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Seafood at Jimbaran Beach

Fresh grilled fish on the beach

We as locals happen to find ourselves enjoying a particularly popular tourist attraction. Some guests get the impression that tourist activities and 'local' activities shouldn't overlap, but happily in Bali there's room for compromise. 
Having a seafood dinner in Jimbaran is one of those things that are popular amongst locals and tourists alike. In fact, whenever somebody asks us to introduce them to some really local food, I'm will hesitate while thinking about what I should introduce to them.  I happen to like Padang Nasi Campur, Kaki Lima Bakso and other local dishes, but these items not Balinese culinary highlights. I would be anxious about food hygiene. I suppose Sate Lilit or Pepes Ikan could be a good local dish, but there's no steady vendors of such Balinese delicacies.  
The ice boxes at Cafe Menega are filled to the top with fresh shellfish and snapper. 
Fresh fish from the Indian Ocean. Red snapper. Ocean perch. White snapper. 
The seafood is smoked over a fire of coconut husks. Here's a pile of them ready to be fired up. 
The closest thing I resort to is a candle-lit fish dinner on Jimbaran beach at my favorite seafood grill. I asked if they would pay me to write this article but they're doing good enough as it is, so whatever, I wrote it anyway. It's been about the only things that all my visitors unanimously agree is a memorable experience, so I stick to it.
Upon arrival, there's actually a bewildering haze of activity at the Pantai Muaya parking lot. If you get there around sunset, expect to find tour buses disgorging hundreds of barking Asian tourists, a thick smog of coconut husk smoke, and vendors slanging menus and special prices for fish, lobster and shrimp.  
This is the place to eat in Jimbaran. Fresh jumbo prawns, fried calamari and a white snapper grilled over a smoky coconut husk fire. It comes out to around $25 USD for two people. Goodness!
I've done this enough times to know the difference between good fish and bad fish, fair prices and rip-off scams.  I head straight to Cafe Menega.  This place suffers a lot from it's own success in many ways.  
While Menega has the fairest prices and freshest fish of any of their neighbor competitors, service is bad, almost non-existent. They're really understaffed. I counted close to 300+ seats, divided between their indoor and outdoor seating zones.  There's about 20 wait staff to serve hordes of hungry diners.
If you're here between 8-10pm, expect to wait a very long time for your food. We've had over hour-long waits. We've gotten more clever about this nowadays.  We either come for lunch, when it's nice and relaxing. Or for dinner, we'll order our food first. Then we wade up the beach and hang out at JWB warung by the Four Seasons resort. They serve up some of the coldest Bintang beer in Bali.  Sometimes it comes out of the bottle as slush. We finish a beer or three and then head back. By that time, our food is usually ready.
getting a steady coconut husk fire going
Chef are preparing a coconut husk fire to cook the seafood.
The system is pretty simple. You roll up to the ice-chest counter, and select your fish. You pick lobster, shrimp, calamari, clams if you like. You can even select a live fish, they usually have pomfret swimming around. The cooks will then grill it over a coconut husk inferno and serve it up with a basket of warm rice, Balinese sambals, and some water spinach.
The results are worth it. Tender, flaky fish fresh from the sea. With a smoky, saltiness. BBQ fish, Jimbaran style.
Since the cafe sell so much fish everyday, the fish are pretty sure to be fresh, clear-eyed and smelling like an ocean breeze. I still check, but I've come to accept that since all the fish look the same after being grilled, I might very well end up with somebody else's fish. Given that the staff look very overwhelmed and plates are flying around like crazy during peak dinner hours, I think mistakes are bound to happen. 
We love bringing friends, guests and family to enjoy this iconic dinner in Bali. 
Thanks for reading a BukitVista published blog post. BukitVista is the largest villa marketplace and hospitality management organization in South Bali. 
Read more about travel in the world here. 
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