So many restaurants open in Bali, and so many fail or just continue to exist, a constant struggle! Cost of original setup seems to make little or no difference to their success rate, perhaps experience is more important!
2008 saw the opening of Sarong. Even though chef Will Meyrick had already produced the goods at two predominately Thai restaurants within a hotel/villa complex, this was to be freestanding. Sarong was to present Asian [mainly Thai] street-food, but from a professional kitchen. Generally speaking Thai cuisine had not hit Bali as it had in many other countries, notably Australia where most Bali tourists originate, and where everybody eats Thai. So a major up-market stand-alone Thai restaurant was then quite a gamble.
When Sarong opened on Jln. Raya Petitenget there were no other major restaurants along that strip, the adjoining Jln. Laksmana was overcrowded and overpriced. The building that housed Sarong had already been the site of an expensive failure.
Sarong was busy from day one!
Not only that, but the customers kept ordering the top-end dishes. So what was to be almost warung style was pushed towards fine dining. Sarong now ranks as one of the finest restaurants presenting the best of Asian cuisine in Bali, if not S.E. Asia. Fully booked, most evenings of the year!
It is definitely time to re-visit!
The menu has progressed and developed since that humble opening, however many of the old favourites are still on the menu. Will Meyrick has introduced that wonderful appetizer from Thailand's unique street food of the north, Miang, to the diners of Bali, just as David Thompson did to Sydney?s diners of the 1990's. Prawn or salmon with coriander leaves and galangal, sitting on a betel leaf, fineIy diced lime and chilli drizzled with palm sugar, producing the hot, sour and sweet complete taste of Thai in one mouthful. Messy to eat, but ever so good! They will never leave the Sarong menu. It is noticeable that irrespective of whether the diner is heading towards the Thai, Vietnamese, Indian or Chinese sections of the menu, most start with a Miang or two!
Amongst recent additions, amongst the entrees, there is one real standout; a discovery from 'Chairman' Wang's visit earlier this year, the not-to-be-missed Szechuan Prawn Dumplings, black vinegar and chilli oil inside the dumpling ready to explode in your mouth! Others that fascinate and titillate the taste buds are an Indonesian/Malaysian Perkedel that uses minced Wagyu beef with capsicum, chilli and shallots and a very crispy skinned Pork Belly served with segments of baby mandarins, ginger, chilli and black vinegar caramel.
The wild explosions of taste you experience when dining at Sarong are unique in Bali! It is not for everyone but rather for those with uninhibited food concepts, it is a journey through a food wonderland.
Will's Crispy Salmon Salad with watermelon and mint, Thai basil and roasted chilli has become a signature dish and will never leave the menu. New salad is the Prawn [big juicy ones] with Pomelo, mint, cherry tomatoes, garlic, lemongrass and red nahm jim, a perfect example of a Thai dish; slightly sour, with a bit of a bite. Soft Shell Crabs are combined with shredded green mango, mint, shallots, crushed peanuts and a dressing of tamarind and chilli.
The new mains at Sarong blew me away! I have feasted from the tandoor on many occasions but rarely has the base been fish. The Indian Snapper Pahadi is extraordinary. The fish cooked with a perfect texture, the flavours more intense than I can ever recall for a seafood dish, reeking of the original mint, coriander and yoghurt marinade before it entered the tandoor, then combined with a garam masala of green chilli. Just as outstanding is the Thai Phanang Curry of Wagyu Beef Cheeks, slowly cooked with a pounded paste of Thai basil, chilli and crushed peanuts.
Barramundi is crusted with crushed black beans, marinated in fresh coriander, garlic, lime and green chilli before being grilled. Whole Coral Cod is steamed with ginger, shallots and sesame oil. The northern Indian curry of King Prawns is cooked in coconut milk with tomato and ginger, again the herbs added leaving an unique taste.
For those who appreciate the taste of Vietnam there is Caramelised Duck with young coconut juice, black pepper and fresh lime. All of the vegetarian dishes are of Indian origin, the cuisine that offers the largest variety in that discipline. There are so many wonderful other options at Sarong, it is impossible to describe them all.
Sarong became Bali's 'goto' restaurant virtually overnight. There is nothing quite like it, in Bali or in any other of the many countries in which I have dined.
When it comes to 'taste' Sarong is a restaurant for 'grown-ups'!