Where to eat and drink: Sidemen

Sidemen: Where to eat and drink

While most accommodation in Sidemen is now mid- to top-range, and what were once simple homestays have been jazzed up and renamed Villa Something, the same can’t be said for the restaurants. Some of the fancier digs do have smarter restaurants attached, but outside of the hotels, it’s really just simple warungs. For now.

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The food however is generally good and in our experience, eating outside of your hotel is the better bet (perhaps with the exception of a few top-end ones). You’ll find the usual pan-Indonesian suspects, including Balinese dishes, and often mediocre Western dishes, and in a bit of a surprising turn, Sidemen has quite a bit of Thai food on the menu. Not quite as you might know it in Thailand, but it adds variety.

Ayam Panggang. : Sally Arnold.
Ayam Panggang. Photo: Sally Arnold

First cab off the rank as you enter Sidemen from the south, Warung Damuh on Jalan Raya Sidemen is your typical Indonesian roadside fancy-style restaurant, offering an extensive menu at good local prices and ‘pakets’ that include rice and veggies with your meal. Local freshwater fish plus mujair including rice and kungkung (water spinach) will set you back 35,000 rupiah (without the extras it’s only 20,000 rupiah), while snapper with rice and salad is 40,000 rupiah. Prices start at 10,000 rupiah for chicken soup — so with free WiFi it’s pretty good value. You can tell it’s a local place, as cigarettes are also listed on the menu (25,000 rupiah per packet). Warung Damuh have free live music on Saturday nights and the band will do requests. Open 09:00-21:00.

Into the village of Tabola, more Western items start appearing on menus, prices go up and you may be offered wine.

Simple fare at Warung Organic. : Sally Arnold.
Simple fare at Warung Organic. Photo: Sally Arnold

Warung Dwi Mertha is open for lunch and dinner. Their business card says, “We are nice view and friendly people”. We agree, but they should have added “and make delicious food”. We tried the lalapan sambel mateh, fried chicken with blanched vegetables and a spicy sauce, for 55,000++ rupiah — more expensive than your average warung, but very tasty. We were a bit disappointed when it arrived, as it looked a little unappealing, however the taste was otherwise — lemongrassy and fresh. Some dishes — bebek betutu (200,000++ rupiah) and babi guling (300,000++ rupiah) require up to six hours notice, as they should (be wary of ordering these dishes in restaurants ‘to order’ — unless it’s a warung specialising in such).

Rad-ha Warung has a lovely garden setting, which is prettily lit in the evening, making it a very romantic setting. With Sidemen tiles and clean crisp white tablecloths, this smart little place has more of a restaurant feel. Prices are on the higher end for a warung too, around 40,000 to 70,000 rupiah for mains (plus tax and service). Friendly staff rustle up mostly Indonesian standards and they have a selection of local arak-based cocktails (order with caution).

Spice mix. : Sally Arnold.
Spice mix. Photo: Sally Arnold

Embang Warung, attached to Embang Homestay, does a roaring trade. It seemed to be the busiest in Sidemen when we were there, and with great views and friendly staff it’s easy to see why. They do need help to correct their spelling on the menu, but it offers some entertainment. Fish end chiff washed down with a bear anyone? Embang Warung also offer cooking classes — you choose the menu and the time — for 300,000 rupiah for two people.

Housed in an old joglo, a traditional house from Central Java, the great view at Joglo D’Uma is worth a stop to try one of their Balinese desserts (listed on the menu straight after the appetisers — yes, why not eat dessert first!). Pulung ubi or fried tapioca balls with palm sugar, and samping tabu, Balinese steamed pumpkin cake, are each 18,000++ rupiah — and they are a couple of items you won’t find on every menu.

Rice and chicken at Warung Dwi Mertha. : Sally Arnold.
Rice and chicken at Warung Dwi Mertha. Photo: Sally Arnold

If you’re trekking down by the river and in need of a pick-me-up, Warung Melita at Darmada Hotel offer a coffee and cake deal in an attractive and comfortable setting. You can refill your water bottles there too (save that plastic!).

Warung Bali (formally Jana’s) offers the usual Indonesian and Balinese menu at prices a little lower than those with views. It’s notable for the budget traveller that Warung Bali offer one simple fan-cooled cold-water room with no view for 150,000 rupiah — a bargain in these parts, and the folk are very friendly to boot.

On your way out of Sidemen, if you’re heading north, or on your way in, heading south, roadside Warung Organic is about 3.5 kilometres north of central Sidemen. Overlooking paddy, this scenic middle-of-nowhere restaurant is worth a stop if you’re just passing through or for your last chance to soak up the spectacular Sidemen views on your way out (open daytime only). At the time of our visit, staff were busy making offerings, and the restaurant was empty. We were on a bit of a tight schedule and didn’t want to linger so only ordered a nasi goreng (40,000 rupiah). Promptly served, it was excellent — flavours were fresh and clean with lots of crunchy vegetables and the right balance of spice. It didn’t have that MSG aftertaste and seemed not to use packaged sauces in the mix, so the organic name seems to not be just greenwashing, as is sometimes the case in Bali. Prices are a little higher than your average warung, but the view is free.

Embang Warung: Banjar Tabola, Sidemen; T: (0813) 3753 6464; (0853) 3399 7092; www.embanghomestay.com
Joglo D’Uma: Banjar Tabola, Sidemen; T: (0819) 1566 6456, (0852) 3778 3282; open daily 11:00-21:00.
Rad-ha Warung: Banjar Tabola, Sidemen; T: (0819) 1624 8209; www.radhawarung.wordpress.com; open “all day”.
Warung Bali: Banjar Tabola, Sidemen; T: (0813) 3806 2202; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Warung Damuh: Jalan Raya Sidemen; open daily 09:00-21:00.
Warung Dwi Mertha: Banjar Tabola, Sidemen; T: (0813) 3826 5214, (0852) 3798 1209; yokotrekking@yahoo.com; open daily 09:00–22:00.
Warung Melita: Darmada, Jalan Raya Luah, Sidemen; T: (0853) 3803 2100; www.darmadabali.com.
Warung Organic: Banjar Iseh, Sinduwati, Sidemen; T: (0858) 5701 3416; n.selamet@yahoo.com; open daily 09:00-16:30.

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Sally spent twelve years leading tourists around Indonesia and Malaysia where she collected a lot of stuff. She once carried a 40kg rug overland across Java. Her house has been described as a cross between a museum and a library. Fuelled by coffee, she can often be found riding her bike or petting stray cats. Sally believes travel is the key to world peace.