Donna Sue Robson is a freelance writer and essayist specialising in the arts, Latin dance; & natural & alternative therapies for people and pets. Check out her own energy-healing consultancy and boutique natural products at www.jamienatural.com
Published September 20th 2016
Market-fresh food, Balinese cooking classes and real expresso coffee
Warung Music has International, Balinese and Indonesian dishes, as well as exotic smoothies and juices. Call in on your way to the beach.
Warung life depends on early morning vigour: getting to the fresh-food market first-thing ensures that you get what you want at the best prices. This is particularly the case for fresh fish and seafood as many stalls are sold out by 8am. Putu Kasiani (Kas), from Warung Music which is located in Jalan Binaria, picked me up at 7am for a market expedition. Armed with a little Indonesian, I was quite content to wander and find my own bargains but if you were to join one of Kas's cooking classes, she would accompany you through the 'pasar' (market) and take you to the best stalls and negotiate the best prices. A simple way to work through the language barrier if you are going solo is to offer your own 'fixed price' and see what you get in return: prices are quoted in kilos and you may only require small amounts for a taste-test.
I was delighted to find the morning's catch of squid and sardines; chillies, garlic and lime (for everything!); moist-fresh peanuts for my inevitable sate craving; and ginger root, which I had begun to add to both my evening vanilla tea and daily lemon juice. What you buy depends on how adventurous you want to be: stalls are laden with exotic tropical fruit such as dragon fruit and the infamous durian, as well infinite varieties of bananas, melons and paw-paws which may also be unfamiliar to 'urbanised' travellers.
Talk to Kas about cooking classes or other local food-tour ideas.
On our way into 'Central' (Jalan Binaria), Kas stopped the motorbike: 'Do you want to try Balinese cake? She alighted roadside and bought three super-sweet 'cakes' which were based on a fry-before-your-eyes banana fritter and a generous sprinkle of black rice doused with palm sugar syrup and spices. She devoured one and the other two, 'packed to go' in a triangular-coned banana leaf, were reserved as her daily offering to her Ganesh temple at Warung Music. The roadside food sellers make their living exclusively from cooking traditional Balinese cakes: as indeed, most street-side sellers have a single-line speciality. What a great tour it would be, I mused, to comb Lovina by motorbike and taste-test the array of street-food specialties. Such a Balinese food-tour with Kas, who has local, cultural and food knowledge, would be safe and comprehensive. If this interests you, have a chat to her about the possibilities.
Authentic Balinese dishes are served on a banana leaf.
Fresh produce defines Warung Music's menu. Small, tourist-trade cafes like Warung Music have limited resources and storage space which forces them to buy from the market daily, which is an advantage for health-conscious tourists. Seafood is caught each morning and on your plate by lunch-time. Fruit and vegetables are crisp-fresh and seasonal. All dishes are made to taste with locally grown, high-quality spices. Dining at Warung Music connects you to the complete and locally grown food-chain- you can taste the quality and freshness.
Warung Music's menu is quite extensive. There are three main sections: Indonesian, Balinese and International dishes. I opted for the Balinese spicy chicken which served on a banana leaf, even looked like a Balinese holiday. The menu has creative and superbly balanced vegetarian dishes which are again served on lush, green and textured banana leaves. There are colourful and traditional salads, such as the familiar Gado-Gado or the green-mango salad which is a real fire-cracker and a favourite among locals. Meals at Warung Music range from $2.50-$4.50 with seafood dishes and international-style cuisine demanding the higher prices. Seafood and meat dishes are subject to daily or seasonal availability.
Meals range from $2.50 to $4.50 and highlight fresh, seasonal and local produce.
Knowledge of fresh food and the ability to balance spices and flavours is what characterises Indonesian and Balinese food. A compromised approach creates dishes that are unauthentic and the palate remains unsatisfied. Enrol in one of Kas's cooking classes so that you can learn about which ingredients are quintessential to Balinese cuisine and those you can afford to substitute if supply in your home country is lacking. I offer another observation about Balinese food: as the right amount of sweetness is expertly balanced in time-honoured savoury dishes (and because fresh fruit and juices or smoothies are part of your meal), the craving for dessert or sugar is negated. Flavour- and spice-balance is vital knowledge for the Western world now gripped by the diabetes epidemic. If sugar-addiction and Western dietary choices are of concern to you, then take the opportunity to learn from locals about traditional Balinese cuisine.
The relaxed vibe of Warung Music is typically Balinese and yet internationally inspired!
Many people call into Warung Music for a refreshing juice on their way to the beach or after a boating or ocean-dolphin adventure. A large part of Warung Music's menu is devoted to fresh juices and smoothies as well as a varieties of tea and coffee. Service is fast and juices can be custom-made. My personal favourite is the lemon, orange and mango juice 'combo'. After visiting the mountainous hinterland, Kas returned with trays of fresh strawberries which quickly became the smoothie-special of the day. Make the best of fresh fruit in-season.
The Rasta Shop has real expresso coffee! Enjoy a cuppa in Warung Music's outdoor courtyard that shields you from street traffic or in Rasta's reggae lounge that is cooler and sun-protected.
Next door to Warung Music and still part of Kas's 'café-collect' is the 'Rasta Shop'. There, positioned pride-of-place, is an expresso machine! Real, expresso coffee is rare and prized in Lovina Beach. You can enjoy your latte, long or short macchiato or expresso in the laid-back Rasta indoor lounge (and be shaded from the sun) or slowly sip your caffeine reward in Warung Music's paved outdoor eatery. Either way, Warung Music and the Rasta Shop buffer you from street traffic and the inlet has become a favoured hang-out for expresso-hunters, in-the-know tourists and friendly, out-and-about locals.
You can enjoy your latte, long or short macchiato or expresso in the laid-back Rasta indoor lounge.
Kas can organise local transport for you or arrange other tours of interest. Warung Music often leases motorbikes which is an inexpensive way to gain holiday independence. Next door to Warung Music, and part of the 'Pillar of 3' is Papillion, a clothing boutique run by Ayoni Sri. Another well-connected retailer, Ayoni can also arrange tours for you such as the Ocean-Beach Dolphin Tour and one-day excursions to the mountains. Ayoni speaks fluent English and Dutch if you need any assistance or have specific requirements that are lost in translation.
The 'Pillar of 3' includes: Warung Music, Rasta Shop and Papillion Boutique. This retail and food inlet is a popular hang-out with a relaxed and friendly vibe.