Happy Chappy! He is there to greet you as you enter, a life-size Chinese smiling Buddha.
The name says it all. When you arrive at a new restaurant an instant impression is made, even before you look at the menu or taste the food. At Happy Chappy that impression is quite simple?.someone actually knows what they are doing!
On an island where the many Chinese restaurants fail to produce anything memorable, from one of the world?s simplest cuisines, it looks promising. From there on it only gets better.
Simple food done well! That is the secret of success everywhere. The owners actually go to restaurants themselves, the number of items in each serve [dim sum] are clearly shown. All dishes can be ordered in small or large portions, things you want to know when ordering for a number of people. In Bali you usually have to ask the dumb waitress, who rarely knows the answer.
The fit out is spacious, dark wood and red drapes and lamps, classic Chinese. Most importantly it feels comfortable. There are banquettes along the rear wall, normal tables and chairs elsewhere, and with large spaces in between. The menu is user friendly, just so big, as is normal with this cuisine, that it will take many visits to explore fully.
Dim Sum is the traditional Chinese starting point, particularly when the major cuisine is Cantonese as it is here [apart from an excellent Peking Duck]. The choice is wide and varied. Perfect Har Gow, plump prawns wrapped in that translucent wheat starch ribbed dumpling. Pour some chilli paste into the small provided dishes, dip your chopsticks into the paste then stab a dumpling with the chilli topped chopsticks, wonderful!
Other steamed dumplings include Shu Mai [half moon shape filled with chicken & mushroom, a mix of pork and prawn or prawn & chicken], Steamed Buns stuffed with BBQ Pork, the only way to eat Bak Pao, no halal here! Other fillings include Peking Duck or Red Bean. Then there are those American Chinese dumplings called Potstickers [pictured], not unlike the Japanese Gyoza, choose the pork, prawn or chicken filling, the dipping sauce is one of black vinegar and ginger ?..bite off the end of the potsticker and just pour it in!
Fried dim sum includes mini and full sized Spring Rolls, fillings include Peking Duck, Roast Chicken, Prawn or Vegetables. The dipping sauce is a mild chilli. A sensible way to start for your first visit is to order one of the Dim Sum Platters. They include 5 different dim sum dumplings, and you can choose between steamed or fried.
Other appetizers include many old fashioned and traditional ones, rarely seen in ?modern? restaurants [most trying to be too clever!]. Sesame Prawn Toast fingers with a soy-ginger dipping sauce, Prawn Butterfly Cutlets, flattened and crumbed, dip them in the lemon mayonnaise. Chicken & Ham Rolls are very Australian Chinese, rarely seen anywhere else. Thin Escalope of chicken is wrapped around sliced ham into a roll, crumbed and deep fried. They are cross-sliced and served with a tangy sweet and sour sauce.
One of the great Chinese entrees is Sang Choy Bow. Originally minced pigeon was used for this Cantonese classic but that has almost universally been replaced with chicken as it is here. At Happy Chappy you can also have it with Peking Duck, BBQ Pork or a Vegetarian mix, but for me chicken is the best choice. Using the cold crisp lettuce as a bowl, you spoon the mince into it and pour some sauce on top. When served with the usual iceberg lettuce, a messy dribble is often the result as you attempt to eat this wonderful combination. In Bali a different lettuce leaf has been found, long thin and firm, that holds the mince and is perfect for eating without causing any disasters.
The mains are old traditional, Cantonese roasts, rice/noodles or specials. Every suburban Chinese restaurant anywhere in the world serves these old common dishes, kids are raised on them; Sweet & Sour Pork, Lemon Chicken, Honey Prawns, Mongolian Lamb and Crispy Skin Chicken. All come from the Happy Chappy kitchen expertly prepared and cooked, simple food, done well!
Cantonese Roasts are unique, whether they be duck [with plum sauce], Chicken [with that crispy skin], Pork Belly and Spare Ribs. All served traditionally, on the bone. Char Siu is one of my all time favourites, strips of lean pork seasoned with honey, 5 spice, fermented bean curd, soy and hoisin. These days in the food courts of Singapore they are usually dry and boring but at Happy Chappy, perfect.
Then there is the ultimate roast. Not Cantonese but from the ancient imperial households of Peking. Toasted in a hung oven, Peking Duck is served in two stages. The first has thin slices of meat and crisp skin wrapped in the accompanying small thin pancakes with sliced cucumber and the wonderful sauce. Then the rest of the body returns to the kitchen to be prepared as you wish, stir-fried with black pepper or in Kung Pao style. Alternatively you can have it minced and eat it with lettuce cups, Sang Choy Bow.
All roast duck and chicken courses can be ordered as half or full bird. The only missing roast is that wonderful Cantonese Suckling Pig, rarely available in Bali although common in Jakarta and Surabaya?maybe it will be added in time.
Noodles are every which way! Lo Mein are wheat flour noodles stir-fried with Chinese style vegetables and your choice of chicken, beef, prawn, fish or pork. Ramen Noodles are served in a broth of soy and chilli with roast pork or chicken with dumplings, beef and mushrooms or prawns and fish.
Fried Rice and how you eat it tells where you are from. The Chinese use it as a final course, alone, to cleanse the palate. Westerners tend to eat it with the meals instead of steamed rice.
Special meals are anything done different, Kung Pao Chicken [more international style without the fire of Szechuan pepper and peppercorns] is on every menu but here the Kung Pao Prawns are great, with large plump and firm king prawns, not little school ones. The Mongolian Lamb uses meat shredded from the shank
Anyone for Fried Ice Cream? Then it is time to retire to the Dragon?s Den bar to reflect on an enjoyable meal.
I am certain that Happy Chappy will become the find of 2015!