Mauritian Magic At Ti Moris

Ti Moris brings food from the island of Mauritius to the island of the gods. Photos Lucky 8.

Mark Twain once wrote, ‘Mauritius was made first and then heaven, heaven being copied after Mauritius’. It sounds exotic, and there is something heavenly about the food, the service, the smiles and the cocktails at Bali’s first Mauritian restaurant, Ti Moris.

It looks like a café but it doesn’t eat or drink like a café. Bold, colourful and deeply delicious flavours play together on the menu at Ti Moris in Batu Belig and for anyone who hasn’t tasted Mauritian food, you’re in for a spicy surprise.

Chef Ayushi and the team at this bright and happy eatery have created a little slice of paradise in Bali, where the hospitality is as warm as the temperature. Just when you get to thinking there is nothing new under the sun, along comes a place that sends you a little sideways. Ayushi is Mauritian but honed her trade in European capitals and on cruise ships where precision and consistency are her keys to success.

She is gregarious and loves to chat and it is soon apparent that she listens and instinctively adjusts to the temperature of her guests. A quick look at the menu, and a few questions had her returning with a tasting plate of some of her key dishes, tailor made according to our interest.

These included two slow cooked dishes off the dinner menu, normally not offered at lunch. A lamb daube and a beef salame combine both French and Indian influences, think wine and spices. Also included in the chef’s ‘island hopping’ platter was a delicious fish curry with baramundi, blackened skin adding flavour and texture, served with a spice paste of mustard seeds and turmeric. We really loved this dish.

The fourth dish on our tasting plate was a vegetarian dish that was a delightful surprise. Crunchy chickpea balls, gato pima, a staple snack in Mauritius, are broken up and mixed with tomato, onion, coriander and spices to make a kind of salad. The textures are delicious and despite not being a fan of coriander, the flavours were so beautifully balanced that it mingled rather than overtook the dish. Nicely played.

The brilliance of the island hopper is that it can be tailored to each guest. Ayushi says she loves to take the measure of the guest and then head to the kitchen and create plates for each taste, showing herself to be both experienced and intuitive. I wonder if she’ll have time for this when they get busy, but she clearly has commitment and enthusiasm for this project. Served with bread to dip and mop up the sauces, the island hopper is a great way to experience several dishes at once.

Our lunch however was just beginning and we were only two cocktails in. The cocktails are classic, classy and best of all, affordable. Did I mention they are also strong. We started with a chilitini and a margarita and they definitely added a smile to lunch.

Main courses arrived in the shape of a traditional Mauritian chicken curry, cari poulet Mauricien, made without coconut milk, and rougaille ala ti moris, a creole style tomato-based dish with aromatic herbs. It can be served as a vegetable or fish dish, ours was made with fish.

Both dishes were beautiful, served with rice, salads and home-made chutneys. The peanut chutney served with the chicken curry was so good we begged for some to take home. The fish dish was light and fresh and one of their most popular, but I preferred the punch of the vindaye we had on our tasting plate. The chicken curry was excellent and unusual and it took a few guesses before we identified the fenugreek she had used.

Also on the small menu is a chop suey, with stir fried pork, a bol renverse, a sort of Mauritian fried rice, and a selection of grilled meat, seafood and vegetables.

At this point, we have the measure of things. We’ve met everyone, checked the various spice pastes and chutneys, sampled more cocktails and found out everyone’s life history – these things happen at Ti Moris apparently. Therefore we were unsurprised when dessert arrives and it’s a flambee’d pineapple with a delicious rum-flavoured caramel. We are talking the tropics after all.

Walking in off the street, the bright and open venue appears unassuming. An air-conditioned interior leads to an outdoor courtyard painted white with bright, pop art, adding colour and a little whimsy to the space. A large dodo in bright hues dominates the wall.

The kitchen overlooks the courtyard and here the diminutive chef, Ayushi, sows her creative seeds and leads a local team to create deeply delicious spice pastes and curry blends that are at the heart of Mauritian dishes.

Influenced by the native Indian population, the Chinese, French and Creole communities, the food of Mauritius is warm and welcoming, with just the right hint of spice. This is soul food, and if you’re in the mood for something casual and fun, affordable and friendly; a place you can relax and make a little noise, and enjoy some delicious food, Ti Moris will suit you well. Flair, flavor and fun combine here to elevate Ti Moris above the mere café. Mauritius is looking good to me, have you been? Sarah Douglas.