Sunday, January 2, 2011

Jimbaran's Seafood Warungs

The last three nights in Bali we holed ourselves up in a nice resort in Jimbaran within sight of the airport (believe me, it’s not nearly as tacky as that might sound). It rained more than we would have liked but with the place we stayed, Jimbaran Puri Bali, it was tough to complain. In fact, we only left the resort once per day so that we could experience a restaurant at the town’s southern string of beachfront warungs (a basic Indonesian eating establishment) which were a fifteen or twenty minute walk down the beach. The more authentic, local experience was cheap but not necessarily wasn’t necessarily dirt cheap (lobster still cost around $10 per pound) but was comically cheaper than the exact same product at the resort where it was nearly five times the price. The fact that Bintangs were also a fraction of the cost made it an even easier decision. We went each night.
The start of another wet beach walk to the warungs
The Jimbaran seafood warung experience is fairly basic endeavor. You select a restaurant from the beach, sit down at a table at the back (beach side), get escorted to the front to the street where you select your food, have it weighed, and go back and enjoy your (hopefully) ice cold Bintang (hopefully on the beach if the weather is good). A few minutes later, the freshly grilled food arrives at your table with a selection of sauces, a bowl of rice, and a small side plate of a sauteed spinach-like greens. You eat your food, enjoy the view, and they bring a small plate of fruit for dessert. Not a bad little meal.
It's really not that complicated; not sure why I look so perplexed
The southern string of warungs, it was one of three such strings along the beach, consisted of eight to ten adjoining narrow restaurants. Each night we selected a new one and each night was an entirely different experience.

On Tuesday night, the weather was bad. A rain was blowing in from the bay and with the exception of some stray dogs, walked a deserted beach. The restaurants appeared equally quiet as the he wicker blinds were drawn shut and there didn’t appear to be much movement from within. We approached one that had one blind only halfway shut. When we peered under we actually found a fairly crowded and lively restaurant. We took a table and enjoyed a feast of lobster and prawns. Halfway through the meal a mariachi-like band entered from the beach side and sang well known covers based on the ethnicity of the table, including Americans (your’s truly), Korean, and even a rowdy Russian drinking song to a table of well-lubricated young Russians.
The typical spread
The typical entertainment
The second night, the weather was slightly better so there was a bit more outdoor activity. We sat down at a large community table of a “nicer” looking warung. Even though it looked nicer, the food was pretty much the same, though we selected some sort of crab over lobster (in hindsight, should have just stuck with the lobster; thankfully we had a third night). After the meal, we stuck around for a couple beers. Since the weather had improved, we hopped out to a table on the beach. When the weather turned again, it was back into the restaurant. As you can tell, it still wasn’t very crowded. On the walk home, the rain returned in a rather large way and we found ourselves, even with rain coats and the umbrella we had hijacked from the resort, soaking wet.

On the final night, we finally had good weather (i.e., the first time we weren’t toting an umbrella), and Lindsay finally got what she wanted: a table sitting on the sand. The scene at the warungs had decidedly shifted. It was like walking into a carnival. The interior tables at all the restaurants had been shifted to the beach, kiosks of corn on the cob vendors appeared, and kids were playing with novelty lasers. Based on the level of activity, we were a little later to the party than the others. We selected the restaurant that night based on where we could find a perfect table on the edge of the beach where we could sit side by side and watch the people pass.
Slightly more lively beach scene than the first two nights
Without the warungs Jimbaran could have been just another nameless beach town; however, with the restaurants (and the supporting fishing industry that co-exists with the resorts on the beach) it ends up being a great experience. That 1000 Places… book lists the Four Seasons Jimbaran as one of the places to see. They certainly had the “Jimbaran” part correct, but if you find yourself there, do yourself a favor and venture off the property and experience what the town really has to offer.

Quick note; I'd be remiss about writing about the Jimbaran warungs without mentioning that it was, unfortunately, the site of one of the 2005 Bali bombings. I'm not sure exactly which restaurant (or which set of restaurants) was targeted. For more info, here's a quick link to the wikipedia page:

1 comment:

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