Bali Restaurant, G/F, 10, Nanking St Tsim Sha Tsui. Tel: 780-2902. Hours: Noon-11pm. THERE was a glimmer of hope, en route to Bali, that this restaurant would be the fix that makes Indonesia's most famous retreat a sensory overload. The island is a collision of colours, aromas and tastes, where women swathed in luscious hues seem to float along dusty village roads with pyramids of fruit on their heads. Wherever there's a festival, a spread of glistening roast suckling pig and gamelan orchestra awaits. Bali is as refreshing as a Bintang beer at sunset and as surprising as their iced drinks, dreamed up by some culinary clone of Walt Disney. But reality dashed the fantasy. Instead of ladies gliding in chartreuse and fuchsia, the gents of the tray brigade wore ikat and batik patterns in tobacco-coloured polyester. Here sunsets are replaced by 60 watts and colour is supplied by the kind of red brick wallpaper found in truck-stops around Memphis or Little Rock. But the hospitality is plain Indonesian and the smiles as genuine as the ikat patterns. The visit confirmed a belief that Hongkong raises the standard of Indonesian cooking, thanks to the availability of fresh ingredients and refrigeration. Dining on the road and in the villages of Indonesia, not multi-star hotels and restaurants, is always a hit-and-miss affair. The dining room can easily accommodate a tour bus or office party. But booths offer a modicum of privacy. Half the tables on a recent Saturday were speaking the mother tongue. The menu sprawls with 140 items, if you include the drinks and sundaes. A return visit is planned because even an eating team of five can't do the menu justice. There are several highlights. Kudos to the beef rendang (spicy beef) for tenderness, moistness and a compromise between spicyness and the creamy rich flavour of coconut milk. The satay combination smacked of charcoal flavour. The peanut sauce, rich and slightly chunky, rated a finger-cleaning of the plate. The standards - nasi goreng and mie goreng - were studded with carrot, egg and meaty morsels, and couldn't be faulted. One portion feeds two. But the rujak manis (mixed fruit in chilli sauce), normally a delightful, if bizarre salad snack, lacked the punch and citrus edge that refreshes on a blistering afternoon. More cabbage and peanuts could improve the gado gado (boiled vegetable salad with peanut sauce). Everyone passed on the ikan bali (fish in chilli sauce) and ayam panggang (spiced roasted chicken) on grounds of feeling like sumo wrestlers out of control. Dessert was nixed until the orders whispered for ice kacang (red bean with coconut milk), black sticky rice and cendol (flour bean with coconut milk) arrived. The cool, mildly sweet desserts, sipped and spooned, added a soothing finish to a very good meal. But the bill was even better. Five feasted for $150 each, including beer. Sorry, no Bintang.