menu is world’s away from the old one. That, and they’ve been crazy busy since the grand opening.
Admittedly, I’m one of the people who has stayed away from the Bali Hai because of the food. The view is so lovely so it’s good to hear the food is finally matching the surroundings. Those banana springrolls look and sound amazing.
Sounds like fun! We’re in the branching out and trying new things mood at the moment, so I’ll hopefully try it soon! We had a letter from the wonderful resort we stayed at in Hawaii trying to tempt us back, but I think this is the best we’ll manage this year!!