Over the last couple of weeks it has been so humid in Warsaw I haven’t really felt like cooking any food at all so we have been living off various types of salads. On Friday evening my husband decided to be adventurous and booked a table for two at an Indonesian restaurant on ul. Jasna. Number 22 to be precise. It’s a long time since I have eaten Indonesian food and wasn’t really sure what to expect but he had been told that this cuisine at the Galeria Bali was authentic.
Driving in the city is a nightmare at the weekend so we hopped on a tram into the centre of town and then had a short walk to the restaurant. As we walked down ul. Jasna I could see the front of the restaurant lit up with silver fairy lights and gold statuettes of Indonesian icons. This all looked bizarre and as we entered the interior I did wonder if the decor inside was going to be over the top.
I felt myself smiling as it was like walking on to a set from the King and I and I expected Yul Brynner to come from behind the bar and do a little dance on the wooden floor. Gold Buddhas and praying monks were dotted around the restaurant and wooden carvings adorned the walls. Rays of golden light sifted through the hand made coconut lamps and Indonesian music drifted quietly in the background.
A very tall young Polish waiter came towards us dressed in full Bali attire. The fabric of his garment was beautiful – batik with gold embroidery on the sleeves. Although the traditional dress was lovely this young man didn’t look quite right in it – far too tall I think. I was a little disappointed that all the waiters were Polish and not from Bali.
Our waiter was very polite and showed us to a table in the corner of the room on the right hand side of the restaurant. The table was facing a window which overlooked the street and had a gold Buddha sat on the window sill. The icon was posed in prayer. The table was set for 4 and everything seemed over sized. As I sat at the table I felt like I was in that scene in Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. My chair had a very high back and the plates which were painted gold and only for decoration were huge as were the glasses. At the side of my plate was a gold serviette folded through a gigantic imitation ruby ring. I assumed that all the decorations were from Bali but to be honest I didn’t really like any of them. They were rather vulgar and tacky.
Once we had sat down the waiter came with the menu and this was a joke. It was the size of an Encyclopedia Britannica and just as heavy. While I was trying to balance the menu on my lap the waiter cleared the table of all the gimmicky decorations and re-set it. This I thought was strange and a little annoying. Skipping through the menu I began to wonder whether the food was going to be freshly cooked or microwaved because there is no way a chef would be able to work with a menu of that size.
While we were deciding what to order food wise the waiter took our drinks order which was two large glasses of beer. These came straight away served on a tray. Cold, delicious Polish draught beer. No complaints here except for the price – 12 zloty per glass which is the equivalent of 2.50. I know this isn’t expensive by UK standards but it is for Poland.
After studying the menu which seemed to take ages we finally chose our starters, a bowl of Soto Ayam and a plate of Ayam Satays. Soto Ayam is a chicken soup flavoured with coconut, lemon grass, shallot onions chili and kaffir leaves. As the waiter came from the kitchen with the soup on a tray I could smell the lemon grass straight away. It is a refreshing sweet smell and as this was my husband’s starter I was dying to try some. The bowl the soup was served in was very attractive – a highly glazed type of pottery – probably faience. My husband started to tuck in and then the satays arrived so I didn’t get a chance to try his soup until later.
The chicken satays were a little disappointing. Four pieces came served on a plate with a cucumber salad and a small pot of peanut sauce. The chicken was well cooked and very tasty. I could tell that the meat had been marinated in a spicy paste but not in peanut butter. I prefer the chicken to be cooked in a peanut sauce – not to have it separately. The salad was very nice, consisting of shallots, cucumber and bean sprouts which had been dressed in a mixture of lime juice, chili and sesame oil. As there were 4 satays I saved two for my husband and we swapped plates so I could eat some of his soup.
What did we think of the soup – not a lot! It was a very large bowl and I knew that it was too much liquid for one person to eat. Again, the pieces of chicken were very smooth and tender but the taste of the soup was dominated by lemongrass and coconut which was far too sweet and sickly for me. There was a slight hint of ginger in the soup which gave it a bit of zing but overall I wasn’t impressed with the flavour. I will give the soup 4/10 and the chicken satay’s 7/10. Price of the satays was 30 zloty which is 6 and the soup cost 25 zloty (5).
As the menu was so vast I struggled to make a choice and made a big mistake by ordering a chicken dish. In retrospect I should have ordered a beef or pork dish. The dish I ordered was Ayam Jawa which is a yellow chicken curry. The curry was presented to me in a large earthenware bowl which was highly glazed and very attractive. Inside the bowl was an enormous amount of sliced boneless chicken floating around in a sauce made from yellow curry paste. The aromas from the dish were wonderful but the taste wasn’t. I can’t fault the delicate taste of the chicken pieces and I did taste shallots, bean sprouts and a touch of cumin. But the overall taste was bland and the texture of the sauce was watery. I wanted to enjoy my meal but I found myself twirling my fork around the dish and eating very slowly. A sure sign that I wasn’t enjoying my food. My husband kept asking me if everything was okay and I just nodded my head and sweetly smiled because I didn’t want to put him off his food.
So what did my husband order? On this occasion he had the savvy to order something different than chicken. He ordered Beef fillet with ginger and oranges. Sounds exquisite but was it? It smelt delicious and looked exotic and the taste was not bad at all. You know why? There wasn’t any coconut or lemon grass added to the ingredients. I also liked the carrots and shallots which are a nice colourful combination together with the zesty orange sauce. Yes, the beef dish gets the thumbs up. To accompany both of our dishes we had a bowl of steamed jasmine rice which was cooked to perfection. soft and not sticky – just the way it should be. Rice side dishes cost 7 zloty (1.50).
I didn’t finish all of my chicken yellow curry as I really didn’t enjoy it and I felt bloated so when the waiter asked me if I wanted the dessert menu I definitely said NO. We didn’t order wine either with the meal because it is very expensive in restaurants here in Warsaw and I begrudge paying through the nose for wine.
Prices for both main meals were; 59 zloty for the beef dish (12) and 49 zloty for the chicken curry (10).
I really wanted to enjoy the food served in the Galeria Bali but I didn’t. If this is classed as authentic cuisine then I am very disappointed with it. It is very bland and most chicken dishes seem dominated by lemon grass and coconut. Perhaps this is the norm for these types of dishes – I don’t know as I am not an expert on the cuisine of Bali, Burma and Java.
As for the decor of the restaurant it is well presented but just too tacky for my individual taste. The waiting staff were polite but didn’t seem to have much charisma. I think it may be another one of Warsaw’s restaurants that fades away into the distance. On the other hand if you like Buddha statuettes, praying monks, batik and gilded masks then this might be for you.