BEST DOWNTOWN RESTAURANT (2005)
305-358-5751 Before we know it, Biscayne Boulevard will cut a palm-tree-lined swath through a downtown canyon of tall, shiny buildings and chic outdoor cafés. At the moment, however, this area boasts more cranes than creditable lunch spots. Bali Café, with its fresh, beautiful, steamy-hot Indonesian cuisine, is an oasis seemingly far from the world of jackhammers. The 30-seat room resembles what one might imagine to be an informal eatery in Jakarta -- brass, carved wood, flashes of color, assorted trinkets here and about. The food outshines all, though. Presentations look as if they belong on the cover of an Indonesian gourmet food publication, and the flavors burst with sweet, sour, salty, and spicy notes -- often all on the same plate. Favorites such as satays, gado gado (with tofu, egg, and vegetables in peanut sauce), and nasi goreng (fried rice with spicy coconut-imbued chicken and beef) are consistently prepared with aplomb. But don't miss the dumplings, scrumptiously plumped with chicken in piquant peanut-and-sweet-soy sauce; or lontong cap go meh, an intoxicating blend of chicken and beef with steamed chayote and coconut broth. Desserts look like frappes assembled by Courtney Love, and prices are even cheaper than the image that conjures.
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