Where’s a good place for cheap Indonesian food in Seminyak?

What we say: 3.5 stars

If you’re shopping in Seminyak and need to stop off for a quick lunch or dinner and you’re in the mood for some cheap Indonesian food, you have a few options to choose from.

Look, one of those pissy little Coke cans.

Look, quick, one of those annoying little Coke cans.

One of the most obvious and popular Indonesian joints along Raya Seminyak (which is a continuation of Jalan Legian, and then eventually becomes Raya Basangkasa just a little further north) is red-signed Warung Ocha on the corner of Jalan Plawa. Warung Ocha does a huge range of a la carte Western food — pastas, salads, sambos, seafood, burgers and so on — as well as point-and-pick and a la carte Indonesian dishes.

The red and brown special.

The red and brown special.

We’re just focusing on point-and-pick in this series, which is possibly Ocha’s weakest point, but mainly when it comes to price, as local food is so much cheaper off the strip — the Western food is reasonably priced.

I’ve eaten here several times but most recently stopped in and had a plate of red rice (you can choose white if you like) with mixed vegetables (carrots, pumpkin and mushroom), tempeh manis (tempeh in soy sauce) and a fried egg with sambal. The sauces were good, the egg and sambal on the dry side and I got a nice little rock of gravel/grit thrown in with the rice for free. Look I know this happens with rice, but you just kind of hope it doesn’t in a restaurant when you have to spit a full mouthful of food into a napkin because you’ve shattered the grit, yeah?

And look I know I shouldn’t drink Coke, ever, but when I have a quick meal — and this is really the Indonesian version of fast food — I really do feel like one. So I really get possibly disproportionately irritated when I order one and it comes in one of those annoying little cans. It’s not enough to go with a meal, but two are too many… Whatever, you’ve been warned.

There is however a large range of drinks here, including wine by the glass (80,000 rupiah though! plus plus! at a “warung”! though to be fair, it’s Chilean, not Hatten), beer (25,000 rupiah for a small Bintang — all prices are plus 10% tax, plus 5% service), fresh juices (around 21,000 rupiah), good coffees — just 15,000 rupiah for a cappucino — and interesting teas, such as rosella, a fairly standard one in Indonesia and definitely one you should try if you haven’t already (13,000 rupiah).

Point and pick desserts.

Point and pick desserts.

Even if you go for the Indonesian quickie main, you should dally a little and be tempted by the range of desserts on display, which average 15,000 rupiah a slice and always look yummo.

The atmosphere is bustling and it’s always busy, so the food should be fresh; the staff were quick to move me under cover when it started sprinkling.

My total bill: 46,000 rupiah.

Taman Bambu (Bamboo Garden)

Not quite a bamboo garden but not bad.

Not quite a bamboo garden but not bad.

About 100 metres down Jalan Plawa, Taman Bambu offers a similar array of point-and-pick dishes — and that’s about it. I know it will sound corny, but the food here seems to be made with a bit more love and care. I had the crumbled fried tempeh, a squid sort-of curry and pickle salad, with a fiery spoonful of extra sambal on the side. The tempeh was lovely and crisp, the squid was tender and the pickles had chillies in them which along with the sambal brought real, cleansing tears to my eyes.

They sadly only have white rice here, but the Coke came in a beautiful glistening bottle (look we all have our boxes to tick, alright?) The ice on the side was chipped from a big chunk — if you worry about the risks of coming down with a bug, this is probably best avoided but I’ve been drinking it for years without any problems.

A small selection of dishes available.

A small selection of dishes available.

Prices here are a lot cheaper — it can be amazing how they do fall once you are off the tourist strip — and my total bill here was just 20,000 rupiah for the lot. For a hole-in-the-wall warung, it’s a rather pretty little spot, too, looking on to a bit of greenery out the back — though not quite the bamboo garden the name may have you hoping for.

I should eat more veggies, I know.

I should eat more veggies, I know.

The staff are very friendly and overall it’s just a bit more of a pleasant, personal experience than Warung Ocha, the latter of which feels like a bit of a factory — Taman Bambu is definitely worth the extra 100 metre diversion. There’s also a very good babi guling place next door if you haven’t tried that yet — we’ve eaten there, but we’re yet to report it as part of our babi guling series.

Warung Bamboo Jalan Plawa No. 10, Seminyak T: (0361) 888 1567 Open daily 09:00-22:00 or 23:00ish
Warung Ocha Jalan Raya Seminyak No. 52 T: (0361) 736 222 Open daily 07:00-22:30

A place long at the top of my must-try list 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.

All that glitters ...

All that glitters ...

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.

Nasi campur special.

Nasi campur special.

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!

Table after table...

Table after table...

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).

Let's call it No Name's?

Let's call it No Name's? Doesn't look like much...

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.

But this is where the magic happens...

... but this is where the magic happens.

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.

See?

See?

They do a lovely vegan soy lasagna, a few different croquettes, lots of legumes as well as meat dishes. Recommended!

Made's Warung Raya Legian, Seminyak T: (0361) 732 130
Japanese Warung Drupadi 1 Open Mon-Sat, 11:00-18:00

Turning our attention to the Laksmana/Petitenget loop, despite the ever-growing numbers of fancy boutiques and pricey restaurants, you'll still find some bargain eats.

One of your better kept warungs.

One of your better kept warungs.

A few years ago I interviewed chefs here in Bali about where they like to eat themselves on the island. The brains behind Sarong and now Mamasan told me about Kolega, a Javanese-style warung just opposite the relatively new hostel on Petitenget — if you're on a budget and staying in the Petitenget area, there's a good chance you'll be staying at the hostel, in which case you should definitely try Kolega.

No surprises with labelled choices.

No surprises with labelled choices.

Kolega is one of the more foreigner-friendly warungs in the area, but still very popular with locals as well. It's clean and well organised, and with your point and pick choices for the most part well-labelled in English, so you won't have any of the surprises that come with some other joints — whether that's a good or a bad thing though is up for debate.

A plate of mixed yum.

A plate of mixed yum.

I tucked into a great early lunch here last week of red rice, long eggplants, fried tempeh, a potato croquette and egg, with sambal on the side. Dishes are quite sweet but still on the fiery side, especially with the sambal smeared on. I had an es kelapa mudah as well — coconut water with the flesh scooped in, slightly sweetened and with a wedge of lime on the side. The meal came in at 16,000 rupiah — a little pricier than your more local warung but still pretty great value for what you're getting — plus 7,000 for the coconut.

Choose wisely.

At Aneka, so many mystery dishes, so little time.

One of those cheaper style places again is Warung Aneka Rasa, located just a few doors away from Down to Earth (on the same side) back on Laksmana. With possibly some unhealthier additives in the food than you'll find at Down to Earth, and white rice on offer, the ever-busy Aneka Rasa serves up your usual array of mostly Javanese dishes. As usual, I tucked into my favourite dishes — fried tempeh and spicy eggplant, plus I tried a good potato dish as well. The sweet and the fire factors here are both quite high.

Pass the tissues.

Pass the tissues.

The grand total for the meal was just 7,000 rupiah. Bargain! (Throw in an extra plate of plain rice, milk, and a bottle of coke — grand sum of 20,000 rupiah.) For those a bit nervous of buying meals from roving kaki lima, you can also buy bakso and soto ayam from large silver vats at the back of the restaurant.

Kolega Jalan Petitenget 98A, Seminyak/Kerobokan T: (0361) 473 2480
Warung Aneka Rasa Jalan Laksmana/Kayu Aya 21, Seminyak

About the author
Samantha Brown is a reformed news reporter. She now edits most of the stuff you read on Travelfish.org, except for when you find a typo, and then that's something she wasn't allowed to look at.

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