Saturday, July 16, 2005

Rumah Makan, Batam, Indonesia

WOW. After all this whining about how I much I don't like food in Indonesia, I was completely blown away tonight. This was impressively good. At first glance, it seemed like a seafood place typical of the region: on a pier jetting out into the sea, fluorescent lighting overhead, stray cats at your feet, tanks of fresh fish, and little sinks for hand washing that empty straight into the seawater below.

But every dish that arrived continued to impress. The fried rice and ho fun were very tasty (pork lard in a Muslim country?), as were the standard issue veggies and even the sotong (pseudo-fried calamari) featured a nice salt and pepper combination in the batter. Even the pineapple at the end of the meal was amazingly sweet and ripe to the point of translucency.

One pleasant treat was the gong gong, which looked like little conch shells (and I always thought a conch was a huge shell that one blew into, like in Lord of the Flies). Use a toothpick to reach into the shell and pull all the meat out of the shell in one go. It sounds a bit nasty, but just dip it into a little local fermented sambal belachan chili sauce, and it makes for a pretty impressively good morsel.

The highlight of the meal though was the humbly and straightforwardly named "BBQ Fish." Ingeniously simple, it featured a fish in between two banana leaves, grilled on a fire. The leaves kept the fish moist and providec an outstanding smoky flame broiled taste. There were no marinades nor sauces; just the "fish on a flame" taste. I'm surprised that I haven't seen this way of preparation before. I couldn't stop eating this stuff.

If there were anything to complain about, it would be that the chili crab was a bit too sweet, and the pepper crab was prepared with way too much garlic. At one point, I even found that I was ingesting more garlic than crab. Although this place uses smaller local crabs with a thinner shell and sweeter meat than Singapore's big Sri Lankan crabs, the garlic unfortunately overpowers that great natural taste.

Then again, I guess anything with garlic will still taste good. Someone once mentioned to me that "if you put enough butter and garlic on something, even snails will taste good." What was perhaps more amazing was that we paid only US$9 a head. Wow. Come here if you head to Batam. It's located in Batu Besar, and the phone number is (0778)761180.


bernard said...

well, you are obviously only tasted a fraction of our vast local delicacies, as our country is vast and have wide range of culinary variety you can choose from. Beside although the majority are Moslems, you still can eat the pork meat if you know the right place. Even in Batam, you still can find the place that sell pork meat.

Hippy said...

I never heard of this restaurant before. where is it at at Batu Besar? Rejeki is another restaurant in the same area that is pretty famous for its taste.

I grew up in batam and work in Singapore, I go home every weekend and eat like a king :)
Next time you plan a trip back to batam, you should let me know. I'll give you some info on some good local stuff :)