Thursday 6 June 2013

Bali Bagus

85 Franklin St, Melbourne, VIC 3000

Bali Bagus on Urbanspoon
This is cheaper Balinese food compared to the famous Warung Agus and Wantilan Bali. However, it's not just Balinese food despite the name - there's a fare whack of other Indonesian offerings on the menu. So, to begin with, this is a cafe - not a restaurant, and a bit of a student hangout. It's really good value for money and there's a good variety of dishes, so there's likely to be something for everyone. You basically order your food at the counter, and they bring it out to you. Grab your utensils and water and then wait for the food to come to you. It's also listed as a Halal restaurant though it does serve Bintang Beer.

The Place
This is a cafe with some nods of Balinese art work but it really is still just an eating hall with not a lot of atmosphere unless at lunch time, when there are lots of students around creating the buzz. It is relatively clean but there's nothing to write ome about. What I do like about it is that they don't try to squish the diners together and there's plenty of space here, even for big prams. Parking really depends on the day of the week but it can be a bit of a challenge on Franklin Street with shoppers and visitors to Queen Vic Market.

Things to do Nearby: Queen Vic Market is pretty close by (5 minute walk) and Melbourne Central is 7 minutes in the other direction.

The Food
There's a range of dishes here that's very appealing for those who like Indonesian spices. It's not a place that serves really hot chilli dishes but rely on a balance of spices and sauces. Like many Indonesian places, they do like their food to be a bit on the sweet side. So, even the spiced dishes have a level of sweetness to it.

The highlights for me have included the Iga Konro Bakar (Grilled Beef Ribs with Peanut Sauce, pictured above) is just beautiful (even though it comes with absolutely no veges). If you are into ribs, you need to try this but it's strictly and unapologetically carnivorous. The really basic but aromatic beef soup is also really tasty if you like that style of plain soups. Some people might like the satay sauce to be a bit crunchier but in this case, the smooth sauce works very well.

Fried Bakso as a side - 'surimi' meat balls - not pretty - and not that great
They also do good Stewed Sweet Beef Rendang, not as savoury and spicy like what I am used to but is certainly yummy to have as well with rice. I have also had the Mie Goreng Bali here which is pretty nice and reminds me of the ones served on the beaches of Legian in Bali (only twice the size).
Sambal Goreng Udang (Stirfried Prawns with Chilli Sauce)
Ayam Goreng Bumbu Bali (Fried Chicken with Balinese Sauce - a bit sweet for me)
So, in short, they do serve a range of Javanese and Balinese dishes including various 'Penyet' dishes. Penyet basically refers to 'flattened' and grilled proteins, very popular in parts of Indonesia.

The Service
Friendly counter service, supported by a quick efficient kitchen, that just gets the orders right. They keep the place clean and serve the food but don't really engage with diners. So, don't expect too much conversation. They tend to leave you to it.

What a great place for a quick value meal with a difference. Many of the dishes are under $10. There's really not a lot to complain about. Don't expect the restaurant quality food of the upmarket Balinese restaurants but expect hawker style Indonesian food and you will be fine. Finally and seriously - people complain about the lack of engaged service, sides, presentation and perfection. I don't know, for $10, I am happy that they are polite and smile at you when you order, I don't expect much more than that - maybe I have low standards.

Cultural Moment
Halal food is not easy to find in Melbourne but is actually more common that you think. The easiest way of course is to check out one of the two websites that list the places that do sell Halal food. The best thing though is also to verify with the outlets directly.

The two sites are;
Halal Melbourne (not an easy to navigate interface)
Halal Square (that covers all cities of Austalia)

Halal Square also includes bakeries, butchers, catering and a whole range of cuisines. I hope that that's a good resource for some of you out there.

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