Inexplicably for a town that enjoys such a potentially attractive waterfront, Kalabahi makes little of this. Mama’s is really the only restaurant set by the water’s edge. Yes, Hotel Nur Fitrah also has water frontage, but the restaurant was certainly not happening when we passed through.
Mama’s is set over the water towards the eastern reaches of town. We ate there numerous times during our stay and didn’t have a bad meal. The ikan bakar a la Mama is excellent, the battered spicy cumi cumi is great, and her hot and sour fish soup was a great surprise. Most dishes are under 50,000 rupiah.
If you’re looking for a grazing station in town, Rumah Makan Kederi is on the off-water side of the seaside road, and does simple dishes in generous portions. Prices are in the 10,000 to 30,000 rupiah range.
For a slightly fancier meal, DK Kafe has a wide ranging Indonesian menu with reasonable prices. They also have a selection of knick-knicks and souvenirs for sale along with a little bit of tourist paraphernalia on hand. You’ll find them opposite the hospital.
Almost but not quite on the water are a bunch of ikan bakar joints on the harbour a little to the west of the Adi Dharma hotel—just keep walking and you’ll see some tin sheds with ikan/ayam bakar spray-painted on the side. Locals know it as Pantai Reklamasi (though there is no beach) and while it doesn’t look like much, the food is excellent. Choose from chicken or a wide range of seafood, along with satay and other snacks. No beer on sale. They face onto a cleared area and wharf, but there is no real sea view to speak of.
We had a large barbecued snapper with steamed rice and a cold drink for 75,000 rupiah. The fish was large and was enough for two, but as we were alone we ate it all, shamelessly. If you’re wanting smaller (and so cheaper) fish you may need to try a few of the stalls—or just go to Mama’s which is a little cheaper.
DK Kafe: Jalan Dr Soetomo 1, opposite the hospital.
Kederi: Harbour road, just east of Hotel Adi Dharma.
Mama’s: Jalan Buton Pantai, Kalabahi; T: (0822) 1320 2525; Mo-Fr 10:00-22:00, Sa 10:00-23:00, Su 12:00-22:00.
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.