May 17 2012
When I started this series on cheap Indonesian food in Seminyak, the place at the top of my must-try list, because I still shamefully hadn’t after four years in Bali, was Made’s Warung. Everyone knows Made’s Warung; it’s been around since 1969 and these days has two outlets; I tried the one in Seminyak, which is an almost lavish, tourist-oriented affair.
Well, I’ve tried Made’s Warung now and sadly I’m only keeping it here in this series as a warning. If you want to feel like you’re eating in a tourist trap — literally, surrounded by shops and a gazillion tables of other tourists in what feels like an open-air food hall — and pay inflated prices for an experience that really isn’t much different from restaurants serving similar food for a fraction of the price, then by all means, enjoy a meal here.
I ordered a plate of the nasi campur special, which came in at 65,000 rupiah. As is often the case in Bali, all items are plus 10% tax, with no service charge; this isn’t mentioned on the menu as far as I could see, though a warning on every single page that you need to spend 100,000 rupiah to pay by credit card is.
To be fair, the nasi campur was a huge serving, with a great range of dishes to try, including beef rendang, curried prawns, some generous chunks of fish, a few veggie dishes. It was passable food; not bad, not amazing, a little spicy plus a kick-the-taste-buds sambal on the side. A lemon squash (20,000 rupiah) turned out to be a sweet pre-made slushy; Bintang beer only came as draft, for a pricey 27,000 rupiah. I had to signal to a host rather than a waiter twice to get service, though there were no shortage of waiters around.
The menu includes Indonesian favourites, as well as an array of Thai, Japanese and international selections; I can’t say whether the other types of cuisine are done exceptionally well or not but as far as the Indonesian food goes, for the price it wasn’t amazing and I was kind of sad that they hadn’t simply stayed focused on doing that really well. I kept thinking of Lara Djonggang in Jakarta and thought that if a warung should transform over time into something classy, then that’s what it should seek to become — something really special. Or for something a little closer to home, Bumbu Bali down in Tanjung Benoa gets it right, and is worth the trip.
The atmosphere at Made’s was so bland — vast courtyard, next to no light, a single vocalist belting out “Wind Beneath My Wings” under red velvet draped curtains — I felt like crying. And it all seemed to be about the money, from the open shops surrounding the courtyard to the massive sign in the carpark telling you that if you don’t have a receipt from eating at the restaurant, cough up 50,000 rupiah on exit, thank you very much. No such warning on the way in!
Made’s Warung seems to be the sort of place you might go if you’re on holiday with a dozen relatives and want to try to keep everyone happy. If that’s your only criteria, I’d suggest dining instead around on Laksmana, somewhere like Cafe Bali, where the menu is wide-ranging international, affordable, and in a lovely wooden house with whimsical decor. Sure, there will be just as many tourists there, but if you’re staying in Seminyak, that can’t really be too much of an issue (head somewhere like Sidemen if you want to be somewhere quieter).
Now, one joint that does serve up a bargain between Legian and Laksmana is the signless “Japanese warung” on Drupadi, about 50 metres down from Legian on the left. A waiter said they were called “Kazuya” — I think — but there’s no sign for now so it doesn’t really matter what it’s called, does it? What matters is they serve up great food in an Indonesian-style warung setup. Strictly speaking, it’s sort of healthy Japanese-style food, not Indonesian, but I still thought it worth including here.
This place, perhaps, is what Made’s Warung was once like: completely unassuming but turning out consistently yummy food. I’ve eaten here a lot — and I’ve brought my daughter’s lunchbox in at 11:00 to be filled before I drop it to school — and it’s always good. It’s always the same, but always good. My favourite mix is red rice, stewed pork (so sweet, so tender…), crisp broccoli and lentils. With a can of Coke on the side, it comes in at 32,000 rupiah.
They do a lovely vegan soy lasagna, a few different croquettes, lots of legumes as well as meat dishes. Recommended!
Raya Legian, Seminyak
T: (0361) 732 130
Open Mon-Sat, 11:00-18:00
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