Whenever Bali is mentioned, in connection with food, many people conjure up an image of eating seafood on the beach. Back when Bali first began to attract mass tourists, Jimbaran Beach with its small primitive warungs, everyone sitting on plastic stools with legs in the sand whilst fresh fish purchased straight form the fishermen is being grilled over coconut embers, was one of the highlights of the visit.
Everybody copied and soon there were a hundred stalls/warungs attempting to cash in on the craze. The concept was so simple yet to carry it out successfully required some industry knowledge. There was a definite over-supply which caused quality concerns and resulted in the inflating of prices to allow for high agent/driver commissions to be paid by certain operators.
I was never attracted to this style of dining and my earliest memory of that stretch of beach was when setting up BaliEats 8 years ago. I checked out many of the restaurants, as I often do, whilst they were still closed. Strolling along the beach, from warung to warung, lifting the lid on a series of polystyrene boxes that contained, very dead, very dry, very warm beady-eyed fish, left over from the previous evening or maybe longer. No, this was definitely not my scene. In fact during any period, and there have been many over the past 8 years, when the beach had not been full of diners, the offerings were potentially dangerous.
What a pleasant surprise to discover that the incredible upgrading of Bali restaurants that has been happening during recent times has also spread to the food scene at Kedonganan Beach, in Jimbaran Bay, its correct name. Fish, Lobsters, Crabs and Prawns are now more often kept alive in large fish tanks. The other fish and seafood products kept in stainless steel refrigeration units, or at least packed in ice 24 hours a day in clean tiled kitchens and then prepared in special grill rooms.
Leading the way, along with other selected establishments, is The Fortuin Café. As soon as you enter from the street you realize this is not the old Jimbaran. First, at the left, are the live fish tanks and iced storage area. The restaurant itself had modern wooden tables spread out across a large glassed-in room that is spotlessly clean. Out front there are still rows of tables and chairs for those who want to sit with their feet on the sand, feeling the sea breeze in their face and tasting salt in the wind, or you can sit inside and watch it all without being blown away.
Live fish tanks contain an enormous variety of seafood [garoupa is always available and sometimes barramundi as well, mud crabs, lobsters and mid-sized prawns are a constant] ready to be prepared whichever way you prefer. It is as if you have walked into a large Chinese seafood restaurant, and judging by the accompanying sauces you probably have.
The fish [whole or filleted] can be ordered 'grilled on the flame' in true Bali style or steamed in the Chinese manor with onion, garlic and chilli. As well as the live options from the tanks, others are also available from the chiller having been kept on ice since purchase. These varieties of course depend on each day's catch but can include Barracuda, Red & White Snapper, Tuna, King Fish and Baronang. Squid and King Prawns are also always on offer. Clams and Mussels are also often available.
Good eating size crabs, straight from the tank, can be had 'flame grilled', steamed or boiled, and served with your choice of Indonesian Chinese sauces; Sweet and Sour, Chille Sauce, Black Pepper or Oyster Sauce. The same sauces can be ordered with any seafood.
Live Lobsters are normally served 'flame grilled' with a chilli sauce, the lobster head made into a soup.
The wine list is not substantial but local and Australian wines are always available. The service is friendly, staff running everywhere but always quick to notice your needs. For those who demand other than seafood, grilled and fried Chicken, noodle, vegetarian and rice dishes are also available, but this is a seafood palace.
A perfect destination for that old fashioned monster seafood platter, create your own or select from one of the combinations on the Fortuin menu. Late afternoon the place comes alive as thousands are attracted to this magic stretch of beach, to eat fresh seafood, imbibe a bit and watch that unique Bali sunset