The most recognizable restaurant cuisine style in the world is the Chinese Seafood. Entrance and walls, inside and out, are invariably tiered with water tanks full of live fish of every possible species, prawns, crabs, abalone, clams, and even sometimes a few things that you would prefer not to see.
The Garoupa opened on Raya Kuta last year, the latest in a long line of large [seating 180] Chinese restaurants in Bali specializing in live seafood.
Entrees are not a normal way of life in Chinese restaurants. The common ordering process is soup, a variety of seafood and/or meat dishes [with contrasting sauces] and a few vegetable dishes. However The Garoupa does present a couple of starters that make you think. Deep-fried Dough with prawn mayonnaise sauce is one of them. Deep-fried Mushrooms are more common as are the essential Seafood Spring Rolls which are quite good although the strawberry sauce caters for the sweet tooth of the locals.
Shark Fin Soup features on all classic Chinese menus. Braised Superior Shark Fin is offered with crab and egg or 'Thai' style. The 'Save the Shark' campaigners do not get much of a hearing down south in Australia where young surfers and snorkellers are mauled, maimed and killed by the monsters every year, 2012 was a particularly bad year.
Many other soups are also available and most Asian meals have one ordered as one of the spread of dishes, but to be shared from a central serving dish, not individual serves, so that means one soup for all. Soups are not eaten as a separate course but are sipped throughout the meal. They can be fish based often with ginseng, chicken or abalone. The Fish Head Soup is of Garoupa. A soup of live clams is also on offer, again with that very Chinese 'superior' tag.
Live Garoupa is, not surprisingly, a feature dish at The Garoupa. It can be ordered many different ways; braised, casseroled or in that unique XO sauce. Steamed Garoupa can be in superior soy or hot and sour. Deep-fried combinations include Hong Kong style, Hot and Sour or Sweet and Sour.
Live Sea Prawns can be just poached, served 'drunken' [cooked in alcohol], sautéed in Thai spices, simmered in a curry sauce or deep-fried and served with mayonnaise, sweet and sour or with the tang of wasabi. The Live Clams are best just stir-fried in a black bean sauce although the version cooked in wine and spices has a bit more flavour to it.
All live seafood at The Garoupa is sold at a daily varying 'market price', per 100 gm.
Pacific Squid is most commonly with spiced salt or black pepper, good in XO, stir-fried in shrimp paste or simply grilled. Australian Scallops are stuffed with black pepper and honey, unusual and very tasty. Beancurd is stuffed with scallop meat and mushrooms then steamed.
Frogs can be stewed hot fiery Szechuan style, or with ginger and spring onion. Deep-fried they come with minced garlic, a butter sauce of spiced salt.
A surprise for locals is that the menu features Live Turtle [as do most of the other major Chinese restaurants in Bali]. However I am assured that they are land turtles [are they not tortoises?] not the endangered and protected sea turtles. At The Garoupa they make a soup with them using either braised or stewed turtle meat,
Live Crabs can be seen in the tanks at the front window. They are prepared in all the traditional ways. From the wok with ginger and spring onion or just in a black pepper sauce. Deep-fried in a Malaysian curry, in traditional salty egg or chilli sauces or done Hong Kong style. I like the Soft Shell Crabs which are deep-fried with curry leaves and cereal.
Whilst I eat most things and have tried many different creatures I have never been able to accept the famous Chinese Sea Cucumber. Stone Fish and Jelly Fish are other 'acquired' tastes. If you like Sea Cucumber you can have it stewed or braised. Far better for me are the Lobsters or better still the Shovel Nosed Lobsters [which is not a lobster at all], and The Garoupa offers all three of the different lobster species including the most unusual Bamboo Lobster [pictured]. All can be sashimi style, from the wok or deep-fried with salty egg.
Needless to say all the usual chicken [traditional sweet and sour, deep-fried with mango or with a bit of fire Szechuan style], pork [ribs, belly and that unique BBQ pork] and beef [black pepper] dishes are also available as are a range of BBQ including the wonderful Roasted Duck which can be ordered as full bird, half or quarter. BBQ Roasted Honey Pork is another favourite and at The Garoupa it is not the dry style so often served in Bali, but tender.
A feast for everyone with so many choices as is the norm at major Chinese restaurants.