Sunday 11 August 2013

Tapping Shoes at Potato Head

The first thing you notice when you pull up to Potato Head are the queues. There's an endless stream of cars going in and out of the long foliage-lined pathway where vehicles are stopped and checked for food and alcohol that might be illicitly smuggled in (M thinks they're really just checking to see if you're hiding a terrorist in your boot). Then there's the queue to get into the Potato Head Beach Club. Since the location has been named one of the top places to visit in Bali, the lines themselves weren't much of a surprise, but I was amazed by the sheer number of people waiting to get in without a reservation. 

Possibly the only fine dining establishment where slippers and shorts are accepted by the dress code
With our table at Tapping Shoes booked since D first decided we were going to Bali over the extended weekend, we swanned past the queue easily 50 people long and up the ramp past the painstakingly vintaged-up shutter installation. To get to Tapping Shoes, we also had to walk a way through the Beach Club and it's booming indie disco mixes. It was fair to say that the place was absolutely packed, with people occupying every seat along the bar and laying across the large sofa seats by the infinity pool, overlooking the Indian Ocean and its hypnotic tides. 

Tapping Shoes, in contrast, was a quiet haven, and throughout the evening only four tables were taken up. A pity for the restaurant but a boon for us really, since it was easy to pretend we were the only ones around to enjoy the place. The whole room was bathed in a warm amber glow from the many chandeliers dripping from the textured ceiling, evoking perhaps old school glamour or some kind of charming nostalgia. 

It was lovely to experience it there, but the yellow lighting's cast a jaundiced pallor over all my photos from the evening. 

Vintage looking decorations on off-white shelves, handmade crockery used to hold flowers at every table and candles completed the look. 

The Japanese Head Chef was apparently away when we dined there, so the menu had not been changed in the two months since D visited previously. It was no matter though, since that was the dining experience he'd wanted to share with us anyway. 

We were given amuses of warm and fluffy Parmesan choux pastries to start, which immediately reminded me of cocktails at the Ritz with J. 

Even with all the chandeliers, the whole place only had a boudoir glow, so reading the drinks menus required the full deployment of the lone candlestick at our table, as well as two others we cannibalized from elsewhere with the help of the serving staff who noticed M getting all squinty in the absence of proper lighting. 

D went for the wine flight as expected, while M & I had the non-alcoholic and alcoholic berry cocktails respectively. My Bellini was so tempting that halfway through the meal a couple of flies saw fit to pitch themselves into it. Once I noticed, the unfortunate glass of doom was quickly substituted for a fresh replacement. Our main server was fresh from a vocational school but carried himself with aplomb. 

Berry Bellini

M & D weren't terribly interested in choux, so I polished them off. Next came a chilled cauliflower foam velouté with croutons and a dash of curry powder to keep things interesting. After that disappeared, we kept ourselves busy with the warm nut and raisin slices at the table. The butter wasn't salted, but it went well with the oddly savoury bread, so we demurred when a waitress came by with a salt mill the size of my arm and offered to grind some out. 

At the beginning of the evening they took note of M's & my preference for something other than foie gras as a starter, and surprised us with a ginger fish carpaccio with caviar, cherry tomatoes, vinegared radish and extremely finely chopped sweet peppers. 

There was a good crunch to the carpaccio, which was lovely and bright tasting. The fish itself was very fresh and had an enjoyable slightly chewy texture. Nearly licked my plate clean, but the looks M & D were shooting me as I mopped up the last bits of sauce I could with my remaining sliver of fish convinced me not to. 

Look at all those wee bits of peppers!

Next up was a lobster salad on a mound of quinoa tabbouleh, gazpacho sauce and capsicum purée. 

The lobster was chewy without being tough, and the tabbouleh was refreshing. However, I wasn't too keen on the gazpacho sauce, which tasted more like watered down bell pepper, or the capsicum purée, which had achieved a puzzling level of solidity more like a marshmallow. 

It really just seemed to be the year of fish in pea purée and milk foam when the garoupa course came out, but this one managed to differentiate itself. For one, the hint of sharpness from the verbena cream foam made the fried garoupa taste less heavy. 

Then came two surprise cockles that literally melted away on my tongue, and were so fresh that they left only a pleasant savouriness behind. M & D hadn't even noticed they'd eaten cockles until I pointed mine out to them. (Well what can I say? They scarf down their food while I take my own sweet time tasting everything)

Magically good cockles
Unfortunately, since some ingredients face a tougher time getting imported into Bali, our wagyu steak course was replaced with a somewhat less fancy cut of grass fed beef. But with a reduced jus, snap peas, edamame beans, courgette and sweet potato chunks, a slice of onion and some roasted baby carrots and corn, it was still perfectly flavourful and satisfactory. 

Looking more like salad  than steak

After all those dishes, we had some time to recover before our first dessert was brought out. It was a tropical fruit salad of mango bits, passion fruit and kiwi, with a spoon of mango sorbet in the middle and a generous glob of glorious coconut cream crowning the dish. I'm mad for coconut cream, so this broke me out in paroxysms of joy. The sweet mango on sweet mango overload was effectively countered by the tartness of the kiwi and passion fruit, and tempered by the delicate, foam-like coconut cream. 

Oh beautiful, quivering mass of coconut cream.

Our next dessert was a serving of passion fruit sorbet with a mango panna cotta. Much of the same ingredients, but jazzed up enough to keep me excited. 

The panna cotta was topped with more passion fruit, but also achingly soft bits of lychee. It managed to be rich without being cloying, though since there was so little of it, there was no opportunity to get sick of it. 

And then there was the most intriguing bit of the dessert. 

D: Look! It's like an egg yolk!

And so it did.But the bright orange blob was really just more mango, this time in the form of a purée and somehow richer than all the other iterations we'd eaten this evening. Not knowing how best to eat it, I nicked a hole in the gelatin casing and sucked out the purée, but then I was left with a rather plain and sadly deflated gelatin casing that I had to eat on its own, so I figured maybe it wasn't the smartest option. 

Post-dessert, it was time for tea. I had a Lapsang, and it seems TWG has sunk its talons into Bali as well. 

Look how the teapot and the flower jug match

The petit fours came on a big platter, consisting of coffee eclairs, friands, lemon macarons, madelines, chocolate pralines and nama (raw) chocopops. By this point I was full to bursting, which meant I had to give my madeline and macaron to D lest I explode. 

On our way out, we managed to lose M, so I doubled back to look for her. I found her in the ladies' restroom taking pictures of the remarkably quaint looking vanity area.

Vanity Fair

I'm still not quite certain if the things were on display or there for us to use. Either way, M & I had to drag ourselves away from the toilet to the hotel car waiting downstairs. Pity really, once I saw the toiletries I wanted to try everything out. 

Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia 

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