Reminiscent of paradise

Daniel Davis

“Bali Hai”

Sarasota, Florida

Sarasota presents its version of Mexican cuisine with Bali Hai’s, located in Saint Armand’s Circle. Found upstairs, drowned out by crowding clothing and jewelry shops, Bali Hai’s cheap and unkempt insides make you feel more like you are in Mexico than eating Mexican food.

A tight seating area provides a noisy environment and makes the restaurant an exciting and upbeat place to bring the kids and enjoy a social atmosphere. The ancient oak bar occupies approximately one-fourth of the dining area, to give you an accurate estimate of the space constraints.

Bali Hai’s menu offers the basic Mexican foods with a seafood twist, mixing grouper and tuna into burritos, fajitas and tacos to properly represent the by-the-beach location.

Under the miniscule list of appetizers were popular Mexican dishes such as tortilla soup ($5), Mexican salad ($8), fajita salad ($9), firecracker shrimp ($11) and some mini-taco and mini-burrito samplers. I was most interested by the firecracker shrimp, which came out accompanied by lettuce and a nice, extremely spicy and outstanding-tasting fiery sauce. It gave my throat the kind of “healthy” burn one needs to make sure they are living a righteous and exciting life.

The main courses are that of your typical Mexican eatery, including burritos, tacos, fajitas and enchiladas with multiple fillings to accommodate your dining pleasure. The enticing part of their menu comes when you discover the addition of grouper and ahi tuna to some usually ordinary entrées. Unfortunately, this “fine establishment” managed to sell-out of its “hottest” item, the grouper burger ($8), so I was forced to make due with the ahi tuna fajitas ($12).

As described earlier, the firecracker shrimp were delicious and to my satisfaction. The fajitas were not ultra-fresh, but my ahi filling was very tasty.

Accompanying the meal was Mexican rice, refried beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa (big surprise eh?).

For the most part, the menu is not that pricy, and as one of the cheaper restaurants in the area, it compensates for its poor upkeep and mediocre service. A good majority of the servers make their job look onerous and reflect it accordingly with their “outstanding” attitudes. Their hurried manner and diminutive attentiveness did add to their poor service; however, they were helpful and knowledgeable about the surrounding area.

A big downside to the dining experience was the signature pre-meal chips and salsa. We were given nothing of the sort and laughed at when we mentioned the idea. How dare they scoff at me for such an “innovative” and “fresh” idea.

If you are utterly desperate for Mexican and in the mood to be frugal, explore Bali Hai and you should pretty satisfied with your findings.