Having grown up in Sydney, I have been exploring 'foreign' restaurants, from the many available there, ever since I was a teenager. I can always remember being told that the most traditional food was always to be found wherever the locals from that country ate! My first foreign solo experience was at sixteen years of age when I walked, up a narrow stairway into a Kings Cross eatery called The Prague, with fear and trepidation. The sight of all the Czech dishes on the menu, without any English translations whatsoever, didn't ease the tension. However, watching other diner's dishes being delivered and pointing them out to the waiter resulted in the birth of a whole new range of experiences.
For the best Chinese food in Bali, it is much easier to locate the best restaurants.
Just follow the buses!
With the exception of Central Parking, nowhere are there more buses parked, at any mealtime, than at the forecourt of the Golden Palace in Raya Kuta. The occupants of those buses usually partake of their meals in the upstairs portion of the restaurant. Downstairs is normally reserved for smaller dining groups, although as a 'gweilo'[a white-faced devil] you will no doubt be placed just inside the door to the right, kept well away from the real Chinese! You will also be presented with, without asking for them, western cutlery. Refusing to accept these utensils brings looks of amazement to the faces of the Balinese staff, who subsequently hang around to watch you eat, expecting you to make a total fool of yourself with the chopsticks.
Very minor hassles for food like this! The only reason that you come to the Golden Palace, is for the food. This is real Cantonese dining, with a few dishes done Peking or Sze Chuan style, without any attempt to present what someone believes to be westernised versions of Chinese fare! It is just as well that the food is so great because most other aspects of the place leave a lot to be desired. The menu has three columns of prices, for small, medium and large portions. This is most commendable for an Asian eatery where the norm is to order a spread of dishes and share them banquet-style. Until recently, only one column had figures in it, the one designated as being for medium serves. The problem was that the prices listed were those for small serves. Such devious practices would cause a restaurant to be closed down in most western countries. Obviously my loud vocal complaints weren't the only ones, as this has been belatedly corrected and all three prices are now shown for each dish.
After all that preamble, you may wonder why anyone would come here at all. Well the answer to that is very simple, the food is sensational!
The Suckling Pig is no Balinese Babi Guling, this is pure Chinese-style from young pigs that have only been suckled. Thin strips of light, crunchy crackling sit atop like strips of succulent flesh, to be dipped in the accompanying Hoi Sin sauce.
Glazed Honey Pork is a tasty appetiser, small thin oval scallops of sticky pork, tantalisingly good. As is the Roasted Duck, done in the traditional Chinese way and served in chunks, on the bone.
That ubiquitous Chicken in Lemon, so often a sweet sickly disaster at many westernised Chinese restaurants, arrives here the way it should. Small pieces of still-crunchy fried boneless chicken, topped at the last minute with a tangy, lemon flavoured sauce.
Vinegar-marinated Pork Spare Ribs just melt in your mouth, flavour running everywhere. Bite size, almost boneless pork ribs dripping in a very piquant sauce.
Beef in Black Pepper comes as large chunks of very tender beef totally immersed in a black pepper sauce.
Don't get embarrassed at the rude, inquisitive staff watching your every movement, just make a mess and enjoy the food! If you can't use chopsticks then give in and use the spoon and fork, or even with your fingers if really necessary!
This is food that is meant to be, and deserves to be, enjoyed!
As is normal with banquet style eating, a larger group enables you to sample a bigger variety of dishes, and almost always lowers the average cost per person. Where two people would probably need a minimum of four small servings, three could enjoy five different dishes [also small], and a party of six could enjoy seven medium-sized dishes for much the same cost, per person.
Other meat dishes worth trying include the Shredded Chicken and Soya, served with a julienne of vegetables and a touch of soy. And the Beef with Ginger with spring Onions. Thin shavings of juicy beef and tart ginger with piles of shredded spring onions.
A variety of Fish dishes are available as are Lobster, Crabs and Prawns. All sold by their weight. Even Pigeon if you are game!
A minimalist selection of wines are also available, These are from France, Australia, South Africa and Chile. There are four white wines [Rp. 185-205,000++], and five reds [Rp. 200-300,000++]. Additionally there are four wines from China [Rp. 195,000-350,000++].
Golden Palace is also open every day for Dim Sum [Yum Cha], lunchtimes, and has quite an impressive selection of dishes.