One of my most surprising discoveries about Bali, many years ago, was its almost total lack of quality Indonesian restaurants. Small Warungs by the thousand, each selling the specialties of their area and restaurants serving an Indonesian version of Chinese food abounded, along with whatever local owners thought western cuisine was supposed to look and taste like. But no high quality good value Indonesian, served in clean premises that a tourist would visit, the food having been prepared in a modern hygienic kitchen! Back in the 90's the old original Ketupat, on Jln. Legian, Kuta, behind the Jonathon furniture gallery was the stand out place for Indonesian cuisine, It was quite a large restaurant, built around a swimming pool, always busy and reservations only due the various peak periods.
In more recent times Warung Enak, in Pengosekan, Ubud, has been presenting a traditional menu from all across the archipelago. Their attention to detail has been well rewarded with many cooking competition wins [usually against the major 5 star hotels] over the past few years, under the guidance of Chef Rai. With the same management as the fine dining Ubud restaurant Lamak, quality is guaranteed.
Now in operation for more than 10 years they have added a selection of new dishes to their already comprehensive menu. At Warug Enak I find that I am always ordering a number of pure vegetarian dishes, they are quite outstanding.
One dish that I can never visit without ordering is their Asinan Jakarta. It is Betawi cuisine, street food from Jakarta. Healthy and tasty it is and according to many Jakarta friends who I have taken to Enak over the years, way better than any on offer in the big city. It is a mixture of yam bean, carrots, cucumber, bean sprouts and tofu, tossed with Carambola vinaigrette and served in a crunchy little bird's nest of fried egg noodles, simple but fantastic! Not far behind it, and also usually ordered, perhaps the most often ruined local dish, Bergedel Jagung, simple corn cakes. I have been served disgusting versions of this dish in so many places, even at a famous Indonesian restaurant in a 5 star resort, At Enak always perfect, firm but still moist. Whilst the dish does not need it I always order some Sambal Ulek to coat the patties with, for me a perfect match.
New amongst the entrees are some more vegetarian options; Beetroot with feta and hazelnut vinaigrette, and Pomelo & Young Coconut with cucumber, fresh mint, lime and coriander leaves, bitter nut crackers on the side.
Very Bali is the Seaweed Salad, tossed in roasted coconut, with garlic, red chilli and shrimp paste, on top are mini skewers of tuna and mackerel. Old favourites still on the menu include Balinese Tum Ayam [minced chicken and spices wrapped in banana leaf and steamed], and the best spring rolls in Bali, Lumpia from Semarang, thin crisp rice paper casing around young bamboo shoots, carrots, bean sprouts and shrimp. The dipping sauce traditional fermented soy bean.
Sates, of course! Select from chicken, lamb, fish or tempe, all done in different regional styles. Nasi Campur is often just a selection of left-overs, but at Enak it is a featured dish. It includes portions of Ayam Betutu, Sate Ikan, Be Sisit, Urab Sayur, Tempe Mendoan, Telor Balado. Peyek Kacang and Bergedel Jagung. There is also a vegetarian version available, just as tasty!
Soups can be the traditional Soto Ayam, from Madura [turmeric scented broth, shredded chicken, hard boiled egg and rice vermicelli], Hasil Laut [light clear seafood soup with lemongrass, red chilli, galangal and turmeric], Soto Betawi [diced beef in coconut milk, spicy] and Labu, a local creation of pumpkin puree and seeds with feta.
Standard mains include Bali's signature dishes; Betutu [Ayam] and Babi Guling [wrongly translated everywhere as 'suckling' pig, it actually means cooked on the spit]. Other chicken options are the ever popular Ayam Madu, grilled half spring chicken marinated with coriander seeds, cumin honey and palm sugar and Ayam Bakar, chicken leg marinated in Balinese spices, served with a spicy sambal of tomato and sweet soy, my sort of dish. The Pork Ribs are also very special here, a 500gm full rack is used, marinated before grilling.
There are many stir fries, all can be done with your choice of Nasi [rice], Mie [egg noodles] or Bihun [rice vermicelli]. To this base can be added Ayam [chicken breast, cabbage, bok choy and carrot], Ikan Teri [anchovies, red chilli, vegetables, egg & chicken skewers], Kambing [imported lamb leg diced combined with wing beans, red chilli], Udang [river prawns, red chilli, cabbage, bok choy and carrot] or Kepiting [Kalimantan crab, garlic, shallots, vegetables and a curry seasoning].
New mains include Mie Ayam Jakarta, minced chicken with egg noodles, spiced shallots, sweet soy, sayur hijau, served with a chilli sambal and pickled cucumber. Also a Fish Curry, Sumatran style, white fish with yellow curry, red chilli, okra and vegetables, with yellow rice.
Bebek Goreng is a half bird, crisp fried after being marinated with coriander seeds, garlic and turmeric, served with the Bali special Sambal Matah. Ayam Mangga is a modern creation that has been a sensational discovery. A coconut crusted chicken breast is stuffed with a puree of mango. It sits on a base of yellow turmeric sauce.
Eating the Indonesian Rijsttafel at Warung Enak has always been an experience once tried, never forgotten, 19 small dishes are presented in groups as 4 courses. However this can only be ordered for a minimum of two persons.
The Warung Enak cooking class is second to none. Here it is you who does the chopping and cooking, so you actually learn how to do it when back at home. The class is so professional that it has even been attended by many visiting chefs, even those from starred Michelin guide restaurants.
Dining at Enak is always a pleasant experience, tasty traditional food at very reasonable prices with friendly young knowledgeable staff. Amazingly this is a warung with wine! Their wine list is just as comprehensive, or more so, than what is normally found at most international restaurants. Their famous Rijsttafel is even offered with wine pairing.
Warung Enak is a place that should be on everyone?s Ubud visit list, very special.