A few weeks before our honeymoon trip to Bali, I was on the phone with my friend Punky, who was sharing some travel tips to this Bali newbie. “DO NOT GO TO JIMBARAN BAY!!!” she yelled from the other end of the line. Or at least I think she yelled. It’s hard to tell, really, because she always seems to be yelling.
“Anywhere BUT Jimbaran Bay!” she burst out. “We had seafood dinner there and we got ripped off! The food was overpriced and it wasn’t even that great!”
Then, I heard her sister’s voice: “Tell her NOT to go to Jimbaran Bay!”
“See?” Punky said, “Even she agrees with me!”
She’s not the only one who’s been hoodwinked in Jimbaran Bay. Mike’s cousin Ana shared with us that she and her husband got cheated once for a seafood meal in Jimbaran as well.
Despite these cautionary tales, however, I still heard some nice things about Jimbaran Bay. Having seafood dinner by the beach at sunset also sounded like a really romantic and relaxing activity, so with an open mind, I decided that I’d give it a shot hoping that we won’t have a fishy experience with the seafood places here. Come on, Jimbaran Bay! Do not fail me!
Our driver / tour guide Made did warn us: it’s a little bit expensive. But I guess it’s one of those things that you have to try at least once if you’re a Bali virgin. There are many seafood restaurants to choose from, all offering a great view of the beach. They all probably serve the same food. Made brought us to one called Ganesha Café because he said that he recently drove his clients to this restaurant and they loved it.
The entrance to the main restaurant area resembled a wet market. Waiters and waitresses ran around while carrying orders, the place had a slight foul smell (well, what do you expect from a live seafood eater?), the air was smoky due to the seafood being grilled, and there were huge tanks with live sea creatures getting ready for their death sentence.
Once you get past the grungy entrance though, the atmosphere is a lot more inviting.
We arrived late at Jimbaran Bay because we were stuck in traffic so we missed out on the supposedly spectacular sunset. Bummer. But even though it was already dark when we arrived, it was still nice. From where we were, the beach looked clean and it was really a good spot to just unwind and have some drinks or enjoy a meal.
Is it romantic? Yes and not so much. I say “yes” because a candle-lit dinner while admiring the sunset (or in our case, the night sky), feeling the breeze, and watching the beach waters softly touch the shore is a sweet way to spend time with someone you love. If you’re lucky and the weather is perfect, you could even be dining under the stars. But I say “not so much” because with the thousands of tourists around, it’s not exactly what I’d call an intimate moment.
Some restaurants hold free shows for customers and other restaurant diners. Balinese dancers in costumes perform on an elevated platform outside the restaurant, and this, in turn, attracts more people to these restaurants.
To order, we needed to go out from the dining area to select the food that we wanted to have cooked. Now we really felt like we were in a wet market! We ordered a kilo of tiger prawns (which was about 10 – 12 pieces). We were also asked if we wanted it grilled or fried, and we chose to have them grilled.
And now, we wait…
Had we gotten there earlier, I would have chosen a table in front, closer to the beach itself. But by the time we got there, most of the front-row tables were already taken. I approached one of the Ganesha staff (a lady) and dropped the h-word and she excitedly said, “Oh! Honeymoon! Honeymoon couple should have good table!” so she led us to an empty table closest to the beach.
While we waited, we were given some salted garlic nuts to munch on. My mother said that the easiest way to get full is by eating nuts, so we loaded up on these! The truth is, the food was a little pricey so by being full early on, we wouldn’t have to order more food!
Finally, our food arrived! Our tiger prawns came with a basket of hot white rice, spicy water spinach, and 3 kinds of sauces – sambal tomat (spicy tomato sauce), sambal matah (spicy shallots and lemongrass Balinese sauce), and garlic butter sauce.
If you’re a fan of spicy food, you’re going to like this spicy water spinach dish. And when I say spicy, I mean, wipe-sweat-from-your-forehead kind of spicy. I love eating these even when I’m in the Philippines although I’ve never had it with chopped chilies. Usually, at home, we eat this with oyster sauce, shrimp paste, or sinigang.
As for the tiger prawns… Hmm… they got a bit smaller! It’s not surprising to me, though, because when I cook shrimps, they shrink in size (you swindling shrimps!!!). The presentation of the prawns is a bit sloppy, and in photos, they actually look quite scary… like nasty orange aliens. But let’s not judge the prawns with our eyes and judge them instead with our mouths. The verdict? Those prawns are fresh and fine! And when paired with the dips, especially the garlic butter sauce, it’s even more delicious!
I read a lot of negative reviews about Ganesha Cafe, some as harsh as “the food sucks!!!” We only ordered one dish so I can’t really say much about the rest of the menu but Mike and I were quite happy with our order. The food was really tasty and we left the restaurant happy and full (maybe the nuts helped too). What we weren’t too happy with, though, was the price:
*Wiping sweat from my forehead* (and no, it’s not from the chili sauce!).
I came to Jimbaran Bay with an open mind… and I ended up opening my wallet really wide! Whether we were ripped off like Punky and Ana, I wouldn’t know, but I believe in karma!!! It’s so much more expensive than Indonesian standards and though the food was great, that doesn’t justify the cost. But like I said before, this is something a Bali first timer should try at least once. There! We tried it once, and I think once is enough… at least for this restaurant. I would definitely go back to Jimbaran Bay just because the vibe is great, but I would most likely choose a cheaper option for food next time.
One more thing: we completely forgot that our meals were supposed to come with soup and fruits! The staff forgot (or “forgot”?) to serve those to us. It doesn’t matter though because I came across another review that the soup isn’t exactly something to write home about.
And finally, my other regret is that I didn’t get to try the grilled corn being sold by the beach! I forgot to take a photo but apparently, this corn is the star of Jimbaran Bay! I was thinking of getting one before having dinner but I didn’t want to spoil my appetite, and by the time we finished dinner, I didn’t have any more room for even one grain of corn. I also didn’t want to push it and (sorry for the word) puke out my 405,000-Rupiah prawns. The corn will have to wait until my next visit.
We ended the night by walking along the beach and watching the dancers from the nearby restaurant perform.
Ganesha Cafe, Jimbaran Bay
Address: Kedonganan Beach, Kuta, Bali
Phone: (+62-361) 70 3532, 8585222
Fax: (+62-361) 70 3532
E-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening Hours: 10:00 AM – 12:00 AM
How to Get There: Take a taxi or rent a private car with driver / guide. I recommend Galih Bali Tour.
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