Where else in Bali [make that the world] do you get serenaded by the restaurateur during your romantic dinner? Christos Liokouras [from the Lio Collection, exporters of fine furniture, and a new and very active partner in Pantarei] is probably one of the world's more unusual varieties of same. Bouncing everywhere, talking to everybody, snatching a guitar from the band and bursting into song in a variety of languages, the perfect maitre d'!
The new Pantarei is new in almost every way. It starts with the attractive bar/dining area just inside the entrance. Quiet and classy! Further into the body of the restaurant the mob are noisy and exuberant, they are actually enjoying themselves! There has been a totally new fit-out, and new items added to the menu.
There is no better way to start any meal at a Greek restaurant than with a Greek Meze, a plate of assorted appetizers. Pantarei is no exception. 10 different items fill the plate; Yalandji Dolma [vine leaves stuffed with rice, herbs, lemon and olive oil, in a yoghurt garlic sauce], Assorted Bourek [tasty pastry triangles], Pastrouma Bourek [philo pastry roll stuffed with pastrami, Kaseri cheese, tomato and herbs], Spanakopita [a slab of that classic Greek spinach pie], five different dips [Tzatziki, Aubergine, Hummus, Spicy Cheese and Tarama], and those wonderful Stuffed Mushrooms [stuffed with a combination of feta, cheddar and blue cheeses].
So you want to make your own Meze, well why not? My choice, for a group of 4 or so is as follows: Krasato [octopus pieces sautéed in red wine and extra virgin olive oil], Prawn Saganaki [devoid of shells ready to eat with your fingers, baked in the oven in a herbed tomato sauce, topped with cheese], Pastrouma [Greek pastrami with sliced tomato and topped with that wonderful tangy Kaseri cheese], and some of those Stuffed Mushrooms. An entrée side dish I can never overlook is the Greek Giant Beans, simply baked in the oven in a tomato sauce. High in fibre and high in taste!
A recent addition to the menu at Pantarei is their version of the all-time classic, Greek-style Roast Lamb. For Bali [the cost of imported lamb is prohibitive] and Rp. 70,000++ this dish is excellent. Solid chunks of tender lamb, drizzled with an olive oil mix with thyme, oregano and minced garlic, together with perfect crunchy baby potatoes. I forgot to mention that Pantarei always serves a plate of perfect warm bread [olive oil and balsamico to dip] with every meal. Do not eat it all straight away, save some to mop up the leftover oil and herb mix!
There are many other mains here, meat and seafood. The Lemon Chicken is actually a half bird, marinated in lemon, mustard, rosemary and white wine, then baked in the oven. Needless to say, Moussaka is on the menu [layers of aubergine and minced meat, topped with béchamel and oven-baked]. Lahano Dolmades are cabbage leaves stuffed with a mix of minced beef and rice, with a lemon and egg sauce. Another Lamb dish is their Lamb Taskebab, large cubes of lamb that have been simmered in a red wine and herb sauce, and served on a puree of aubergine.
Amongst the grills [all the usual steaks are here, using imported Australian meat] is a special Lamb Chop. It has been marinated in Greek herbs before the grilling, very good! Kebabs include chunks of beef, lamb, pork, chicken and sausage [separate or mixed]. The traditional Gyros is available [slices of lamb with tomato, onion and tzatziki all rolled in soft pita bread], perfect for that luncheon snack. As is the Souvlaki Roll [minced beef with the same mix, also rolled in pita bread].
The prices of the seafood dishes at Pantarei are really amazing! Less than Rp.40,000 for either Mahi-Mahi or Butterfish. Both are simply grilled whilst being splashed with a mix of olive oil and lemon.
Dessert at a Greek restaurant invariably includes that sweet, sticky, wonderful Loukoumades [fried puffs of pastry with honey, ice cream and cinnamon]. The Mango Pie is not that bad either.
A good, moderately priced, wine list [including some Greek wines], happy bustling service, and that incomparable Christros, all go together to make a night of good eating and total enjoyment. It is so Greek that even the guitars [live music every night from 8.00] start to sound like bouzukis after a while. And the bill at the end of the night will be a pleasant surprise!
With so many new quality restaurants opening in Bali every month, it is good to see one of the old ones get its act together.