MERAH PUTIH RESTAURANT gets a positive & very unique mention from The Round Eye Review
To say I was excited about eating here would be a massive understatement. Just coming to Bali gets my juices flowing but of all the times I’ve made the trek to our northern most suburb (which to be honest I have lost count, 18 or 19 times….maybe) I have never been this excited about eating at a restaurant. Bali, for the better and worse, is an ever changing destination and one of the big changes since the 80’s here in Bali is the food. The quality is crazy good, the presentation is world class and the diversity is incredible. One thing I can always rely on never to change though is the smiles and welcoming nature of some of the planets finest human specimans. The Balinese. To keep coming here over and over again, it is safe to say a secret love affair of mine is the people, their culture/religion and just general attitude to everything. Thankfully it’s a love affair that my wife has taken too. I am a lucky man. I mean I am writing this review from the middle of the rice paddies in lovely Sesah, a million miles away from the belly of the beast, Kuta. I am a lucky man.
Earlier this year the team at Merah Putih visited Perth to put on their Tastes Of Indonesia menu at Darlings Supper Club which due to work I missed out on. This made reading the reviews of the night very hard as words like amazing, sensational, and incredible were thrown around like cakes at a Steve Aoki gig. The post FOMO was coating my taste buds in sadness and much like a Steve Aoki set, this made me sick in the stomach. So as soon as we landed in Bali it was redemption time. 6 hours after landing we were on our way to Merah Putih.
As soon as you walk in the setting is breath taking. The ceiling is higher than a Jimi Hendrix sweat band, with a lit up web like canopy cascading the 15 or 20 metres to the floor. Ceiling to floor windows stretch along one side and Balinese style bamboo the other. Stunning. We were welcomed by the lovely staff (everyone in Bali is lovely) and asked if we would like to sit at the bar for a drink as we were a bit early. The bar is a fantastic introduction to the restaurant. The ambience of the lighting, the selection of drinks, the jazz music was all brilliant, but would the drinks back it up? Yes. Yes they would. I went with a local beer, the Stark Dark Wheat from Lovina Beach Brewery. It seems not only the food’s becoming world class but so are the beers as well. A refreshing change from the endless Bintang that’s on offer. The wife had a bellini which she loved. Neither of these really tested the bartenders skills but I have heard they do make a great drink. Cocktails are around $11aus (110,000 rupiah) which is $5 or $6 cheaper than the Woobar down the road but probably three times the price of a mystery jungle juice concoction at The Bounty. There is a reason for that. For dinner we went with a French Malbec that came in at $75aus (750,000 rupiah) that was a very tasty drop and to us reasonable. The wine list here starts at about $55 and goes up into the hundreds. Wine is never a cheap option in Bali, but some bottles are reasonable and some of your home town favourites can be going for 2 or 3 times the price.
“Your table is ready Sir”….”Fuck yeah” ran through my mind but something more civilized came out my mouth. The table setting was spacious with lit up trees through out, so that mixed with a high roof gives you an outdoor feeling. The menu here is one of traditional Indonesian flavours but fused with a very modern presentation. The menu is split into small plates and large plates. The small plates ($7-$12/70,000 – 120,000 rupiah) come in two options of traditional and modern and are more of a tapas style, or more acurately the local nasi padang style of share plates. The larger dishes (160,000-230,000 rupiah…I’m sure you have the conversion thing down now.) are obviously of a more substantial selection. The base theme of Indonesian is never lost though. I had a quick nosy over the menu but I already knew what I was here for. The much longed for Taste of Indonesia degustation. 10 dishes spread across 5 courses for 600,000 rupiah. Now 600,000 is a hell of a lot for a dinner in Bali but this wasn’t just dinner. This was a journey, an experience, a culinary story told through the vision of a skilled kitchen, and seeing how this was $140 in Australia it is a bargain for the western tourist. LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL!!!!
As the food starts to hit the table the first thing that is noticeable is that presentation of a dish is taken very seriously here. I mean it all looks the same once you start chewing it but stimulating your sense of sight with that first look at a dish just leads to overwhelming joy when it tastes as good as it looks. And here everything tasted better than it looked, and it all looked so fucking amazing. The first 5 dishes came out quite quickly, maybe over 30 minutes . I don’t liked to be too rushed at a degustation but saying that, if it’s ready in the kitchen then bring that goodness out. It also may have been due to the fact that these dishes were getting knocked off quicker than the English cricket team. So the panic of seeing food consumed Jabba the Hut style may of distressed the amazing staff. Thankfully it all slowed down before the mains and allowed us to reflect on what we just encountered. Incredibly stunning dishes that one after the other were completely flawless. From crumbed minced pork covered quail eggs, incredible beef rendang steamed buns, king prawn soup to smoked cod salads, sashimi style Lombok fish & scallops everything just seemed to get better and better. Was I in a dream? The tie to all the amazing flavours you expect of Indonesian cuisine was solid, whilst being prepared and presented in fresh and modern ways. So good was the initial dishes that I was intent on finding a flaw. There must be a flaw somewhere. All I came up with was that the scallop dish could have been served on nicer spoons. That’s it. The spoons!
As we approach the mains I was confident of easily finishing this degustation, I was wrong. I did finish it but not easily. Out came 3 dishes that were plentiful in the meat quantity. Rare beef tenderloin in a chilli soy, crispy pork belly and a duck rendang that just melted in your mouth. These just seemed better and better once again. I was on a total food high. How can this be so on point? Without too many wanky gastronomy tricks the kitchen just manages to wow you with great balance of flavours and meat cooked to perfection. Even the king prawn in the soup earlier was perfect and it had been sitting in hot liquid for 5 minutes at our table. Class! To side the mains was cocunut rice and a deconstructed gado gado of sorts that you put together as you liked on your plate. Beware there is a hot chilli side that even caught my wife “The Chilli Queen” out. Infact most dishes here will please the chilli lover whilst not too crazy to put those others off.
Cue the deserts. First to come out was the palate cleanser. Rambutan and calamansi sorbet. Calamansi is a citrusy/cumquat type of fruit and served its cleansing purpose well. In fact if it ended here I would of given a standing ovation but we had to painfully endure one more dish…haha. The last dish, the cherry on the top, the pièce de résistance you might , I can only describe in my own beautiful way with words. I’m sure it has a much fancier name. A flambéed meringue on a biscuit base that had an ice cream centre. Garnished with honeydew melon, mint and some raspberry sago….i think. More commonly known as nom nom nom. What a great way to finish. I am now contemplating doing a running high five through the kitchen, but I am so full that running up the stairs to the kitchen would be the end of me.
I have had some great degustations around Perth, Australia and the world (<--- what a wanker) and this sits in my top 3 with Gustu in Bolivia and Gordon Ramsey’s Maze that used to be in Melbourne. It’s not as fancy as those two places but if the aim of a degustation is to showcase a cuisine in your own personnal way, and take the diner on a journey and experience, then this hits it right on the head. An absolute must if you hit the shores of wonderful Bali.
5 flawless “fuck yeahs” out of 5.