11 May, 2009
Restaurant Review–Bali Hai, 9th Street, DurhamPosted in : Dining in Durham - NC, Restaurants on by : The Gourmez
811 9th Street, Suite 170
9th Street District, Durham
Bali Hai is a Mongolian restaurant with two branches in the Triangle area. They offer a unique dining experience, where you fill one or two bowls with your choice of vegetables and thinly sliced beef, pork, or turkey. If you would like other meats or seafood, they are available at an additional cost of $1.50-3. You then leave your bowl for the chef to stir fry along with your chosen sauce and when it is done, your server brings it over with either steamed or fried rice. You give your server your drink, sauce, and rice preferences before you head to the ingredient station.
First, I don’t know if it was just my server or not, but the process I described above should really be made known right away. Instead, it was assumed we were regulars that understood the process though we told the host that we had not been there before. Our server basically just stared at us and we had to pry instructions on what to do out of her. So, either we had a quieter than norm server or the wait staff needs to offer instructions right away.
Foodwise, I thought it was a tasty stir-fry and quite the bargain as well. It is obviously a hot spot for the hungry Duke crowd. Some of the diners had developed an art form out of stacking as much as possible in their bowls. For people with two bowls, they even managed to create a bridge of toppings between them and still form impressive pyramids of food on top of that. Seriously, watching these people stack is half the draw of this restaurant. Be forewarned, though, if your stacking eyes are bigger than your stomach, Bali Hai does not reward your creative work with a to go container.
Back to the food, both my husband and I ordered the spicy sauce. You can specify its heat level, which I appreciate, from 1-10. I went with 5 and it was just the right amount of heat for my palate, which I would describe as that of an extra hot but not-yet-crying buffalo wing eater. The thinly sliced meat was fantastic and I enjoyed the sauce as well. I think the difference between steamed and fried rice was basically soy sauce but it was rice and served its purpose as a sauce vehicle.
As for atmosphere, Bali Hai was plainly attired with simple tables that matched the light cream walls. My husband thought it was cafeteria-like but I’d disagree. It’s more like eating at a pizzeria with a bit of service for drinks and plate delivery. For $6.95 a bowl, I was pleased.