Cheap Eats

At Bali Cafe, a Delicious Six-Course Indonesian Meal Costs $17

Start with the salad, a brilliant mixture of tofu, mango, and greens sloshed in an orange-sesame dressing. Chase it with the shrimp dumplings, tiny bulbs coated in spicy peanut sauce. Go ahead! Try the lumpia, deep-fried rolls crammed with chicken, cabbage, and carrots. Thirsty? Slurp that bowl of steaming miso soup.

With that, you've just finished a third of Bali Café's rijsttafel -- an elaborate Indonesian meal.

The feast originated in colonial Indonesia, sometime around the late 19th Century, when the Dutch created a banquet of traditional dishes. Today, the meal embraces a dizzying display of flavors and textures: nuts, pickles, salads, fish, meats, and rice.

And at this downtown cash-only hideaway, it costs $17.45.

Bali Café's rijsttafel begins with appetizers and culminates with six small plates, all arranged neatly in white bowls. There are crackers called emping, tender chunks of coriander-spiced beef rendang, and por ayam -- chicken legs slowly braised in rich coconut milk. Stir-fried vegetables, fried fish, and white rice ride alongside.

The restaurant's greatest feat is its sambal goreng teri kacang, a flavor-bomb of peanuts, anchovies, and chili sauce. Sure, you might find a tiny fish head or two in there. But nothing tastes better than pairing salty fish with spice.

Rijsttafel also pops up at Indomania, a South Beach spot with fancier digs and costlier bills. That restaurant's meal starts at $24. Bali Café's is not only more affordable but also simply one of the best deals in town.

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