Entering one of the three unique doorways into the Ji at Bale Sutra restaurant which is located in the empirical enclave of the Hotel Tugu Bali (Jl.Batu Bolong, Canggu) is to participate in a mythical experience for the senses that lingers between the pleasures of this world and those of another.
Leading the heart of this journey is the namesake and inspiration of this unique Japanese cum Peranakan Chinese dining experience—the 310 year old Kang XI period temple which Tugu Hotels founder/designer, Anhar Setjadibrata, rescued from ruins in Java and completely reconstructed on the first island in Indonesia where the temple landed hundreds of years ago.
The fusion of the ancient Japanese and Chinese cultures which are reflected not only in the ornate animal carvings of the Chinese temple’s elegant dark wood façade, but also in the restaurant’s branding—an innovative take on Japanese calligraphy highlighting the fanciful flora, fauna and cultural elements of the region—offers animated glimpses into the past while at the same time spearheading into the future. The temple exemplifies the nearly 2000 year old relationship between the two cultures and stands as a testament to the vast influence the more ancient China had on aspects of life in Japan.
Ji (which means ‘temple’ in Japanese & Chinese) at Bale Sutra 1706
The mythical connection is further manifested by 3 very characteristic entrances. Those looking to partake in the delicate fusion of Japanese culinary euphoria may enter through the low Gate of Heaven, where one has to bend low to be able to enter under the big golden Buddha; those seeking to show their devotion can enter through the Gate of Love, where upon entering one can look up to the majestic centuries-old statue of the Goddess of Love, Gwan Yin; and those in search of decadence and leaving the hectic modern day behind can enter past a pair of statues of mythological guards and through the four-meter high Gate of Hell, which tellingly leads to some people’s idea of heaven—a KABUKI-inspired bar offering the finest sakes from Japan, contemporary Japanese-inspired exotically-infused cocktails and a covetable collection of fine boutique wines from around the world. Guests may savor their beverage of choice at the dark wood bar or for purchase to takeaway.
No matter the choice of entry, a culinary aficionado’s dreams will be fulfilled in the selection of dishes that celebrate Japanese traditions fused with other exotic cultural influences. After feasting on a meal such as the Dragon of Ji Roll shaped as a dragon; the Crab and Fennel Tsukiji Salad; the most melt-in-your-mouth Pork Belly with ginger & scallion; the Smokey Salmon Zaru Soba with home-smoked salmon belly and citrus broth, Yuzu, Mint & Basil sorbet, Green Tea cheesecake & Peach Millefeuille, guests can be forgiven for assuming they have sampled from a monarch’s personal menu.
We particularly enjoyed the Dragon of Ji and the Crab and Fennel Tsukiji but the peach millefeuille really was a tiny bit of heaven dancing around on the tastebuds. We chose to sit upstairs at the long counter facing the road as it was a warm evening and sitting up there watching the world go by whilst listening to great music and enjoying a taste of the East was a perfect way to end a perfect day.