“Hi, Vania. Welcome to Meja”, a short hair lady approached me as I walked in to the door. This is my first visitation to Meja Kitchen and Bar, a small restaurant located at the ground front of IZE Hotel, Bali. The restaurant was not that big. It was just like any other ordinary restaurant around. That was my first impression. Later I found that lady was the marketing manager of the restaurant.
I walked inside the restaurant and picked a seat in the middle of the room. It took me a while to understand the concept they put for the place. I knew that it was homey but there must be a particular one. A beautiful mermaid with a summer hat was painted on the wall. The wooden interior and low ceiling worked as if the restaurant was part of room in a house. A living room? Maybe.
I took my eyes to other part of the room and saw a marble table attached to the wall at the back side and a shelves full of plates on the other side. A kitchen, that was my final conclusion. And maybe that’s why they named the restaurant as Meja Kitchen. Meja in Indonesia means table.
“Meja serves breakfast for IZE hotel in the morning but it also open for walk in guests, all day long”, explained the marketing manager. I guessed, because they have a long table with bunch of food warmers arranged on it. That was nice since some of budget hotel around the place didn’t serve a proper breakfast so people can enjoy all you can eat breakfast or ala carte one at Meja started from 07.00am.
What I like the most is not the ambiance inside the restaurant, it’s their outdoor area facing to the hustle bustle of Kayu Ana street. Best spot over all to chit-chat, enjoy the sunny afternoon in Bali while having cocktail right away. That was what I actually did anyway.
Sitting at the bench, I got to glasses their signature cocktail inspired by Indonesian culture; Rujak Martini and Archipelago. Rujak Martini was totally sour and spicy. It consist of vodka, apple cider, pineapple, lime, and chili. I personally didn’t like it too much. My favourite went to the other glass, Archipelago. The cocktail has a pale cream color, covered by white bubble and beautifully garnished with nasturtium. Different with Rujak Martini, the mix of aromatized spirit, elder flowery liqueur, lime juice, and coconut syrup has a feminine taste, very aromatic, and flowery. I’d love to take another glass if I happen to pass across Meja someday.
I come to the restaurant without having a glance on their website, checked about their food specialties like what I usually did. “Surprised me” to be exactly what I was thinking of. Handed the menu, I noticed in seconds that Meja dominantly served Indonesian modern cuisine vary from Sumatra, Java, Bali, to Sulawesi. Besides, they also served International comfy dishes. I found nothing special until those four beautiful plates come to my table.
“Back to the roots”, she started to explain the dishes.
“Although the food is nicely plated in modern way, the authentic taste is remain the same. We want our customer to taste Indonesian cuisine as its best”, she continued. A simple sentence to define Meja’s dining concept, but so meaningful.
The marriage between tuna tartar and Manadonese dabu-dabu become the first starter at that day. Just like dabu-dabu in common, shallot, chili, and tomatoes role as main ingredients. Tossed with diced tuna and Thai basil scent, that glass of Tuna Dabu Dabu tasted delish and refreshing. Presentation was another thing to point out. It was simple and elegant.
I have been living in East Java for a year and know really well how Tahu Tek is but never imagine that Tahu Tek could be that beautiful. Kudos to young talented Chef Anthonius for his aesthetics in taking the usual Tahu Tek to the next level. Traditional Tahu Tek will have fried tofu and egg separated but in their version, both were rolled together into a big piece. Taste of the sauce was nice but from the authenticity perspective it lacked of spiciness. But later I found a bird eye chili at the side of the plate, optional pick for those who like spicy and don’t. Tomatoes cherry actually didn’t give any contribution to the taste but gave a nice touch to the color. And important part that was missing from the authentic recipes was the shrimp crackers. But anyway, I still impressed with the dish.
This Bihun Bebek Medan was nearly become my favourite if its duck confit wasn’t too salty. The dish was simple but tasted so hearty with sliced of flavorful and tender duck, mixed vegetable, and simmered rice vermicelli. It was accompanied with plain soup and fresh sambal. Its honest flavor flew me back to memory of my mother’s cooking. A recommended one for those who don’t want a heavy taste meal.
Where to eat the best seafood in Bali? Jimbaran is definitely the answer. Inspired by Jimbaran seafood, Meja have this grilled baby lobster with sweet chili sauce named Lobster Jimbaran. The dish also accompanied with crispy water spinach and sambal plecing — a modification of Lombok style of Plecing Kangkung (if you ever eat Ayam Betutu, you will know well about this side dish). I got the idea of the dish, it was creative. The presentation was also very artistic. However the sweet chili sauce and sambal plecing was too mild in taste. I wished it could be more strong in spices so it won’t overpowered by the lobster.
Authentic dishes closed with authentic dessert. Finishing my big meal, a bowl of Ketan Hitam Nangka was served, sign that it’s nearly the end of my day in Meja. The combination of sticky black rice, jack fruit, and coconut milk were so exotic. Adding the Tape Ketan ice cream inside, this fusion version of traditional sticky black rice porridge was so recommended for you to have.
“Do you enjoy the meal?”, asked the manager.
“Of course, I do”, I answered the question honestly and gave a satisfaction smile in my face.
Indeed, the ‘Back to the Roots’ concept has made me impressed in some way of how passionate the Meja’s kitchen to keep the identity of Indonesian traditional taste in their modern cuisine. If someone asked me, what for I am going back to this restaurant, my answer will be for its Archipelago and Bihun Bebek Medan. Definitely for them. I also will pick dinner instead of lunch to experience a night vibes of Seminyak, live music, the crowd, laugh, and probably new friends. Another highlight that might be informative for you, Meja Kitchen and Bar Bali has a BBQ night every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Maybe a nice try to have a big feast, doesn’t it?
Meja Kitchen and Bar Bali
JL. Kayu Aya, No. 68, IZE Hotel, Kuta, Bali 80361
Operational time: Everyday, 07.00am to 11.00pm
Menu: Click here
Tax: 10% government tax, 7% service tax
Smoking room: Yes
Music: Live music everydat with Pop and Rock genre
Parking lot: Hotel parking lot and very limited