The entrance is spectacular, a high tent-like atrium above an eating space resembling a market garden. It looks like an up-market food court, one housing many hungry diners. The clear roof has been designed to catch all the rain water which then runs down the many transparent columns supposedly cooling the restaurant before being re-stored for subsequent use, although stand alone air-conditioners suggest not.
The cuisine is described as Indonesian and whilst many offerings indeed use Indonesian spices most have been combined with dishes that are more International than local. The menu consists of small and large plates to facilitate sharing. The Dinner Menu has further selection criteria; traditional Indonesian and modern versions thereof.
Traditional dishes on offer include small plates of simple dishes such as the Perkedel Jagung which comes as 4 small battered corn clusters served with a rather strange mix of eggplant and oyster mushroom. I much prefer the more traditional sambal ulek as an accompaniment. Tahu Isi is tofu fritters stuffed with vegetables, served with spiced shimiji mushrooms and Soto Ayam Surabaya style is a chicken noodle soup with quail eggs, a small portion of which is often served as an ?amuse bouche?.
A favourite entrée at Merah Putih is the Coral Trout. Served in carpaccio style the paper thin trout slices are layered across the plate covered with similarly sized slices of pomelo and palm heart then drizzled with soy and ginger, it is one of those simple but great dishes that you tend to order on every visit. Another is their Bak Pao, which arrives on a small glazed slab of tree branch. It is a folded piece of steam bun [often referred to as an Asian sandwich] stuffed with rendang beef shin meat and shallots, beside is a small serve of sambal bajak which you add before devouring, very good!
The lunch special on the menu at the moment is excellent value; Babi Guling [5 hour slow roasted instead of the traditional 24 hour smoking] served with traditional Balinese soup and lawar, finishing with the dessert of the day, all for Rp.95,000++. More exotic choices are available on the dinner menu, some of which are also available for lunch. They include Rawon Sum Sum, caramelized oxtail meat including bone marrow with the fragrant black nut kluwek broth, Lumpia Puyuh, small spring rolls stuffed with quail meat which makes a pleasant change from the usual couple of spring roll offerings everywhere elese or another unusual offering a very good Pecel Lidah [sate of char-grilled veal tongue with fern tip salad].
Other seafood options include a Char-grilled Cuttlefish and Octopus Salad with tamarind, banana blossom, chili and peanuts. Lobster Pangsit, scampi dumplings with seaweed and confit tomato. Jankang is fried soft shell crab with salted egg, chilli and leek.
Amongst the Large Plate selection is the traditional Sulawesi curry of Prawn & Snapper or the classic from Surabaya, Gulai Kambing, spiced lamb with potato fritters. Ayam Garo Rica is char-grilled spring chicken Manado style with chilli, kaffir lime and leeks. Then there is Kari Sapi Sunda, Sundanese style beef but using Wagyu for this unique curry, served with quail eggs.
The more exotic include Bebek Garo Rica, duck leg accompanied by slow roasted duck breast with kemangi, tomato and leek, Manado style, both meats tender and full of taste. The slow roasted Pork is soy-glazed belly plus suckling pig meat, ginger, tomato and leek. Or you can order the full traditional Balinese Suckling pig, crispy skin and all. The Ribs are not pork but beef short ribs from the Black Angus. They are char-grilled and served with a green sambal and red cabbage [one of my favourite vegetables from Central Europe, but rarely used in Indonesia].
King Prawns are with seaweed noodles and galangal, Barramundi is with cuttlefish and sweet potato in a coconut curry. Ikan Bakar Sambal Matah is whole fish, char-grilled as on Jimbaran Beach, accompanied by a very mild sambal matah, Bali?s favourite sambal.
Merah Purtih is a real eating house, one that is usually very busy so the babble is continuous although the mezzanine bar area [the only dining area for smokers] is a little more reserved though very hot at lunch time, almost as if you are sitting in a sauna. The solar paneled glass walls are supposed to let the light in but keep the heat out, but they certainly do not work on the mezzanine level.
The secret to fully appreciating any Asian cuisine is to eat from a selection of varied yet complementing dishes, each significantly different taste interspersed with a mouthful of plain rice. This can be difficult if you do not recognize the dishes offered and a poor selection can lead to multiple dishes being ordered with similar taste At Merah Putih they make this dish selection easy by offering set menus for groups, but only by prior arrangement.
Desserts continue the local/international trend with a chocolate fudge, lime brulee and young coconut panna cotta, with mango and palm sugar crumble.
Merah Putih [as in the red and white of the Indonesian flag] is different to any other restaurant in Bali and as such deserves a visit. The dishes exhibit the many tastes of Indonesia which was not called the Spice Islands for nothing! Although most of the dishes have been tempered down to tourist level it is still a must experience for any new visitor.