May 25 2012
UPDATE, October 2013: Sadly, Joli has closed and its former space is for rent.
Joli is a recent addition to the growing dining scene along Jalan Bumbak in Umalas, a still mainly rural area of Bali just north of Seminyak where luxury villas are now springing up like rice sprouts a week after planting. But with the influx of foreigners come the restaurants, and the simple French restaurant Joli is worthy of note along this stretch.
Sleek and very comfortable red chairs are the main splash of colour in the otherwise fairly stark modern interior of Joli, which overlooks paddy to one side and the road on another. The simplicity of the decor is matched on the menu, and it’s something of a relief to flick through just a few pages of choice for a change.
The list for starters is short and very sweet. There’s “red tuna like a bloody Mary” — marinated in salt and vodka, celery slice and gazpacho/tabasco; fish soup with croutons and rouille; tarta pascalina — spinach, artichokes, parmesan, salad and herbs mesclun; vegetables a la Bangoule; vol au vent; and piperade. All starters are 70,000-90,000 rupiah per dish, with all prices plus 10% tax and 5% service.
We went with the fish soup and red tuna. With such brief descriptions, your imagination can run a bit riot while you wait. I expected a sort of fisherman’s soup, thick and hearty with chunks of fishy flesh; when my broth arrived with a few slivers of rouille-covered bread on the side, I was underwhelmed. But then I had a taste: it was rich and complex, the sort of dish that would take a day to simmer in the kitchen and get just right — the sort of dish you come to a restaurant to eat. It was divine.
The red tuna was melt-in-the-mouth, with the gazpacho, interestingly, served in a glass on the side as a drink. It worked.
Now, mains. Want beef? You’ll go for the beef entrecote then, with vegetables and double juice (160,000 rupiah). Pork? That means you’ll have the “piece of baby pig” with carrots, mash, and ham/pig sage juice (130,000 rupiah) … the menu could perhaps do with a bit of a copyedit to make it sound a touch more enticing, but what arrives eventually will make you forgive any written shortcomings. There’s also a simple lobster dish, red snapper, risotto and red tuna. And that’s it for mains. Nothing else.
We went for the beef, which Mr Travelfish rated as among one of the best steaks he’s ever had. And he’s had, shall we say, a few during his time. I had the pork, which was perhaps a bit heavy on the crackly crackle and lighter on the pork, while the mash on the other hand was a creamy version of heaven.
Desserts are similarly abbreviated: we tried the apple tatin (55,000 rupiah); it was the only disappointment of the evening — and minor at that — with the pastry being a tiny disc under powdery apples; though the “iced cream” was really like iced cream, and quite amazing. Next time we might opt for the chocolate tart, raspberry mousse or baba au rum… for there shall be a next time.
We felt a little snubbed that the French manager went over to welcome and check on the larger table of Francos in the restaurant — the only other table — and ignored us. Sniff. But we survived. And the wine list at Joli is very short and pricey (as alcohol is everywhere in Bali, but sometimes you live in hope of a bargain), with no spirits on offer yet (perhaps a proper alcohol license is on the way). A small Bintang is 22,000 rupiah, soft drinks are 16,000, a cappucino 30,000; a very nice range of mocktails are on offer for 35,000 rupiah.
Overall, Joli represents great value for a superb modern-twist-on-classic French meal. If you’re staying at a villa in the Bumbak/Umalas area, you really must dine here; if you’re staying in Seminyak and you feel like getting away from the crowds, a cab here would cost around 30,000 to 40,000 rupiah (just past Warung Global, on the right). This is going to cost a lot more than a local Indonesian meal, but if your budget stretches further than that, this is the sort of small place doing something a bit different in Bali worth trying out.
Jalan Bumbak, Umalas, Bali
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