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.
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.