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Restaurant review: A taste of Bali

Restaurant review: A taste of Bali

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A stone's throw from FCC, a bit further down Street 178 away from the river, is Warung Bali. The non-descript restaurant, the last in a row of identical looking Khmer places, has long been setting the standard for Indonesian food in Phnom Penh.

Service is friendly and painless, on a recent occasion we arrived right at the clearly stated closing hour of 9pm and hesitantly asked if we could still have dinner, nobody batted an eye.  

The menu is full of options, although most of them revolve around peanut or the special Indonesian chili sauce. Anyone with an allergy or a strong aversion to peanuts is sadly out of luck, they are in everything. Interestingly, although Bali is one of the few places in Indonesia known for pork, this restaurant is Halal and you won’t find any pig meat on the menu.  There is, however, an extensive vegetarian section.

Risolles (US$1.50) come out almost instantly, although perhaps a bit too quickly as they are a bit cold in the middle. A holdover from the Dutch legacy, they are a mix between a spring roll and a croquette.

Coldness aside they are tasty and filling, served of course with a peanut dipping sauce.  Ayam Bumbu Bali, fried chicken in a “traditional Balinese sauce” ($2) is on the bone and not particularly crispy, but the chicken is moist and the plate is full of great chunks of fatty skin.  The sauce is a slightly sweeter version of the typical chili sauce.

A chicken sate ($2.50) comes with six large skewers smothered in peanut sauce, not the standout of the night but satisfying. Cumi Balado, deep fried squid with chili sauce ($2.50) is a heaping bowl of crisp and fresh calamari tossed with a fiery chili paste: phenomenal. Beef Rendang ($3) is just a bit on the stringy side, but the sauce makes up for it and it comes with steamed rice. Skip the extra portions of steamed rice and get Nasi Goreng, the Indonesian fried rice; a bit denser and richer than the Khmer version, it comes garnished with an egg and shrimp crackers ($2.25).  A large portion of fried glass noodles ($2.50) has a distinct sweetness to it, a nice break from the chili-peanut orgy taking up the rest of the table. All of the meat dishes are available with tofu or various vegetables instead for about half the cost.  The Gado Gado is another massive bowl of steamed tofu and vegetables drenched in a thick peanut sauce; great if you like vegetables and peanuts.

Beers are the way to go at US$1 each, but they also have a selection of homemade drinks including a chunky tamarind shake sweetened with brown sugar, which is ideal for dessert. The Bali Cooler is a refreshing mix of pineapple and orange juice thickened with coconut milk.

Warung Bali is perfect for a group and reliable enough for a relaxed date as well: just double check on the peanut allergies.

Warung Bali is at No 25 Street 178 (between Street 13 and Sothearos Blvd). Dinner for three with drinks is $15.

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