Foodliness

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After a week away visiting family in Albany, I felt it was time to create a food blog. WordPress doesn’t seem comfortable creating multiple blogs within the same frame so this section may end up on a separate site.

20150612 to 20150619 Seminyak Kitchen – Courtyard by Marriott – Seminyak, Bali

My review for this restaurant will probably seem a little biased as it is located at the hotel we stayed at during our visit – aside from lunch and several dinners, we breakfasted here each morning. Breakfast was included as part of the holiday package and we were given vouchers for a two course lunch, three course dinner and numerous cocktails.

It must be said, I can find absolutely no fault with the restaurant – the staff were extremely helpful and courteous, always attentive and quick to respond. It is a shame that so many of the guests were so rude to them.

Our first meal here was for dinner on the first night of our stay – between a 4am start for the flight over and getting lost due to vague tourist maps, we had no desire to explore any other restaurants. The evening menu is a bit limited – around half a dozen selections for entrées, mains and deserts but each is well prepared and the serving size is decent. The menus are rather Westernised so local foods made for only a handful of options.

Breakfast is a self-serve affair – a variety of foods are laid out on the counters and tables all around the restaurant, the Western side typically offering a full English breakfast whilst the Balinese side offered something different each day. A variety of cereals, pikelets, waffles and other baked goodies were also available, along with a selection of freshly squeezed juices. Tea and coffee options were plentiful and staff were happy to try and prepare any combination. Options were available to cater to every taste. Items were replaced frequently and nothing was permitted to go stale or to dry out. The kitchen also provided a noodle station and egg station so you could have each prepared to your liking. Throughout the morning, kitchen staff will come out to offer small bite-size snacks or fruit smoothies for diners to sample.

Essentially, breakfast was a pleasure to wake up to and made for an excellent start to the day.

The lunch menu is quite comprehensive, with a separate children’s menu and options for both snacks and more substantial meals. Most of the evening menu is available as well. You have the choice of eating in the main restaurant, in the poolside bar, room service or at the poolside itself – although staff seemed a little surprised by this request. Burgers or chips they could understand, but a heavier meal like a steak took them aback. If you do order poolside, be prepared for a wait – we had to send two lots of staff to check up after 30 minutes had passed before wandering down ourselves to see what was happening.

Three nights a week, they have a themed evening – Italian on Thursday, seafood on Saturday and a poolside barbeque on Sunday. On our final evening, we decided to dine in again and whilst we were waiting for our meal, the executive chef came out to talk with the customers. Its very nice to have that personal touch where the managers interact with the clientèle as well as the regular staff.

Between the kitchen and the hotel services, our stay at Marriott Courtyard was an absolute delight.

20150617 Bestest Cafe – Seminyak, Bali

There’s a note of challenge of the name of this café, an air of defiance.

Whilst it may not be the bestest that we have encountered, it does have a certain charm in the clash of different cultures it brings forth. Ostensibly based around Greek and Indonesian food, a quick peek at the menu and specials board suggests that the majority of offerings are a mish-mash of different backgrounds, frequently several contradicting items on the same plate. There is a certain appeal in this as it reminds me of my early teen years of making a meal or a midnight snack out of whatever came to hand. There’s an element of experimentation in progress that has as much chance to impress as it has to blow up in your face.

The staff give the impression of being second tier – those who weren’t good enough to get employed at other restaurants so they got together to start their own, but it works well with the set up. They don’t take the food too seriously and neither should you. The meals and drinks are cheap and a little bit of fun. Better to stick with more localised foods though as Westernised meals are more expensive but tend to be hit and miss – the lamb curry was simple but pleasant, but the fish and chips gave the impression of being battered and then stir-fried, a touch too oily for our liking but this is a fault that occurs too often even with people who claim to be experts and charge accordingly.

If you are inclined to think the judges on Masterchef to be pretentious knob-ends and Heston Blumenthal to be pedestrian, you will probably enjoy this café. If you turn your nose up at a battered sausage on a bed of pickled vegetables but think having a slice of orange in your salad is posh, you probably won’t.

20150616 The Champlung – Seminyak, Bali

After a walk along the beach one evening, we found ourselves attracted to the atmosphere of this quirky little cafe restaurant.  The idea of sitting on the beach on beanbags listening to a cover band won’t appeal to everyone but its well worth a try.  The band are happy to take requests but sometimes the songs aren’t suitable for their style and can be a little painful to listen to.  We ordered both the Champlung and Seminyak pizzas and were impressed how large they were – one is enough to share, two is a challenge to finish.  The amount of cheese used is very generous and tends to make the pizza slices very drippy – be prepared to catch a lot of falling toppings.

It is advisable to sit closer to the roadside, away from the water’s edge – two evenings later we found ourselves amused by watching the tide wash away a number of the beanbags and tables, wondering how long before the band floated out to sea.

20150615 Moonlite Kitchen and Bar – Seminyak, Bali

Located atop the Anantara Hotel, this restaurant offers spectacular views of Seminyak Beach and some wonderful sunset photography opportunities.  The staff are extremely helpful and conscientious, although they can sometimes forget your order as nothing appears to be written down.  In addition to a shared entree of Martabak, we ordered the Crispy Roasted Pork and the Pork Belly Roulade and found both be quite enjoyable.  Spicy rice crackers were also served whilst our meals were prepared.

You may want to choose your seating carefully as a band plays during the evening and the music is relayed through the PA system, sometimes drowning out conversation.

If you have a birthday during your visit, as I had, it is worth mentioning this to the staff as they will arrange a little surprise after the main meal.  The band struck up a happy tune and the staff all started clapping and singing as a slice of cheesecake with candle was brought out, all the serving staff coming over to shake my hand.  As a courtesy, we were also offered vouchers for free cocktails as we left.

Keep in mind that this is a premium restaurant with a special locale – I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw the bill.

20150614 Warung Mimpi – Seminyak, Bali

Local food and varied menu, but meal served cold
I have mixed feelings about this restaurant – the menu was varied and ordering a mixed plate of different items was encouraged.  However when the food was served, it was not very warm and made the food unappealing – my wife was unwilling to finish her meal for fear of food poisoning.  The restaurant itself was not very clean either.  The price was quite cheap.  I’m willing to try again at an earlier time in the day.

20150614 Ginger Moon – Seminyak, Bali

Good atmosphere and decor, well worth multiple visits
The restaurant has a good atmosphere and pleasant decor, though the acoustics can be a little distracting if people start raising their voices – which they often do.  We only wanted a light lunch as we had had a large breakfast at the hotel.  I chose the Shao Mai (pork and prawn) dumplings and my wife ordered the chicken breast salad.  The dumplings were small and the staff seemed surprised that I didn’t want to order any additional items, but the salad was quite substantial, large enough for us to share.  The staff were pleasant but not chatty, not really explaining anything about the portion sizes or content unless asked.  Well worth several visits to sample more of the menu.

20150613 Passargad Restaurant and Shisha Café

Located just down the road from Courtyard by Marriott, this restaurant is just a short stroll from Seminyak Beach. A menu outside invites you to peruse both options and pricing, but its easy to be put off looking any closer due to the waitstaff approaching you and trying to get you to step inside before you’ve so much as glanced at the page.

Once seated and having requested the music turned down a little (one doesn’t care to have to shout to the person seated beside them), we were able to look at the menu in greater detail. The restaurant offers a variety of local, Western and Middle Eastern dishes but only has pictures of maybe a third – don’t be afraid to ask the staff for more information if you are unsure.

During the evening, the restaurant inside is a little dark relying on subdued light, but is bright enough to read the menu or admire the artwork on the wall. The dark, carved wooden beams echo memories of Arabian fables without seeming stereotypical.

We selected the Kobideh Kebab (minced lamb) with basmati rice and the Sate Kambing (lamb with peanut sauce). We asked the staff about the size of the kebab and were advised that the regular serving was not very big and were encouraged to order the special size. Typically when one thinks of a kebab, the image is usually of shish kebab (small pieces of meat on skewers) or doner kebab (slices of meat served wrapped in pita bread). A traditional kebab is served more like a patty – in this case, around 15cm wide by 4cm deep – the special size includes two of these, rice and a salad. By comparison, the Kambing seemed quite small. The kebab was more than enough for one person though, so the two meals shared was enough to satisfy.

Like many of the restaurants in this area, the prices are quite reasonable – particularly for local dishes – and the food was served promptly. The restaurant was clean and far enough from the road to be away from the noise of the traffic, though I suspect that the music volume was intended both to hide the road noise and the whooping coming from some of the seedier bars and clubs further down the road.

20150613 Cendana Restaurant – Seminyak, Bali

Another restaurant that we encountered whilst on our way to another location – the menu and appearance of the restaurant beckoning us in to try lunch.

Part of a larger hotel located on Jalan Champlung Tanduk (the main road leading to Seminyak Beach), you’ll often walk past this location hidden behind ranks of taxis. The staff are friendly and attentive though the seating arrangements are fairly basic. Simple wooden chairs inside or plastic outdoor furniture by the poolside. The pool, although small, has a lovely water feature that fills you with an urge to climb it but this is frowned upon. The poolside courtyard is filled with native trees and potted fruit trees that were just coming into season. As we were eating, we were waiting for another diner in the smoking section to be brained by the falling starfruit.

Our selection was the sate combination (a selection of chicken, port and beef on bamboo skewers) with steamed rice and the Udang Bakar Madu (grilled prawns with honey and chilli sauce). I received a number of bemused looks from locals and tourists alike as they watched me wrestle the meat off the skewer with my fork. The meat was a little tough but enjoyable and the sauce had just the right amount of pep to make the meal spicy without burning. The prawns were also very well prepared but we kept forgetting that the prawns wouldn’t be shelled – not a big challenge but messy with this kind of sauce. You tend to end of wearing quite a lot of it.

On a second visit, we wanted to try the Balinese coffee but were less impressed – I take my coffee black so I like it strong but I found the taste to be quite weak despite the amount of residue left at the bottom of my cup. My wife simply found it very bitter even with milk and sugar added. She ended up leaving hers unfinished. Perhaps we are just too used to the Western blends and went in with wrong expectations but each café will provide different options.

20150612 Coco Café and Grill

My first encounter with genuine Balinese food – I arrived somewhat dazed and confused after my early morning flight, the shock encounter of going from an Australian Winter to a Balinese Dry Season (read “hot and humid but not actually raining”) and the confrontation of Seminyak traffic and obstacle course-like footpaths. The staff greeted us graciously and directed us to a table near the bar and away from the noise of music, traffic and tourists.

Having very little idea of what to order, I deferred to the judgement of my wife since this was her third visit to Bali but my first. We settled on an Ayam Betutu each – braised chicken wrapped in a banana leaf, with steamed rice and rice crackers. Whilst I am not a vegetarian, I admit to being a reluctant meat eater and am uncomfortable whenever meat is served attached to the bone – something I was going to have to get used to here. I will devour steak by the plateful but serve me a piece of dead animal I can recognise and I feel…wrong. Guilty, perhaps.

The food is served with panache and style – enough effort has gone into the preparation that it seems a shame to demolish it. But demolish and consume we did, and with great delight. The meal itself was satisfying and filling, and yet was over all too soon.

My wife likes to judge a place based on the number of locals who eat there – if the proportion is high, it is well regarded. In this case, some appear to have taken up residence.

The café itself also incorporated a small supermarket – more than a mini-mart but not as big as the Bintang Supermarket. Another concept that I would have to become used to.

Let me also include this on my list of places to revisit.

Recommended.

20150416 Cosi’s Cafe – Albany, Western Australia

Regular haunt for all dietary requirements
My wife and I have both visited this restaurant many times over the years and we’ve always found something on the menu to appeal, and to cater for our food allergies.

One of the few cafes that makes a decent coffee (as opposed to serving a cup of hot, brown water) and they take the time to explain to contents of what you have ordered – if you order a mug with an extra shot, they will certainly warn you that a mug already contains two shots so you don’t turn hyperactive.

Also one of the few places in Albany that seems to prepare pancakes.  Good size serve and staff will add extra toppings on request.

The next time we are in town, we will likely visit again.

20150415 The Ivy on York – Albany, Western Australia

Gluten free hipster cafe

As soon as you walk into the restaurant, you sense that this is a hipster locale – but that’s no bad thing it seems. Having already had a heavy lunch earlier in the day, my wife and I browsed the menu and opted for the Ploughman’s Platter. Not cheap, as has come to be expected of Western Australian dining, but the serving size was certainly enough to defeat both our appetites.

Service was good, we were acknowledged on entry and advised that we would be served as soon as they were finished with their current customer. Atmosphere and decor also quite unique – simultaneously retro and avant garde.

Its also good to find restaurants that cater to gluten intolerance rather than penalising the customer and treating them as an inconvenience.

We will visit again.

20150413 White Star Hotel and Tanglehead Brewery

Excellent fish and great beer (when it is in stock)

Our first evening in Albany after a long drive down from the city, we thought to try the White Star as we had heard of the wonderful local bands they have playing.

Disappointed at first that the Limeburners Stout was not available, I sampled their German Pale Ale to great delight.

Given that fish and chips seems to be a frequent order when we dine out, my wife and I opted for the fish and chips plate and barramundi, miso mash and salad.  The miso mash was extremely good and the barramundi fillet also good, once we found it hiding under the salad.  Fish and chips quite enjoyable also whilst one fillet was great, the other was swimming in oil.

Service was good, the staff attentive and ensuring that everything was up to standard.

Recommended.

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