July 5, 2005 12:42 AM | By Adam Roberts | 7 Comments

Feast Like An Indonesian at Bali Nusa Indah

There are two ways to approach an evening with friends. The first is to plan everything in advance: the meeting time, the dinner time, the movie time. These types of plans are usually made by what psychologists refer to as "anal personalities." In other words: me.

It took a great deal of restraint to resist this first approach to an evening out when Lisa, Annette and I "made plans" for Saturday night. We spoke on the phone and Lisa said, "I dunno, why don't you just come up here around 7 and we'll figure out where to eat." Figure it out THEN? Why not NOW? And where would we go? Where does one eat in Hell's Kitchen? (Lisa's moved to Hell's Kitchen.) The stakes were tremendous.

But it was in Hell's Kitchen that we embraced the second way to approach an evening with friends: through the art of spontaneity. We walked along 9th Avenue in the 40s and stumbled upon this place:


Bali Nusa Indah: Indonesian Cuisine. I'd neverhad Indonesian Cuisine and neither had Lisa or Annette. This was enticing on its own. But even more enticing were these special menus posted in the window:



Special tasting menus for reasonable prices that would allow us to sample the best of Indonesia. PLUS: one's for meat-eaters and one's for vegetarians, the perfect solution for a mixed crowd.

While waiting to order, Annette and Lisa modeled these Indoensian napkins by placing them on their heads:


Annette, who was meeting her brother later for sushi, decided not to get a tasting menu but to get some kind of Indonesian soup with beef in it:


Her loss! (Though she did enjoy the soup and especially the noodles. The "beef balls" (as I think they were called) were not her favorite. She placed them on the side of her plate.)

Lisa's and my meal began with a salad which I photographed but the picture came out crummy. It's basically iceberg lettuce and some other garnishes with a tasty peanut dressing. At first Lisa didn't like it but the more she ate it the more she liked it.

Then we were presented with our tasting platters. Here's my meaty feast:


Clockwise from the top there's vegetable curry, chicken satay, sauteed eggplant in hot chili sauce, tender beef with coconut and chili sauce, and corn fritter with shrimp.

The best part for me was that corn fritter. Everything else was really tasty and interesting too--I enjoyed it all.

Lisa enjoyed hers too:


You can look at the veggie menu above to identify Lisa's food. She also enjoyed it all with one notable exception: the jackfruit. "What's a jackfruit?" we asked the waiter. He answered incomprehensibly but from what I undestood, it starts out a vegetable and becomes a fruit as it matures. Kind of like me.

For dessert, Lisa got a banana island:


And I had the cinnamon layer cake:


Though we swithced pretty quickly because I prefer bananas, especially in my song lyrics. (Sorry, needed to make a "Hollaback Girl" reference.)

As you can see this was a lot of food for $17.95 and $14.95 respectively. PLUS, if you noticed in the menu, both meals came with choice of wine or beer or soda. Pretty cool!

So if you're in the Hell's Kitchen area and you don't have an anal personality, check out Bali Nusa Indah. I did and I'm a better person for it.


Random fact: Jackfruit is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. It smells vile and I haven't liked it since I got food poisoning from an all-you-can-eat buffet in Bali, but a lot of people I know adore it.

Well of course the fritter was the best part-- hello, it was fried! Anything fried is good.

...but don't order in! i did once, and it wasn't so good. maybe i'll give it another try in person.

jackfruit is very common in far east asia, in fact i have a tree downstairs. its fruit smells like kerosene. obviously, i don't like it. the cinnamon layer cake is called 'kueh lapis' and is fiendishly difficult to make cos of the many many layers ( if u do it all by hand that is). generally u have to put in a layer, brown it, pour in another one and bake it and so on. count the stripes....

tsk. i meant south east asia. here in singapore, we tend to get loads of really good asian food from all around

Congratulations on overcoming your anal retentiveness!
I'm planning a trip to NYC in October and I've already mapped out all our subway routes. To not plan each and every meal will be a true challenge, but I will try to follow your example, AG...

Interesting layer cake "kek lapis" with ice cream... I guess any cake with ice cream is good...

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