Layali is Lebanese. It has been 10 years since Bali had a Lebanese Restaurant, it was simply called Lebanon, and was situated in the now defunct Kuta Square.
Bali icon, Glory, in Jln. Legian, Legian, had been long closed. It has recently been fully renovated, with new kitchen and open grill area, still retaining the pleasant rear garden courtyard, and transformed into Bali's new Lebanese restaurant, Layali. In the window section at the front, and in the rear garden, large low tables are surrounded by ground cushions for those who can sit like that. On the tables are giant Shisha [Mu'assel in which a mix of tobacco and flavoured syrups, on hot embers, is smoked through a water pipe]. Available flavours include Two Apples, Melon, Grape, Mint, Zaglool and Mixed Fruit, close your eyes and you are suddenly in the Middle East!
The restaurant is still a ;work in progress'. The initial menu has been limited to pure Lebanese cuisine but slowly new dishes are being added, mainly the cuisines of nearby Arab countries. Lebanese food is invariably eaten with rounds of flat unleaven Lebanese bread, whilst Arab cuisines normally come with rice, sometimes even that wonderful aromatic Kebuli rice.
Just about everyone recognizes Lebanese dips, many of which have found their way into the cuisines of neighbouring countries. Such as Hommus [a mash of garbanzo beans garnished with olive oil, lemon juice and mint], and Baba Ghanoush [roasted eggplant with pomegranate juice, olive oil and lemon juice]. I prefer Moutabal, very Lebanaese rather than general Middle Eastern, it has the same ingredients as Baba Ghanoush but with sesame seed paste added, for extra taste.
Tabouleh is the Lebanese Salad, parsley and diced tomatoes tossed with olive oil, mint, lemon juice and cracked wheat, served on lettuce. It is eaten, as are all the dips, with that wonderful Lebanese bread, still warm from the oven. An Olive Salad is unusual, made from thinly sliced olives and bell peppers, goes well with the Moutabal dip, split the bread and fill up like a mini sandwich!
Stuffed Grape Leaves are a part of many Mediterranean cuisines, and known by many different names [dolma, yaprekh in Arab countries and dolmades in Greece] and in modern cuisines are often stuffed with a wide variety of fillings. Here at Layali they are in original form, 6 finger-sized small rolls stuffed with rice, sitting on a base of diced tomato and shredded lettuce.
A Mezze Platter is the way to go for any group, small or large, so you can try a little bit of everything. One of my favourite Lebanese snacks/entrees, when done well and not too dry, is Falafel. It is a dish that I prefer to eat with my dips, making a warm contrast. Patties of garbanzo beans, fava beans and parsley, moulded together and fried in the wok. A more worldy warm entrée is Layali's Chicken Wings, in their 'spicy hot sauce' they are not really hot by Indonesian standards, just pleasantly 'warm'. finger-licking good!
Gebne Mankoushe or Cheese Pie is another special at Layali, they come straight from the always flaming oven in the open cooking area. Meat and Spinach Pies are also available. Unique Lebanese pastry that is easy to keep on eating, even to the extent of a full meal!
Lebanese mains are inevitably in the form of meat on skewers, cooked over a low flame. The Shish Kebab is well known; large cubes of lamb interspersed with slices of onion, tomato and roasted chilli, garnished with onion and sumac. Shish Tawook are much the same but using cubes of chicken breast. Shish Kofta is totally different as the beef [or chicken] is finely minced and blended with mild spices before being moulded in a sausage form onto metal skewers and grilled over the flames. Again an Assorted Plate will get you four different kebabs.
Steaks, Grilled Fish or Chicken are also available, but now many Arab dishes are now being added to the menu, meats to be eaten with rice. The Arab form of Biryani is very different from the Indian. Here the rice is separate from the meat or fish, and has a consistency more like an Italian risotto, the flavour is an intense curry. It is served with beef, lamb or fish. Kabsah is a chicken dish the accompanying rice flavoured with a mix of black pepper, cloves, cardamom, saffron, cinnamon, black lime, bay leaves and nutmeg. Chicken Kabsah is one of Saudi Arabia's most popular everyday dishes. Another dish from Arab countries [mainly Jordan and Palestine] is Mansoff, which literally means 'explosion'. Normally it is a base for a dish of lamb or whole fish, which sits on top. The rice has been cooked with ground beef and dried yoghurt [jamid].
Other Arab dishes that are served with normal white rice on the side include Molokhieh [shredded chicken with jute leaves stewed in a broth], Fasoolya bil Lahme [cubes of beef with broad beans in a tomato based sauce], Bazella bil Lahme [pieces of beef with green peas and cubes of potato] another version of Kofta, combined with potato and tomato, baked in the oven and an unusual Stuffed Chicken, the whole bird having been stuffed with seasoned rice and baked in the oven.
As with most Middle Eastern cuisines, and most Asian as well, the food at Layali is best enjoyed with as a group feast, so many different dishes can be tasted at the same time. In this case whilst occasionally smoking the Shisha, fragrant flavours sipped through cooling water.