Warung Damar has replaced Batan Waru at the front of the Bali Garden Hotel on Kartika Plaza [BW has moved to the Lippo Centre 1km away]. Warung Damar is still serving Indonesian cuisine but now under the hotel's F&B banner, and offering quite a range of traditional dishes [and a few creations] from across the archipelago.
Simple dishes are a fetish of mine, as I firmly believe that at a place that can not get the simple dishes right [in too many places they are left to the junior under-trained members of kitchen staff and ruined, even at some 5 star hotels] I have no interest in the more complicated, exotic, and expensive dishes.
What could be simpler than the humble Pergedel Jagung? A sweet corn patty comprising lightly pounded kernels [with flour and spice paste] deep fried till crisp [not soggy and greasy as I was served recently at a famous 5 star resort at Uluwatu]. Healthy and tasty, what more could you want? At Damar they are quite large flat patties with that peanut curry sauce of sate fame.
Just as simple is Otak-Otak, Indonesia?s answer to the Thai Tod Man Pla, a humble fish cake, minced fish mixed with spices, wrapped in a banana leaf and grilled. Another snack shared with Thailand [the southern Muslim area] and Malaysia is the Martabak, minced beef combined with chopped vegetables and wrapped in a flaky pastry, made in a martabak pan the resultant oblong shape is cut into 6 slices for serving. At Warung Damar it is also served with peanut sauce.
Purely Indonesian is Lemper, shredded chicken and coconut in sticky rice, as is Tempe Goreng Tepung, fermented soy bean cake that has been marinated before frying to a crisp finish, very crunchy! And yes, there are spring rolls [as with every Asian cuisine], the Lumpia Goreng being stuffed with either chicken or mixed vegetables in a thin crisp casing, the dipping sauce slightly unusual sweet and sour but with chilli and lime, maybe more Thai than Indonesian but excellent.
Soups can be the famous Soto Ayam [shredded chicken, egg, cabbage, vermicelli, potato and sambal in a chicken broth] or the popular Buntut [oxtail], Konro [beef rib] or Sari Laut [seafood, lemongrass and coconut milk].
Ayam Pelalah is described on the menu as a salad but it is one of my favourite Balinese dishes, normally just shredded chicken and finely chopped long beans tossed with chilli and lime. At Damar though it is served more as a western style green salad, with the strips of grilled marinated chicken draped over the top, served with papaya toast.
The mains originate from every corner of Indonesia. Rendang from Sumatra [a mild version], the delicate Javanese chicken and potato coconut milk curry, Kare Ayam, from Manado another all time favourite, Ayam Rica Rica, a chicken leg first grilled then simmered in tomato and chilli for those who want a bit of fire in their food. Udang Acar Kuning are giant river prawns, served in a sour yellow curry sauce.
From Bali is Pepes Laut, filleted fish wrapped in bumbugede [a bumbu of ginger, galangal, lemongrass, shallots, garlic and tamarind] then roasted in a banana leaf. Iga Babi Panggang is baby back ribs of pork, marinated in a bbq sauce before grilling. Duck can be that Ubud style, crispy, or the wonderful traditional betutu [also available with chicken]. The two Betutus are excellent for kitchen produced versions. Half a spring chicken or your choice of leg or breast of imported duck, rubbed with and marinated in all the traditional Balinese betutu herbs and spices. Being slow-cooked the flesh retains all the flavours but is oh so tender!
Damar's Nasi Campur is a great dish for the 1st time visitor, small portions of beef rendang, ayam betutu, sate lilit with a hard boiled egg and sambals, and rice of course.
Desserts are sweet but that is what everyone wants, Dadar Gulung [coconut filled crepes cooked in palm sugar], Pisang Hijau [banana wrapped in pandan flour] or Jajan Campur [fried banana with black sticky rice].
The tastes of Indonesia served at budget prices, but via a modern hygienic kitchen, the service smiling and friendly, all at a level way above the local warung.