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May 30, 2010 03:05 PM

The new Bali Hai

Four of us ventured to the newly remodeled Bali Hai for dinner a couple of weeks ago. There is a new chef and a new menu to compliment the new look and the quintessential mai tais. First of all, the remodel really opened up the place and takes even more advantage of the spectacular views. We started with the coconut shrimp and crispy spring rolls in the lounge while we waited to see if we could get window seats without reservations. Both were very very good. We finally gave up waiting for window seats and accept the next row in which still provided an excellent view. We sampled the "loco moco" steak which was cooked more rare than I like but still tasty and a much better cut of beef than they use to serve. We also sampled the salmon and the black cod lau lau, both of which were cooked perfectly and came with interesting sides. The hit of the table, however, was the shishito pepper which everyone ate like popcorn. I'm looking forward to going back.

Bali Hai Restaurant
2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

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  1. Thanks for the report, sdnosh! Coincidentally, my wife and I ventured to the Bali Hai last weekend and had a very enjoyable dinner. I've lived here since '84 and this is the first time I've been there. The room is beautiful (gorgeous wood) but noisy. The place was busy (Saturday night + huge wedding reception going on downstairs) but we were able to get a table close to the windows without a wait or reservation. We also did the appetizer sampler and it was very good. I normally don't like coconut shrimp (usually too sweet), but these were done perfectly. The Hawaiian ahi tartare was very good, and the spring rolls were okay. We both selected the halibut entrees after our server recommended them as his personal favorite. We were both very pleased with the choice. I normally don't choose halibut, afraid that it will be overcooked and dry, but this was perfectly done -- moist and flavorful. The accompanying squash blossoms and mushroom ragout were great. One note: I specifically chose the Bali Hai because I wanted to try their mai-tai, which they seem to be very proud of (my wife and I are HUGE mai-tai fanatics). Unfortunately, the ones the Bali Hai serves are barely drinkable -- pretty much pure rum. Our server noticed my wife's duress and offered to bring her a glass of passion juice to cut the alcohol (the server mentioned that he often has to bring additional juice to those who order mai-tais). Long story short, we were VERY pleasantly surprised, and we will definitely visit again.

    Bali Hai Restaurant
    2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

    4 Replies
    1. re: bizzwriter

      The Bali Hai is very proud of the fact that their famous mai-tais contain absolutely no fruit.

      Bali Hai Restaurant
      2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

      1. re: foodiechick

        Ha ha -- they definitely need to add SOMETHING besides rum!

        I have an old recipe that I obtained from a bartender at the Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu back in the '80s. It's REALLY good. Key ingredient is fresh lemon juice, plus orgeat, curacao, and three types of rum (including Lemonhart 151). Not a pineapple to be seen. The best.

        1. re: bizzwriter

          Halekulani Mai-Tais. Sitting out by their pool, the best ever!

    2. Love the Bali Hai Mai Tai's!
      Coruba Jamaican Dark Rum, Ron Rico Light Rum, Orange Liqueur & Sweet n Sour.
      No Fruit Juice!

      My friend coined it perfectly..
      'Bali Hai mai tai's are like women's breasts, one is not enough and three is too many'

      3 Replies
        1. re: sdnosh

          That is funny! We were in the area on Sat and stopped in about 3 for a drink in the lounge. Place looks much better on the outside, but the inside is very spartan. Yes the view is still one of the best in the city; not a bad seat in the house, and the thick timbers and few tiki light fixtures are still there, but I guess I expected more. It's so brown.
          We were in the lounge about 3PM, lots of wedding activity below, and the dining room had some long tables of birthday or other gift bringing parties. Not too crowded, but I could see how it could get loud in there.
          Had a Mai Tai. I've always heard theirs were great, but hold crap, great must mean pure booze because that's all I tasted! So boozy it tasted more like whiskey to me. I asked for something to cut it with and she brought me some guava juice. One of the other rummys in our party ended up drinking it and I switched to my usual margarita rocks and that tasted like it had no tequila at all. Maybe the Rum Tai fried my taste buds, but I think their margs need some work.

        2. re: Beach Chick

          Hmm that's a different take than the original mai tai I guess the SNS replaces the citrus juice somewhat.

        3. Bringing this thread back to life.

          My wife and I went back to the Bali Hai last weekend (Saturday evening), expecting another wonderful experience (as I posted on May 30th). Unfortunately, just about everything I had to say good about the restaurant went very, very bad.

          For some reason, the wait staff was completely overwhelmed -- it took us forever to get drinks and appetizers ordered and delivered, and we had to ask a couple times to get the bread we were supposed to have. Our main course was delayed about half an hour because, according to the server, there was a very large party in front of us. We were in no hurry, so it really didn't matter. However, what DID matter was the food was completely lackluster compared to our first visit to the new Bali Hai. The calamari appetizer was nothing special, worse than what you'd get in most good Italian restaurants. My wife and I both ordered the halibut again because we liked it so much the first time. BIG mistake. The large chunks of fish were completely overcooked and dried out. Adding insult to injury, the squash blossoms were tiny, unrecognizable nubbins of deep-fried batter. Nothing like the large, flowery blossoms we got the first time. I sent back the fish, which was done much better the second time. Unfortunately, I think the squash blossoms were even smaller and less recognizable than the first time around.

          At least the mai-tais were still okay. Although the first round was pretty much pure rum, the second round actually contained non-rum elements, making them much more pleasant yet still effective.

          I suggest you steer clear of the Bali Hai until they get their act back together. I know THEY know how to do it right -- they proved it to me and my wife just a few months ago.

          Bali Hai Restaurant
          2230 Shelter Island Dr, San Diego, CA 92106

          2 Replies
          1. re: bizzwriter

            Sorry to hear some kinks found their way in...

            The calamari is completely different than what you'd expect at an Italian restaurant. The batter includes li hing mui powder, which gives it a sweet/salty/sour flavor. Was that what threw you off or were the calamari overcooked?

            1. re: leanneabe

              The flavor to me was okay, though a bit sweet, so yes that might be part of it. Also, the calamari meat seemed to me to be swimming in the batter. I prefer a lower ratio of coating to meat.

          2. Ate there last night. I’m pretty impressed - yet I’m easily impressed. The main restaurant seems about the same. I guess there is new expensive stone around the bar area now. I don’t really know. And the patio area must be new or opened up.

            Busy around 6 pm already, plus a downstairs wedding reception firing up.

            My wife got that same halibut mentioned here previously, with the deep fried (lightly) squash blossom and mushroom ragout - it’s touted this month in the AAA Westways magazine as a signature dish (or nearly since it’s the main photograph for the article.) It’s in a large bowl with a tasty sauce. I got some black cod that was really good. Perfectly cooked (I thought) laying on top of a sausage along with a little squash puree.

            I’m sure these dishes looked miles better than what they served years ago. Also got a heirloom tomato and watermelon salad. Mostly watermelon with some cherry tomatoes, feta cheese and pistachio nuts. And some kind of tomato goop that tasted a little bit like silage. Ignore that!

            Desserts are huge. Not so much for the pineapple cake ice cream thing but there is a carrot cake dessert and they give you 3 good squares of carrot cake topped with cream (or creme fraiche) and a couple of other things drizzled on the plate.

            All in all, the prices are right, and there is only a slight musty smell when you walk in. It’s only about a million times better than that Bay Club hotel restaurant. Major barf! : )