Opened since 1989, Cumi Bali the definitive Indonesian restaurant in Singapore has moved a street away, from Tanjong Pagar Road to Tras Street at the start of 2021. With the move, they updated their look. No longer a dingy, sad look but now, full of splendid gold Indonesian tonal colours.
The Indonesian food here is strangely not Balinese, contrary to its name; you won’t find Balinese specialties, babi guling and bebek goreng in this halal restaurant. Their food is a la Padang. The chef serving us that day came from Tanjong Pinang, Bintan. Cumi Bali differentiates itself from other Indonesian restaurants in serving healthy yet hearty food. They use little oil and don’t use flour to thicken their gravies. All their sauces are made in house, including their sambal ($0.50), very fresh, very sharp, very fiery, with a tinge of bitterness.
Cumi Bali is very proud of their satay (2pc, $18) and with good reasons. Javanese style means there is no peanut sauce or any other dip. They use spices to marinate it for a day. It’s delicious. The thick chunks of chicken are smokey and tender and succulent. It tastes like the Indonesian soy sauce, kecap manis, sticky and sweet.
If you come to Cumi Bali without eating cumi Bali (grilled squid, $35), have you even come to Cumi Bali? They use mortar and pestle to pound the spices. When I chew it, it is immediately smokey, and then the spices take over, first sweet and then quite spicy. It has a nice bite, not rubbery.
For rendang, there are two choices: beef or mutton, both priced at $28. Beef is more tender, so we decided on mutton, which takes 8 hours to cook. They use more than 25 spices and just water, no coconut milk. That’s why their rendang may be watery. It is amazing to bolster the taste on spices alone, and it is tasty, but for a plebeian like me, I miss the robustness of coconut milk.
Sayur lodur (mixed vegetables, $20), which main ingredient is cabbage, has a unique twist, egg tofu! The vegetables are cooked first. And just before serving, they top it up with fresh coconut milk. That is, coconut milk is not cooked together with the vegetables. It’s the sweetest among all the dishes we tried.
Tempe is the new avocado toast and we hip* people have to order it (*Do people still use “hip”?) The tempe ($18) here is stir-fried with tau kwa and sambal. This is the spiciest dish among all five but it is also our favourite. The tempe’s surface is caramelised but inside, it’s soft as tofu. We only wish that the entire dish is made of tempe and not adulterated with tau kwa.
It is a hearty, delicious meal but the pricing is a tad high and because of the size of the dishes, you’d need a group of people to visit the restaurant. I visited Jakarta (thrice), Bandung, Bintan, Batam, and Bali (twice) and Cumi Bali’s food is on par and even better than most native Indonesian restaurants.
You may be interested in…
–Sama Sama by Tok Tok, Jewel: Repeated Success in ‘Tok Gong’ Indonesian Fare
–Tok Tok Indonesian Soup House, Joo Chiat Road: Indonesian Restaurant Focusing on Soups and Street Snacks
–Dancing Fish, TANGS Plaza: KL’s Indonesian Restaurant Opens First Outlet in Singapore Where You Can Find Pucuk Paku (Jungle Fern)
–Sushi Mitsuya 鮨三矢, Tras St: Recommended by Japanese on Separate Occasions
This was a tasting. Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.