D’Bali Asian Bistro - A Pan-Asian Sensation
by Erin Peterson
featured in Spokane Cd'A Living Magazine
Before you know it, you’ll be calling her Mama Jeannie, too. Regulars at D’Bali Asian Bistro know her by this affectionate moniker because she embodies what you’d hope for in a mother: caring, attentive, thoughtful and full of laughter. Just after college, she worked in many countries opening up properties for a luxury hotel group in Southeast Asia. While she was there as a part of the corporate benefits team, she fell in love with the amazing flavors she encountered in her travels. From street food to high-end mom and pop style restaurants, she was powerfully inspired with every stamp she earned on her passport.
When she moved to the United States to join her husband, Tony, she learned that access to these unique dishes was limited, so she learned a variety of techniques and blended those flavors into bold, comforting fare for her family. In her new home, she diligently worked three jobs to help support the family, and they saved every penny they could to be able to open a restaurant. She met a new friend named Kelly, and the friendship emboldened her to pursue her dream of owning her own place. Kelly said, “You are more than just a waitress, you deserve more for the gifts you’ve been given.” After some encouragement, she researched what she needed to do, step by challenging step, and planned for two years with guidance from Kelly to grow her tiny seed of a dream into a thriving restaurant. She opened her doors in October 2018, and after just one year of working nearly around the clock, she has earned her place in the hearts of thousands of diners. Her story is the epitome of the American dream.
In the spirit of community, something unique that D’Bali has become famous for is pop-up dinners scheduled on Sundays when the restaurant is typically closed. They invite members of the community who have powerful stories and exceptional food to share in ticketed events during their day off, and it has given opportunities to budding chefs interested in opening their own restaurants, but who haven’t yet realized their dream. They’ve had Filipino Kamayan feasts, luxurious Indian food and Hawaiian favorites. It provides an outlet for them to share their gift, and for Mama Jeannie to experience their cuisine as well. They share current events on their social media platforms and the tickets go quickly, so if you want to join in, be sure to get your spot secured when you can. A recent dinner sold out in less than 24 hours. There is an upcoming event hosted by D’Bali in November that you’ll want to watch for - a “Crazy-Rich Asians” themed fancy dinner, which will be on a Saturday that is hosted by the restaurant.
Mama Jeannie’s joyful presence is infectious, and the food is downright crave-able. Her chef-driven and playful takes on classic dishes like Boat Noodle Soup, which customers rave about, and so do I. It’s more than a meal - it’s an experience. This “Thai cousin” to pho, it is made with 11 different herbs and a rich, unctuous bone broth. Food lovers from all around Spokane swear by it during cold and flu season to comfort them when they’re not feeling well, and often times, she will make it and have it ready for her regulars without even needing to be asked, just like any “mom” would.
Jeannie’s comforting “Won Ton Mee” noodle soup (pictured here), one of their newest offerings on their fall 2019 menu. Mama’s Malaysian-style broth is made in-house from scratch, and filled with luscious fresh egg noodles, char siu pork, and your choice of homemade won tons, either traditional pork & shrimp or tofu & mushroom.
The regional specialties from across Asia all taste home-cooked, and that’s because of the level of care and attention Mama Jeannie puts into each dish. It is different than any other experience you have around Spokane. It truly feels like, in every sense of the word, you’re a member of the family.