Many months in the planning Il Tempio has now arrived. It offers something very different for the Kartika Plaza area with quality dining Italian cuisine, but at reasonable prices. It is situated in the street-side lower right hand corner of The Bali Garden Hotel, a part of the old car park, facing the hotel temple in a mini ampitheatre.
Il Tempio the restaurant is three-sided, lounge setting at the front, indoor and outdoor seating behind. A comfortable and well-designed bar nestles in the corner. Beside the restaurant will soon be a small row of more budget-oriented all day eating houses parallel to the road.
There are many snacks or small plates available at Il Tempio, dishes that can be enjoyed anytime on their own or as entrees to a full meal. Cannellini Beans are in tomato with sage, baked beans with a difference. The Black Olive Pesto with pizza bread is a tapenade with taste. Roasted Tomato [with balsamic relish and chilli] also with pizza bread, is very refreshing. Eggplant Caviar [puree of eggplant that has been blended with mascarpone, mashed garlic, tomato and cracked pepper] and Crisp Rice Croquettes [Arancini] are amongst the many small offerings that are perfect accompaniment to that afternoon drink, or two? Best choice is to order their Grazing Plate, with a variety of tastes.
The house specialties are more entrée size and start with a Trio of Bruschetta, crisp Parma ham on caramelized onions, chicken liver mousse enhanced with anchovies, port wine and cream and grilled vegetables with thyme. Their Beef Carpaccio is uniquely different, the shaved prime beef having been marinated in hazelnut vinaigrette and served with arugula pesto, asparagus, lettuce and flaky Parmesan chips. Goat Cheese is tossed with roasted capsicum, eggplant, zucchini, baked balsamic-honey brushed and sun-dried tomatoes and arugula.
Diced Red Snapper that has been marinated in lemon juice is layered with avocado and roasted bell peppers, tossed with mint oil and red pesto. The Shrimps have been seasoned with citrus vinaigrette and the lemon-seared Squid is served on rocket.
Italians love their salads and Il Tempio offers a few salads of Italian style but different from the norm [maybe the only restaurant in Bali without a Caesar??], a welcome change. A salad of sautéed seafood leads the way with very baby squid and octopus [both so tender, just a little bit crunchy] combined with pieces of shrimp, mussel, scallop and peperonata then tossed with oregano in an olive-lime dressing. The Mushroom Salad is with boiled halved quail eggs, mixed greens and things, a pesto covered slice of ciabatta on the side. Crisp eggplant chips are served on salad leaves with asparagus, Parma ham crumbs, quail eggs and candied nuts. The Tuna Salad is perfect! No dry over-cooked tuna here, thick slices of just seared fillet tossed with a myriad of tastes; conciglie, green beans, baby spinach, oven-roasted capsicum, crisp capers, red onion rings, baked tomato and black olive- anchovy pesto with a thyme-lemon dressing.
Pastas are pastas, they include all the basic types you know, it is just the way they are presented that is different. Cannelloni stuffed with minced lamb mixed with mascarpone, instead of the usual beef. The Fettuccine is wow! Pieces of preserved lemon chicken enhanced by cumin, ground coriander and pepper are served with a slice of preserved [one week in salt] lemon and sun-dried tomatoes. Ravioli is stuffed with Portobello mushroom, mascarpone and goat cheese. Another great taste is the Angel Hair pasta, tossed with a bolognaise sauce made from braised pork knuckle that has been simmered in Syrah wine, pecorino and spring onions.
The Pizzas, that an Italian restaurant would not be complete without, are also done with an Asian twist, although the simplest one on the menu seems to be the most popular being ordered almost as tasty bread to snack on whilst taking that afternoon drink; a thin layer of cheese dotted with rosemary, sprinkled with sea salt and drizzled with virgin olive oil. More local is the Roast Duck Pizza with red pesto, mushrooms and sage. The Vegetarian Pizza is covered with the complete garden; arugula, asparagus, zucchini, eggplant, bell peppers and cherry tomatoes. Added is a touch of finger chilli, provolone pecorino cheese, thyme and olive oil.
The main courses, as with all else here showcase the talents of Chef Ifah which is not surprising considering her long history at fine dining restaurants across Bali. Roast Duck Breast topped with red pesto sits on parpadella pasta that has been tossed with shredded spinach The Smoked Pork Loin has been grilled and is served on a bed of broccoli polenta, the sauce rather unique espresso and fig. Chicken Breast [pictured] has been marinated in thyme, garlic and lemon zest and sit on a crisp spaghetti cake with straws of fried leek. Grilled Tiger Prawns were brushed with honey-mustard vinaigrette. For a stretch of road that is mainly renowned for its very basic tourist restaurants Il Tempio is a breath of fresh air! It provides tasty food in a most pleasant setting at very reasonable prices.