In large cities throughout the developing countries of the world, large expatriate communities exist and survive. Most seek reminders of home during their leisure hours. If you discover the expatriate hangouts anywhere there will usually be three common factors; a relaxed environment, good basic food, and overall excellent value for money.
There is such a place in Bali, on The ByPass at Sanur. It is presided over by that master of bonhomie, Olaf, everybody's friend. The food is central European [Austrian, German, and surrounds], and the good value is obvious by the crowds of expats and others who pack it out every night. A raucous place of eating, drinking and the occasional late night!
The Arena Sport Cafe used to be just a sports bar, but now it is much more of a restaurant [much enlarged] and bar. Olaf, as all but the new arrivals to Bali already know, has been here in Bali forever.
The cuisine at Arena can be best described in just one word, MEAT! It is presented in every way possible, as steaks, chops, ribs, casseroled, barbecued or oven roasted.
Are you a big eater? Then start with the wonderful thick Goulash Soup [or Potato & Leek if you prefer non-meat], or Mini Rollmops [fillets of herring stuffed with pickles and onions] or the specialty of the house, Chicken Liver Terrine [a creamy mixture of delight and almost a meal in itself].
Of course not all dishes are meat-based, just most! The Mushrooms 'Portabella' have been sautéed in olive oil and butter with garlic and herbs. The Smoked Salmon is served the traditional way with onion, capers and horseradish cream.
Most dishes are available in a variety of sizes to suit all appetites, or to eat alone or be shared, as you wish. Accompanying salads are not side salads but are served before the main. They are a large bowl of crisp lettuce plus the usual and a small jug of dressing [Italian or French].
Olaf's Austrian heritage comes to the fore with the Wiener Schnitzels, large breaded escallops of either pork or chicken, then deep-fried till crunchily perfect. Spare Ribs are on so many menus in Bali, but too few of them use back ribs because of the cost. At Arena only back ribs are used, perfectly trimmed. Chunks of meat just fall off the bone! Not only that but you can have them done three entirely different ways; oven-roasted, marinated with caraway seeds and mustard [Bavarian style] then grilled, or even off the bone and grilled whilst being basted with BBQ sauce. You have your choice of traditional American BBQ sauce, a smoked version, or an Asian mix of soy and ginger. These must be the best in Bali!
Zweiebelrost Braten mit Bratkartoffel is the Austrian style round steak, sautéed with onion sauce, and served with refried potatoes and a large pile of crispy onion rings. Beef Stroganoff is from across the border, chunks of beef in a creamy sauce of mushrooms, mustard, onion and pickle. It is with Spatzle [Austrian noodle dumplings]. Liver, Bacon & Onion is about as simple as you can get, but always wonderful when prepared correctly and cooked just right!
The Holzfaller is a slab of boneless pork loin, charcoal grilled with paprika and garlic butter. For something totally different, try the Kase Knopfle, another Austrian specialty; noodle dumplings mixed with melted cheese in a butter-browned onion sauce. A touch of Swiss with the Zurcher; sliced pork in a creamy mushroom sauce with rosti.
And then there are the steaks! They come in so many different forms; pan-fried, grilled, marinated or plain. You can have tenderloin or fillet, in many different sizes, or even a Jumbo version of aged fillet. The quality is so consistent!
There are even quite a few seafood dishes to keep the non-carnivores happy. Fresh fillets of Mahi Mahi, poached in white wine and herbs, charcoal grilled fillet of Swordfish, or Chilli Prawns or Baby Squid.
Perhaps you are not that hungry? Then Order the great Cheese and Sausage Plate; cold Swiss wurst [pork sausage] and cheese strips with onion, dill pickle, egg and tomato, served in a tangy mustard vinaigrette with Brezel [salt sticks].
How could you finish a meal like this without Apple Strudel [warm with ice cream and vanilla sauce] or Arena's special chocolate version of Tiramisu [mascarpone cheese, whipped cream and sponge cake soaked in espresso and brandy]
One of the best-stocked bars in Bali supports the action, and a reasonable wine list that is very well-priced, even a few different ones by the glass, and cheap too! Everybody is happy at Arena! It is where they all come to forget their worldly problems and relax, ready to fight another day!
Just make sure you escape before the sun comes up!
Latest Visit: More importance has been given to dining with the pool table being moved to a separate alcove, and only rare showing of sports on TV. A 2nd Bar [a make-belive one] has been added to satisfy those who find it uncomfortable drinking at tables.