May 08 2012
I’ve been on the hunt for Bali’s best babi guling for some time now, so when I heard about the babi guling tacos and burritos at Taco Beach (thanks for the tip, Hati Solutions), I figured trying them would really be an essential part of the overall mission, right?
Right! So it was off to Taco Beach on Seminyak’s Jalan Kunti. The yellow-ochre walls bordered with blue and white decorative tiles lend the tiny six-tables-or-so restaurant a festive Mexican air, without being too theme-parkish. This is a restaurant that’s been put together on a budget, and although the menu is short and sweet, it’s an imaginative Mexican-Balinese fusion that perhaps unexpectedly works.
We kicked off with a plate of “atomic chile poppers”, battered and breaded roasted chillies stuffed with mozzarella and fried (10,000 rupiah each). These were not quite atomic in their heat, but they had a bit of a bite and contrasted distinctly from the oozing cheese and crisp, ungreasy batter. Two per person were plenty as a starter and a great cheese hit — next time we’ll try the nachos (35,000 rupiah).
But the main course! I went for the babi guling burrito, a large burrito filled with shredded babi guling (suckling roast pork), avocado and rice plus a side of a sweetly spiced hot chilli sauce (it made the dish), refried beans with a sprinkling of feta, finely chopped fruit salad and a hefty serving of Spanish rice (50,000 rupiah). The serving size was generous and the marriage of Balinese spices with avocado and refried beans… it all worked, a lovely competition of textures and flavours where you, amigo, are the winner.
My partner-in-comfort-food-crime went for the grilled chicken taco, a plate of two crunchy taco shells filled with chicken, Spanish rice, sour cream, a salsa verde and small corn and bean salad on the side (40,000 rupiah). It seemed to pass the American-eating-Mexican-food test, at the least.
The complete menu comprises tacos, burritos, a selection of interesting smoothies — pumpkin pie, anyone? Aha, yes, pumpkin pie smoothie — and desserts. Alcohol-wise, only beer is on offer as of now, so you’ll have to look elsewhere to satisfy that margarita fix. We skipped the smoothies but tucked into a slice of the margarita lime cheese cake and a deep-fried apple pie taquito (15,000 rupiah each).
An unlikely blend of American country-style apple pie filling rolled in a deep fried crunchy shell reminiscent of a chimichanga, the taquito was topped with caramelised cinnamon and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. The cheesecake had a home-made quality to it, which is to say, it was scrumptious and not full of gelatin the way so many cheesecakes in Bali are (trust me, I’ve tried). This was lovely, dense and rich, with a chocolate biscuit-y shell and came sprinkled with tiny fragments of candied lime.
When presumably the owner asked us whether we had enjoyed our meal during our desserts I mumbled amid a mouthful that it was great comfort food. “Well, yes, I got very comfortable making that for a few years,” he said. I’m not quite sure what he meant, but it sounded about right.
Having never been to Mexico, I can’t attest to the authenticity of the Mexican part of the menu, but they do claim that their carne asada beef tacos and baja fish tacos are just like those sold at Tijuana’s roadside stands. You’ll need to be the judge.
Given the lashings of cheeses and creams in many of these dishes, Taco Beach is well priced for Bali. Staff are friendly and helpful, but be warned that with such few tables, you may have to wait on a busy night (though they do have a delivery menu).
If Taco Beach is full and you’re keen on an Indonesian meal instead, perhaps head to Warung Ocha back on Jalan Legian, while cheapie favourite Warung Italia is just a few doors up. And after your meal, just in case you deserve it, and let’s face it you probably do, pop into nearby Chill for a foot massage (do call ahead though).
Jalan Kunti 6, Seminyak, Bali
T: (0361) 854 6262
* This piece written with help from my dining partner, Travelfish.org’s normally Bangkok-based researcher David Luekens.
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