For my highlight dinner in Bali, I picked to eat at an Indonesian restaurant recommended by a cousin. The name ‘Merah Putih’ in Indonesian is ‘Red White’ which corresponds to the colours on the national flag. This restaurant is located in Seminyak and close by to the other great dining spots in Bali such as Potato Head Beach Club, Ku De Ta and Metis.
To dine here, guests are recommended to make reservations early on. I was only able to get late dinner reservation for my second date option. Probably this restaurant is relatively new and is on-demand, but this made me have high hopes for the food here.
On arrival in the restaurant, I was greeted at the reception and brought into the main dining room. This main hall is cavernous with lighted colonnades that acts as funnels to collect rainwater. Apparently the design allows the restaurant to fully rely on rain water for its operations, and at night the columns adds visual drama to the interior. A water feature surrounds the main dining area while well-lit trees give an outdoor feel to the place. As far as the interior ambience goes, it was fitting and modern for a tropical country like Indonesia.
There is a set menu along with an a-la-carte options here. Prospective diners interested in the menu could head over their website. The main dinner menu comprises of 2 main sections, one for small plates and another for large plates, ending with some add-on side dishes. With an Indonesian theme, the food here is meant to be shared. Aside from the nice variety in terms of food, there was an extensive wine list and a huge range of beverages including some creative iced teas with soda. After ordering our food, we were served with an amuse bouche of salmon soup. This small appetizer was compliments of the kitchen and it was a delicious start to the meal, tasting a bit like a milder version of a tom yam soup.
The first dish to be served was from the small plate menu – ox tongue named ‘Lidah Makassar’, served with slices of radish on top and over a cashew-based sauce with celery. This was perhaps the most spectacular dish I ordered for the night and I recommend it heartily. The ox tongue was braised to a very soft texture and tastes very fresh with none of the negative flavours usually found in tongues.
Another small plate dish of sambal jamur or mushrooms was served with the ox tongue. A vegetarian dish consisting of roast mushrooms, eggplant, tahu isi (filled tofu), and sugar snaps, this dish has a pretty presentation. While the sambal name might connotate spiciness since sambal is Indonesian for chilli, the dish is not that spicy. The stir-fry mix mushrooms dish has sugar snap peas to add to the colour and it is finished with caramelized desiccated coconut that adds to the flavour, making it a tasty addition.
This was followed by another small plate of shellfish dumplings, coconut, and dabu-dabu, which is called langoustine ‘pangsit’. Essentially a large dumpling for one person, this can be shared between 2 people for a tasting menu. Aside from the bright colours that add vibrancy to this ordinary soup dumpling, there was nothing much to make this a spectacular must-try.
Next to arrive at the table was a side dish and probably the carbs of the meal. I have ordered the Nasi Goreng Bali, a seasonal vegetable fried rice dish with pork, school prawn, and a perfect soft-boiled egg on top. Small prawn crackers were provided along the side of the plates making it a classic Indonesian dish save for the pork. However the use of pork gives the dish a surprising richness and sweetness in flavour that instantly makes this one of my favourite fried rice ever. I am still drooling over this dish today and certainly recommend guests to not miss this creation!
Finally the main course or the only large plate I ordered was placed on the table. The Ikan Bakar or Whole chargrilled reef fish is served with zucchini and razor clams. However the lacklustre presentation did it no favours in first impressions. It was also lacking in zucchini and razor clams which I had expected to be slightly more in the dish. In addition, I have never been a fan of reef fish or the common type usually served in those Jimbaran seafood dinner. The texture of the fish was dry and flaky and that was typical of reef fish. Having had better seafood like Gurame or Grouper fish in other parts of Indonesia, this is one dish to skip.
The final main course was served with another side dish of jagung bakar and it consists of charred baby corn, sugar snaps topped with chilli butter. This side dish saved the main course and I liked it as well for its mix of colours and the crunchy texture of the vegetables. Most of the main courses have a very good presentation and they were served with ample time in between allowing diners to enjoy dishes one by one. With those dishes, they were ample for 2 persons to share and while the small plates are really small in terms of portion, the large plates are really meant for sharing. Though the food made it filling for both of us, I was still tempted by the dessert menu.
Dessert here comprises of a choice of liquid desserts or traditional desserts. The former is actually a range of mini martinis creations paired with small treats while the latter has a variety of sorbets and pastries with tropical fruits like passion fruit, coconut and lime as their main theme. I had picked the coconut-themed dessert which comes with coconut ice cream, calamansi meringue and boni sago. The red coloured sago at the bottom gives a visual treat. Though the sour zest of the calamansi meringue does overpower the coconut ice cream somewhat, making it detract from the coconut being the main star of the dessert.
Aside from the restaurant and main dining hall, there is a comfortable lounge and bar area beside the entrance located slightly above the dining hall. This makes it a nice place to hang out as well for after dinner drinks. While the service during the dinner was fine, it was a bit difficult to get the server’s attention at the end as they seemed to be more preoccupied in clearing the tables and packing up for the day. For this reason, it might be better to go for an earlier dining schedule. In total, the dinner came down to about Rp 850,000 for 2 persons, meaning it was around $60 or $30 per person. For a fine dining experience, it was affordable but it was certainly on the high end in Indonesia. And after all that has been said, the fantastic Nasi Goreng, the unforgettable ox tongue along with other tasty small plates, I totally recommend this Indonesian fine dining establishment!