Whenever I eat while I am on the road, I take stacks of photos and record books of notes. At some point in future I know I will come around to recalling a meal I'd like to re-create or to sharing my experiences here. I was just thinking about one of my favourite Balinese finds (Mila's Warung—keep reading) and realised how much time has come between that trip and now. I was there in the autumn and it's now nearly May!
So here's a round up of my initial days on the island, in the South Eastern beach town of Sanur. Get ready for a very image heavy post!
Right in the middle of town, this cozy spot on the main drag has both indoor fan cooled and outdoor seating, the latter on a covered wooden patio space. They offer community classes such as yoga and tai chi, plus drawing courses and more. It's not all vegetarian, but vegan options are clearly marked, and there's also a changing specials menu.
The nasi goreng vegetarian included two salty tempeh skewers served alongside a generous portion of mild garlicky rice with peas, carrots and corn. On another occasion (which was too dark for a photo), I ordered the nasi campur vegetarian, which included mild sambal coated tempeh and tofu pieces, a mound of brown rice and a pile of greens (green beans, spinach, sprouts, and fresh coconut).
I found Manik Organik's food to stick to the milder side of Indonesian cooking (which it really can be; the chili stereotype applied to all of SE Asian food isn't entirely accurate). This is a good place for people looking for simple and varied food on the main drag.
Mila's Warung is sadly now closed
Mila is a friendly, cat-loving, energetic, popular woman who brightens any space she enters. Her friends and cats pop in and out, all equally playful and chatty, so it's very easy to spend a few relaxed hours hanging out at this warung. I enjoyed a few nice chats with Mila as well, which raised my opinion tenfold based purely on the fact that the cook is willing to sit down and talk with guests about her food. Even if the food is rubbish (it isn't), to me there is so much value in the act of giving a customer your time and words.
At any rate, check out the trillion photos.
The Sup Lodeh comes with two tempe cakes and a mound of rice topped with fried shallot. This is a veg-packed coconut based soup with a very apparent galangal flavour (read: yum).
The peppery veggie beef dish with basil (the faux meats are sourced from a shop in Denpasar, Bali's capital) is stunningly delicious. This dish probably rated as one of our favourites from the restaurant.
So the thing about Indonesia that will hit you like a ton of awesome if you've spent any time in other parts of Southeast Asia, is the use of potatoes. And I don't mean you order chips and two hours later get handed a basket of approximately 7 under cooked french fries, either.
Mila's Lontong Tuhu Campur is a mega salad of shredded cabbage sprouts, tofu and Chinese parsley with and mildly spicy peanut sauce and a sweet brown sugar sauce, all served on a massive bed of waxy salad spuds. The kicker here, and anyone who knows me will be shocked by this statement, is the dish also included cucumber and I liked it.
I hate fresh cucumber. It is the devil in food disguise, the bane of my existence, the ruiner of all edible things ever in the entire history of things. Somehow, however, Mila got me to eat it.
Indo tempe aside (really, it tastes like nothing you can imagine when it's fresh), tumpis acar may be one of my top discoveries in the Indonesian food department. Again with the cucumbers, but then again I tolerate them well when pickled. This dish basically consists of sliced pickled carrot and cucumber, fried. Simple and so spectacular.
I'm not discussing all of the dishes in detail, but I can confirm they are all worth a try. Also I know what you are all actually here for, and it has nothing to do with food.
Finally, what you've been waiting for: pictures of Mila's cats.
Mila's Warung has only been open about a year and a half, and as of last fall wasn't being talked about nearly enough. Her husband is vegan, so she knows her stuff, and she is incredibly helpful when it comes to guiding menu decisions. Mila will make recommendations and explain any and all of the dishes, with a few anecdotes in between, always cheerful and always smiling.
If you're searching for the perfect meal along the ocean path, you won't find any dedicated vegetarian restaurants. Still, among the plethora of seafood joints, you will find the odd beachfront warung that is the most likely place for a vegan friendly snack. And even if you're not happy with the food, you can always partake in some... unfit juice?
I do recall an Italian restaurant along the beach path, at the Southern end, with a couple of vegan options marked on the menu. The reason I didn't eat there is because the two items were along the lines of garlic bread and chips. I suppose it's worth knowing there's an option for the less adventurous eater, but really you should be renting a bicycle to get in a spot of exercise before your 12 course dinner at Mila's.
As for the rest of the time? Do absolutely nothing and enjoy the beach and sunshine!