Holiday Foodsteps: Bali Hai, Penang

It's one of those hard-to-miss places along Gurney Drive, with its larger than life signboard and tiki huts. I've always been curious about the place - the first time I spotted those tiki huts as we drove along Gurney Drive, I assumed it was one of those touristy places. On my most recent visit to Penang, we succumed to the lure of those huts and decided we'd give the place a go.

Bali Hai 
90 Gurney Drive,

A huge seafood display greets you as you walk into the restaurant - tanks of live fish and crustaceans, and array of shellfish and other more exotic findings from the sea (Think spider crabs larger than steering wheels). 

There's some excitement in getting to pick the ingredients for your meal, especially when there's quite a bit to choose from. I even managed to get a little "lets get to know your fish" session with my dad. The display is quite the crowd pleaser among children (and adults too, clearly).

Steamed jade prawns. We thought we'd go with something simple for the prawns - afterall, what better way to pay homage to fresh prawns than to enjoy them with minimal add-ons. Despite the being succulent and rather juicy, they lacked flavour, something that left me rather disappointed.

Steamed soon hock (marbled goby). Adequately fresh, though I was hoping for a little more with this dish.

Deep fried grouper. The grouper is perhaps my favourite kind of fish and while some may deem deep frying a perfectly good piece of fish a bit of a cop out, there's something about the special soy sauce and ginger that complements the distinct flavour of the grouper.

Black tofu topped with deep fried golden mushrooms. This became quite the conversation topic when it arrived at our table. "But how did they make it black?!". Overall, it was a tasty plate of crispy-ness with the deep-fried tofu being more on the tofu pok end of the tofu scale.

We also had some garlic scallops with our meal which were on the mushy side, unfortunately. I have to say that the meal left me feeling a little dissatisfied - I was expecting seafood of better quality for what they were charging. Perhaps the tiki huts and the fancy display raised the expectations a little too much. As for that initial touristy impression? I'd say I wasn't far off.

I'd warrant a guess that there are better seafood places in Penang that are a little friendlier to the wallet too.  

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