The Greedy Cat spent a wonderful Christmas in Seminyak with family and was keen to experience some of its fine dining establishments. After a few days of asking around for recommendations, the same names kept coming up; Mamasan, Sardine, Da Maria. But on checking them out, they looked like pretty standard, over-stylised, western food, western prices fare, and I was looking for something more authentic.
It was whilst discussing these dining options with my sister at a spa session (The Greedy Cat needs some pampering once in a while, it is Christmas after all) that a local Irish woman sitting nearby piped up and confirmed our suspicions.
“I wouldn’t bother with any of those you’ve just mentioned”
“There’s a new place opened down the road which is way better than any of those”
And that is how we ended up in Merah Putih on a Wednesday lunchtime.
When you go into the dining room, it feels a bit like entering a forest, as the huge ceilings accommodate several palm trees. A tiny bird poo is surreptitiously wiped from our table by our waiter as we are seated, and we notice that the palm trees are host to some small birds, which makes the whole experience feel a bit like al fresco dining, rather than giving the restaurant a cavernous and impersonal feel.
As we are seated we receive the drinks menu, temptingly opened to the cocktails page. My sister gets a cocktail, whilst I go for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. Both are excellent.
The food menu is split into small plates, mains and then more traditional Indonesian dishes. On the advice of the knowledgeable Irish lady, we go for a bunch of small plates and then add a Nasi Goreng, on the assumption that small plates in a fancy restaurant really does mean small.
After ordering, our waiter brings us some complementary chicken soups. When I explain that I don’t eat meat, he returns with the vegetarian option, which is cauliflower and about as good as cauliflower soup gets.
Then some of our small plates start arriving.
Our first dish, which is described as pearl meat, tuna and lemongrass, is all diced up, raw like a tartare and wrapped in a leaf. The ingredients are spectacular, and they are not skimped on, plenty to share.
The lobster dumpling in seafood bisque is definitely what they would call ravioli on Masterchef but, semantics aside, it was amazing. Almost too good to share, but let’s not be s(h)elfish.
The mains took an age to arrive, but when they did, we realised we had probably over-ordered. These were not what most fine dining establishments would serve up as small plates. The tuna sashimi came in two huge sheets and was accompanied by a big dollop of turmeric sorbet. The king prawn filled the plate and came on a bed of green papaya salad. Then we still had the cauliflower, which was the best part of a whole head, and a huge serving of Nasi Goreng, topped with the fried egg’s posh cousin, a poachie.
We struggle through the many plates of food like troopers and then, when the dessert menu comes, we peruse it just to see if anything takes our fancy, but figure we’ll probably just have an espresso.
Unfortunately, it appeared the writer of the dessert menu had done a degree in diner psychology.
For 50k (about €3.5) you get a mini-martini plus matching chocolate truffle, satisfying both your chocolate and your alcohol craving, without over-indulging on either. Not only that, but the inclusion of the mighty Espresso Martini on the list delivers the holy trinity by giving you your coffee kick as well.
Talk about ending on a high!
The price was reasonable considering the quality of the food and the location in central Seminyak. As usual, booze will double your bill, but the cocktails are great and the wine well-selected. Plus, most importantly of all, you walk away feeling 100% satisfied.
Thank you Irish lady, whoever you are. And there lies a lesson to go with local knowledge over Tripadvisor every time!
- Take friends, so you can order lots of sharing plates!
- Leave the bike and take a taxi so you won’t feel bad about finishing on a (not so) mini martini!
- Over order. Portion size is decent and you will want some room for dessert.
- Mind the bird poo. It’s lucky, remember!
- Visit Seminyak without eating here.