I am so happy to welcome Wichita’s new Indonesian restaurant, Bali Café, to town! In a city filled with marvelous Thai, Laotian and Vietnamese restaurants, Bali Café rounds out our collection of Southeast Asian delights.
For those not familiar with Indonesian food, it is reminiscent of Thai cuisine, but earthier, relying on coconut milk, lemongrass and a host of other spices. The food can be spicy hot, or mild, depending on the region. Many dishes are stews, eaten with white or fried rice, or grilled meat, tofu, or tempeh, with complex-tasting sauces and condiments. Indonesian peanut sauce is a delicate, balanced, and elegant condiment, rather than a sweet gooey sauce à la Thai cuisine.
Bali Café serves homestyle Indonesian food, very delicious, but no frills. Their laksa, a coconut and lemongrass noodle soup, is a buffet in a bowl, with a tender chicken thigh, vegetables, noodles and a whole boiled egg. The broth is thick and creamy.
Murtabak is a fried pastry filled with ground beef, egg and scallions, and is crisp and hot, street food deluxe. It’s dipped in a spicy chile sauce called sambal.
I also tried the fish cake steamed in banana leaves. I loved it, but it might be a little too funky for some.
Rica Rica chicken was marvelous, a tender, grilled thigh in a tangy tomato-chile sauce.
One of the nice things about the menu is that it is really diverse. Vegetarians will not have a hard time finding something to eat, but be aware of the presence of fish sauce or fermented shrimp in some dishes.
The chef and owner, Annga Heinrich, works hard in her tiny kitchen, with her family backing her up. Bali Café is tiny, so be prepared for that, and each dish is cooked to order, so everything is fresh and delicious.
2716 E Central Ave