Not long after the boys of the world discovered the waves at Kuta Beach, they also discovered the joys of Jimbaran Bay. For some people, sitting on plastic chairs that sink into the sand, smelling the smoke from fish being grilled over the open fanned barbecues of burning coconut shells, and then eating the results, is what Bali is all about. To others, it is something akin to anathema.
Whilst anywhere on Bali?s north-western coastline is magic at sunset, and even more so with a backdrop of the sound of waves crashing onto an empty beach, eating in that level of discomfort has never appealed to me. The seemingly lack of refrigeration has also made me reticent about frequenting the area. Both refrigeration for your body, as well as for the sea creature that is about to be eaten. Particularly after one of those spells of miserable wet and windy weather, that keeps everyone away from such eating locations for many days on end. [Do they throw the fish out, or just put more ice in the box?].
Ayu Wandira appears to solve all of my problems. As you enter this seafood restaurant the storage cool rooms are on your left, and the very clean cooking area is to the right.
Here everyone is catered for. You can sit out the front of the restaurant, on the sand, enjoying the fresh salty air, au natural. Or stay indoors, as if cheating, behind the large glass windows that protect you from any inclement elements. If you really like being pampered then climb up the stairs at the side onto the roof, where a small air-conditioned lounge runs across the front of the building.
As with everywhere else along this strip, fresh seafood is sold by the kilo. Snapper and other fish, squid, medium and king-sized prawns, crabs and lobsters, are all available. Sometimes simple is best! Freshly caught fish, firm and tasty, grilled over red ash. Ayu Wandira is Japanese owned, so they also give you the option of ordering from a selection of live crustaceans, for a little extra. Just to confuse you the menu here is 50% Italian, obviously a legacy from previous days.
A couple of Seafood Platters are available. For Rp. 120,000 there is the Seafood Lover?s Delight; snapper, squid, prawns and crab with assorted vegetables. The more elaborate Ultimate Seafood Platter costs Rp. 180,000 and has slabs of snapper, squid, big prawns and half a king lobster. The Italian menu also contains options for set dinners that include at least a seafood main course.
Grilled seafood is what everyone does along this restaurant strip at Jimabran Bay. So we will concentrate on what Ayu Wandira presents that is different from the rest.
Fritto Misto di Mare is a selection of seafood pieces, deep-fried and served with a lemon sauce. Misto di Pesce Alla Griglia is char-grilled lobster with squid, octopus and prawns in a garlic butter.
The a la carte menu begins with a couple of Italian standards. Prosciutto Crudo con Melone, the usual thin strips of prosciutto draped over quarters of succulent watery melon. Wonderful to get those taste buds salivating! Carpaccio di Manzo Alla Pie Montese is shavings of beef that have been marinated in extra virgin olive oil and squeezed lemon juice.
An oven-baked Seafood Paella has quite an assortment of seafood with large prawns sitting on top, even if it is a bit difficult to distinguish the end product from a seafood nasi goreng. Insalata di Capesante con Balsamico is a salad of scallops with capsicum slices, cherry tomatoes and mozzarella flakes, then drizzled with balsamic vinegar and extra virgin olive oil.
The Gamberetti al Limone is a refreshing prawn salad with a lemon and parsley dressing The Zuppa di Mare e Pasta is a very Italian seafood and pasta soup. A bowl of homemade fettuccine with prawns, garlic and chilli can be ordered; Fettuccine con Gamberi e Pomodoro.
Pesce Alla Pizzaiola is just a simple fillet of fresh fish with tomato and oregano and an accompanying green salad. Frittura di Calamari is deep-fried squid with lemon and a spicy tomato sauce that is served with pasta on the side.
For the non-seafood lovers in your dining party, there is even a selection of meat dishes; steaks, lamb racks and chicken dishes.
My only real complaint concerned the surprising lack of overhead fans and a working exhaust system inside the restaurant. Whilst fish is being grilled, the acrid fumes can be quite overbearing. Of course the staff run to quickly install floor based fans, but these almost blow you away! That was my first visit, and ever since then I have taken advantage of the air-conditioned lounge upstairs, from where the view is quite magnificent.
Local wine is sold by the glass, and there is a variety of Sake, of course! The service is a cut above the average for Jimbaran Bay.
So enjoy the wonderful atmosphere of Jimbaran, without any of the discomforts.