AriBar has followed the trend. Mexican cuisine was all the rage in Bali in the 1990?s but then almost disappeared [with the exception of good old TJ?s] over the past decade. Now they are re-appearing all over Bali, from Canggu to Ubud, and all points in between.
AriBar is one of the better ones, operated by industry professionals rather than just enthusiastic hobbyists. Amazing good value as well! However what is interesting about this one is that many of the dishes, whilst following strict Mexican cuisine rules, are very different from what is available elsewhere.
Located at the front of The Bali Garden Beach Resort [where Ryoshi used to be, who are now moved to the street-front row of small restaurants and cafes, 100 metres away] the decor is typical Mex, as is the food, but with a few sly touches, here and there.
Start with a variety of finger food. Corn on the cob is simply char-grilled, street style, but with cheese, chipotle [smoke-fried jalapeno chilli], mayonnaise and lime. The Chicken Wings are hot and spicy and of course there are Nachos, crisp tortilla chips topped with chilli con carne and cheese, served with guacamole, pico de gallo and sour cream. A surprise was the amazing little Corn Cakes [pictured], their centre is 100% corn, the patty crumbed and fried, topped with guacamole, pico de gallo [fresh uncooked salad mix of tomato, onion, peppers, etc] and a small slab of crisp pork belly. Sometime it is the simplest of dishes that can command your attention and stay in the memory?.these I could eat all day.
The Tostaditas [4 per serving board] include traditional and experimental. Vegetarian [sweet corn, black bean, cheese, jalapeno and salsa verde], Prawn [marinated and combined with guacamole, mango salsa and orange sauce], Duck [braised and combined with bell peppers, feta cheese and tamarind mayonnaise], Goat [braised with pico de gallo, red chilli, mint and jalapeno sauce] and Pork Cheek [slow braised with cilantro and jalapeno with chipotle mayonnaise]. I tried the Duck Tostaditas and thought they were great, the duck though shredded after the braising still retained its full flavour and the accompanying bits were perfectly matched.
The unusual choice of meats, and their tastiest cuts, is a feature of the menu here. Local pork and goat in particular are often served in Bali restaurants as tough slabs of meat that are almost inedible. At AriBar the meats are slow braised for up to 4 hours, resulting in tender and tasty meat, but still at budget prices.
Fajitas can be chicken, beef or prawn. All served on a flat piece of tortilla with bell peppers, onion, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream. Burritos [chicken or beef] are soft tortillas rolled around Mexican rice, re-fried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo. sour cream and shredded lettuce]. The Enchilladas are stuffed with chicken or beef and topped with a chilli tomato sauce.
Different entrees, with a bit of imagination, include King Prawns, the meat grilled on toast with garlic and almond verde sauce. Pork Belly, on just about every menu in Bali, is braised and topped with pickled onions, cream sauced and fried parsley. Salads can be the very Mexican Jicama [yam beans] with mango, black bean, bell peppers, tortilla chips and an orange dressing. The Baby Octopus Salad is more Mediterranean, with lettuce, spring onions, sweet corn, feta cheese and an oregano herb dressing.
Tacos and Quesadillas can be ordered individually. The Taco is a crisp shell that does not shatter at first bite. Standard Tacos [beef, prawn, fish or pork cheek] or something different, Chipotle Carne Asada, consists of marinated sirloin with coriander, caramelized onion and pico de gallo. The excellent tortilla Quesadillos can be stuffed with chicken, prawns, pork cheek, goat or just vegetables. Combined with a sauce with a bit of a bite, they are very good.
Mains, if you can handle one after all the traditional starters, are fairly simple, Burgers [Beef with pineapple, jalapeno and cheese or Baja Chicken, spicy fillet with red bell pepper, guacamole, onion and grilled pineapple]. The Rubbed Pork Fillet [pre rubbed with spices and herbs] is served with a wow walnut and tequila raisin sauce. Honey Ribs are with a chilli sauce.
Desserts are international apart from the Mexican Churros, served with cinnamon sugar, chocolate sauce on the side.
Mexican at Kuta prices rather than the trendy café ones, surprisingly cheap and from a very professional hygienic kitchen, all served with a smile ?amazingly good value!