I get this question too often, now that we’re bound within Singapore’s borders no thanks to COVID-19—“When the borders open, where would you want to travel to first?” Instantly, my answer is Bali, especially after my plans to vacation at my favourite beach destination were thwarted by the pandemic. So, it’s almost a God-send, then, that my research helped me discover Cumi Bali.
While it’s certainly nowhere near the real deal, one can try to transport themselves to this coveted island destination through its food. Cumi Bali’s decor whisks you away to a rustic pondok where traditional Indonesian tunes blare from strategically placed speakers. For one meal you forget that you simply stepped in from Tras Street. While the decor distracts me momentarily from reality, I remind myself that it’s the food that’ll sway this lady’s impression.
What I tried
With so much of their food cooked panggang-style (on a skewer, over a fire), I held faith that their Ayam Sate Madura (S$18) would impress me. It arrives promptly with two plump skewers of chicken slathered in sweet soy marinade. I have to commend them on portion; it’s definitely fitting for two diners to share.
The chicken chunks are aptly juicy, while the smoky sweetness of the marinade really takes me back to the days of tucking into a hearty lunch in a warung on a random street in Seminyak.
Everyone has their own version of how rendang should be; mine is rich, savoury, with beef that shreds with just a spoon. This Beef Rendang (S$26) sure carries a hefty ticket price, but don’t dismiss it quickly simply based on price. Cooked sans oil, the spices here remain amplified. However, I can’t safely say this is the best in town, as this iteration leans towards too-sweet for me.
Squid, just like the revered octopus, is a protein that’s unfortunately easy to muck up. There have been too many times I’ve had to sit through the Olympian task of chewing on octopus that refuses to give way. But this, gleefully, isn’t the case with Cumi Bali (S$35)—although its handsome price tag might be of slight concern. Blanketed in homemade BBQ sauce, it’s an earthy, almost nutty paste that allows the natural sweetness of the squid to shine. I stab at a few squid rings to decide if this is really worth a second order should I return, and I quickly decide that I’m not thoroughly sold—especially with the amount of monies I have to part with.
My Javanese roots deny me from ever turning down tempeh and so I had to order the Tauhu Tempe (S$18). I had set an expectation in my head that it’d be this bold, flavoursome plate of nutty goodness, but I have to admit slight disappointment when the only forceful taste that comes through is the tempeh itself. Sure, it was an acceptable recipe, but I was rooting for this plant-based dish to be a victorious underdog.
The finisher to this meal is none other than our familiar friend, Cumi Bali Es Cendol. For me, the gula melaka makes all the difference, and at times, it can prove to be too treacly sweet. I’m glad to report Cumi Bali’s is heady and smoky, never allowing you to cross the threshold of saccharine. If the drizzling of coconut milk was more generous, this could be an easy win.
It was an evening of hits and misses but there are some dishes I’d gladly revisit. The Ayam Sate Madura and Cumi Bali Es Cendol are front runners in this non-existent race, but I have to commend the Beef Rendang for a solid attempt. While the average price here doesn’t make my wallet too happy, I’d willingly sacrifice a portion of my paycheck for a special occasion here. The vibe’s casual, the atmosphere’s cosy, and I wouldn’t think twice about recommending this spot to anyone who’s on the hunt for a taste of Indonesia.
Expected damage: S$30 – S$45 per person
50 Tras Street,
50 Tras Street,