571 Burwood Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
03 9819 9280
Fatbee normally has a catchup dinner with his ‘family’ of friends every few months, and I was pretty excited when last December’s venue of choice was this Balinese restaurant in Hawthorn. When dining with them, I knew that the menu would be completely taken off my hands (score!) and I’d have a table full of food-guides to tell me what’s authentic and what isn’t.
If any of you have been following me, you’d know that 2014 has been the year of visiting and revisiting Bali, with Fatbee as my guide. It isn’t surprising that I’ve become quite a fan of that holiday destination.
First thing I’d noticed when stepping into this place was the complex and hypnotic chime-riddled Balinese music playing in the background, I was immediately transported back to my halcyon days back in that island, making me almost blurt out loud “where’s my colourful cocktail and beach sunset??”.
Urab Bali 15.50
cabbage, snake beans, bean sprout, and corn tossed in sambal and turmeric coconut
And so we embarked on our Balinese meal… Melbourne edition.
The first dish was a (hard-to-describe) salad entree of sorts dressed in a gentle sambal and rounded off with the unique flavours of fresh turmeric and coconut. This dish turned out to be the favourite dish amongst my Indonesian companion diners.
Seasonal Plecing 16.50
seasonal vegetable tossed in Bumbu Merah and shrimp paste (Ask our staff for seasonal vegetable)
Continuing with our vegetarian dishes, next was what I’d call the Balinese version of sambal kangkung (water convolvulus). I fell in love with the gentle-yet-pungent sambal used here and it probably was my favourite dish for that night.
Ubud Style Chicken (spicy) 19.50
shredded chicken, green beans tossed in tomato sambal and terasi
Ubud… the cooling and culturally heartwarming highlands in the middle of Bali. Just the suggestion of that place makes me smile. This dish turned out to be a shredded chicken salad of sorts with fragrant spices and a slight sweet-and-tangy twist.
Sambal Wantilan 5 | Steamed jasmine rice 2.5pax
We also ordered a few extra serves of homemade Balinese sambal, which I must say tasted wonderful. All that said, many of the main dishes we’d ordered also came with various types of sambal, so ordering extra serves wasn’t that necessary when dining here.
Gede’s Suckling Pig 24.50
slow roast pork mixed with bumbu genep, served with urban, spicy sausage, black sausage, pork crackling and coriander
And here’s Wantilan Bali’s version of Babi Guling (roast suckling pig). From my previous descriptions of what we’d eaten, you can already guess what the flavour profile is probably going to be. Yup… once again it was gentle and tasty with a very unique push of fresh turmeric. And that’s one thing I’ve noticed about Balinese cuisine, it tends to be subtly fragrant with its use of herbs and spices.
Grilled Ribs: Pork / Beef / Mix 32.50
marinated in our spices, char grilled with bumbu kecap, served with salad and tomato sambal
We also had a huge serve of grilled pork ribs gloriously caramelised with Indonesian kecap manis (sweet soya sauce). I tend to steer away from savoury dishes that have too much sweetness in them, but many of my Indonesian food companions that night loved it (because –> kecap manis). I have to concede that the meat was fall apart soft.
Wantilan Crispy Duck Confit 29.50
half a duck, fried, served with snake bean and corn urab
Our final dish was the Indonesian version of crispy confit duck.
This was a contender for dish of the night for me because it came superbly crispy on the outside (just like ayam goreng) while being succulent and flavoursome on the inside. And the best thing was it came with a punchy serve of drool-worthy homemade sambal.
There aren’t many Balinese restaurants in Melbourne. In fact, I think we only have Warung Agus in West Melbourne and this restaurant here. (Bali Bagus on Franklin St, while pretty good, isn’t really Balinese food).
Despite the shortage of this cuisine in Melbourne, I’m happy to say that Wantilan Bali does a very good rendition of that gentle and beautiful island’s cuisine. And if you don’t believe me, all you have to do is just ask the five Indonesian food companions that I dined with that night!