I was aware of the Japanese restaurant, Benkay, at the Nikko Hotel, but the existence of an equally classy Chinese restaurant took me by surprise! Tao-Li is perhaps one of Bali?s better Chinese restaurants. Classic Cantonese, Szechuan and Beijing cuisines, as well as other less well known regional ones, from reasonably priced a la carte to sumptuous banquets fit for a Mandarin!
There are four expensive delicacies that are so loved by the Chinese. Shark?s Fin Soup [an example here is one braised with Abalone]. Bird?s Nest Soup [you can have it braised with shredded Yunan ham]. Sea Cucumber [braised with bamboo shoots and black mushrooms] and Abalone [sliced and topped with salmon roe]. They also exist in a variety of other styles, and comprise a significant part of the menu at Tao-Li. Not everyone appreciates these rarities, so I will concentrate on the more normal offerings. But for those who do like to be adventurous, the choice here is substantial.
The appetizers would make an interesting feast in themselves. Pork Spare Ribs marinated in garlic [deep fried and very crunchy], Jelly Fish with shredded Chinese radish, an unusual Chilled Beef or Marinated Chicken with Soy. However the Duck roasted Cantonese style, dipped in plum sauce, is one of my all time favourites, and here it is as good as ever.
Sweet Corn and Crabmeat Soup is always popular, but the Seafood Soup is both hot and sour but not as extreme as in the Thai versions. If you want an even fuller bowl then try the Special Tao-Li Seafood Combination Soup.
Sweet and Sour Pork is on just about every Chinese menu, worldwide, as is Beef with Oyster Sauce. The Beef with Black Bean and Chilli packs a bit of a wallop, and the Sauteed Diced Pork and Water Chestnuts is an unusual combination.
That very special Crispy Chicken [only the Chinese seem to be able to get the skin of poultry so crunchy] and the Peking Duck with Mandarin pancakes, are conveniently available in either half or whole bird size. No real Chinese feast is complete without at least one of these, and for me they are one of the main reasons for visiting any of the great Chinese eateries. The Peking Duck at Tao-Li is considered the specialty of the house! Delicate pancakes wrapped around slivers of crisp skin with a hint of meat, a spring onion, slice of cucumber and a healthy dab of hoi sin sauce, go together to create one great taste delight!
The Sauteed Scallops with cashew nuts and chilli sauce are just about perfect The full scallop is served, roe and all, the sauce full of flavour but still light on the chilli. Tao-Li also offers a variety of Claypot Dishes. Garlic Prawns, Braised Chicken with ginger and scallions, Chicken with diced bean curd and Salt Fish are amongst them. Drunken Prawns [supposedly live prawns drowned in alcohol] and Deep-fried Squid with Chilli Salt will both get your taste buds working overtime.
For solo diners there are a selection of Rice and Noodle dishes including all the more usual ones plus a couple that are Fook Kin or Yong Chow style.
There are four set menus [7-8 courses] for Rp.235,000 - 315,000++ p.p. For me one of the Szechuan Hot Pot Specials are what I would order for an adventurous group who do not mind a bit of spice in their lives. 14 items make up the Seafood version, and 12 the meat one.
Asian desserts are not normally of much interest to me, but some people do love the over-sweetness. Chilled Honeydew Melon with Sago and Mango Pudding are both very healthy. And of course there is always that Chinese special, deep-fried ice cream.
The quality of food and service is what you come to expect of the major five star hotel chains, and comes as no surprise to those who have dined at other Nikko Hotels around the world. The current menu at Tao-Li was devised by one of Nikko?s master chefs from China, but early in 2005 it is due for a major makeover. I have a feeling that it may then be even more interesting.
Tao-Li really is certainly different from most other Chinese restaurants in Bali. Mind you it is catering, unashamedly, for the very top end. But don?t forget to order your steamed rice separately, as strangely it is not automatic.