I’ve just returned from a short trip to Bali, the Indonesian island just north of Australia. I went expecting luxury beach side hotels, cheap food and cocktails, being hassled by the street vendors, and relaxing massages. Was I expecting modern French fine dining? Not at all! I was very surprised to find this little pearl in Bali, attached to a small hotel near Legian. We decided to stop by for dinner one night before heading to the Cocoon Beach Club for their third anniversary Blue Party (which was a lot of fun!).
Pearl Restaurant is owned and operated by two brothers from Southern France, near Marseilles. They moved to Bali about five years ago to create this small eatery, bringing with them years of experience in French cuisine. At various stages of the night they both came to the table to speak with us and to ask us where we heard about Pearl. I think it’s a great gesture when the head chef and owners make the time to show their faces in the restaurant and I wish more places would do it, so this scored early bonus points in my book.
We actually had a bit of trouble finding the place, but after some walking and searching on a map, we found it tucked away in a quiet location in an alley. The setting was quite romantic, with quaint wooden tables and chairs scattered amongst trees laced with dim lights. Its location, set back from the busy streets, made for a nice quiet atmosphere.
After ordering our meals, one of the waiters brought out a tray of crispy cones filled with an eggplant purée. This amuse-bouche was unexpected, but was certainly welcomed at the table. The term amuse-bouche is one of the many French culinary terms commonly used in English, and translates to something along the lines of “mouth amuser”. We each enjoyed our amuse-bouche and waited eagerly for the next course.
I had a hard time deciding what to order for the entrée, there were a few dishes that caught my attention. So, being the indecisive person that I am, I opted for the tasting plate. On the plate there was lobster bisque (Bisque de Langouste), tuna tartare (Tartare de Thon), an eggplant raviolo* in thyme sauce, a salad and some delicious freshly made bread. The components looked to be smaller versions of some of the other menu items. I’ve definitely seen more elegant looking dishes in my life, and the components were somewhat detached from eachother (it’s difficult to make a dish look elegant when each individual component is plated in its own glassware), but it all tasted great. The slice of bread with what tasted like mayonnaise probably wasn’t necessary, but it was a good dish nonetheless.
Next up was the main. It had been about a week since I had eaten a good piece of fish, so, craving something from the sea, I decided to order the Filet de Barramundi. The dish was nice, but I think I enjoyed the entrée a bit more. The fish itself was great, and the vegetables wrapped in pastry added some texture, but I think the glass of fruit with what tasted like cinnamon did not belong on that plate. With a bowl of ice cream, maybe I could have enjoyed it, but it was an odd combination with the fish and vegetables. I like it when chefs try to be creative and present combinations that I would never have tried myself, but in this instance I don’t think it worked. For his main one of my friends ordered the seafood risotto which he kindly let me taste. Although I didn’t go crazy for how it looked on the plate (so much empty space, with a very pub’esque zigzag of sauce), it did taste good. The risotto was creamy, the the rosemary was not too strong (which can taste somewhat medicinal when overused).
My other friend ordered the mille-feuilles of lamb shank, which also tasted very good and was very well cooked. The term mille-feuilles translates from French to the English “thousand sheets”, and is usually the name of the popular dessert that we would call a vanilla slice (maybe not literally with a thousand layers, but close enough). I had never seen it used in other non-vanilla slice contexts, but, looking at the lamb shank, it does not require any stretch of the imagination to see why it is a fitting name.
If I went to a restaurant like this in Perth, I’d expect to pay about $60-70 (without dessert or drinks), however in Bali it was less than half. With each entrée costing about the equivalent of 10AUD, and mains between 15 and 20 AUD, it really is a cheap meal (although not when compared to other Bali restaurants). I won’t go as far as to say that it was the best restaurant experience that I’ve ever had, however considering the prices and location, I’d happily return and recommend Pearl to other Bali-goers.
* I often see the terms ravioli and raviolo used incorrectly, I suppose a result of the differences between Italian and English grammar. In the Italian language, nouns that end with “o” are generally singular, and become plural by changing the ending to an “i”. One raviolo, four ravioli.