COCONUTS CRITIC’S TABLE — I’d heard a few people talk about Fat Chow a while back, but had always written it off as a no-go each time they uttered, “it’s on Poppies Lane II in Kuta.” That’s partially because I’m a bit of a snob these days when it comes to the tourist-ridden streets of K-Town, but it’s also to do with the fact that almost all of the restaurants on Poppies Lane are usually dive bars that barely serve a decent bowl of chips, or those one-size-fits-all restaurants that have a faint smell of vomit from the partygoers the night before. I guess that still counts as me being a snob…
Either way, my ears pricked up when I heard a new Fat Chow location had just opened up in Jimbaran. Phew. Finally I could try this mysterious restaurant without having to brave the sights – and smells – of Kuta, and God forbid, have to mingle with tourists.
So you can imagine my joy when I rock up to this new Fat Chow perched majestically at the top of Temple Hill, just up (literally) from the main Jimbaran strip. This elevated location gives Fat Chow dua a whole different ambience compared to the Kuta joint, grabbing great views of the coastline all the way up to Seminyak and beyond, with the flashing lights of Kuta a refreshing distance away. On this particular night, we even happened to catch the sunset, unbeknown to us that we’d have such a killer front row seat.
The people behind Fat Chow obviously knew what they were doing then, because to soak up this aerial view, one side of the restaurant is basically just glass (my eating buddy almost walked straight into it) with a long stretching bench facing out over the horizon.
Take your eyes away from the awesome vista and the restaurant’s interiors are really cool, too. Apparently, the Kuta spot is just as snazzy, with both branches going for that shabby-chic kind of look. The walls are mostly crude red brick, the floor tiles are made of unpolished stone and some of the tables are held up by antique iron machines of some sort, while others are more feminine with pressed and patterned aluminum tops.
Other than Balique (the sister restaurant to The Bistrot in Seminyak) there aren’t many restaurants around Jimbaran with this kind of vibe – the darling hipster kind that would fit right in along Echo Beach or Petitenget, or even in urban Melbourne for that matter. So with only street-side warungs and small shabby surfer bars dotting most of Jl. Raya Uluwatu, Fat Chow seems to be a real breath of fresh air for this busy strip, already earning approving nods from us. But hey, we’re not ones to judge a book by its cover, so let’s eat.
Avoiding a muddled menu of Asian fusion, Fat Chow separates its mains dishes into two geographical regions – Southeast and East. There’s three other sections as well to cover the smaller plates: Healthy Greens, Bites to Share and Comfort Soup, but we’re starving so we skip straight to the mains.
The southeastern nosh covers a few Thai favorites, like the Seafood Hawker Pad Thai, Pataya Pork Ribs (apparently the bestselling dish at the Poppies branch) and Thai Green Curry, as well as a Vietnamese Bánh Mì sandwich and Malaysian Nasi Lemak. As for the east, that covers mostly Chinese flavors, from a Chicken Cashew Stir-Fry to an Oriental Burger with Chinese BBQ sauce.
It’s a Friday night so the “Healthy Greens” are off our radar to instead make way for carbs and cocktails. Cue the burger and the Pad Thai, washed down with a Red Sangria and a Mojito. Cheers! The Sangria is mixed with a shot of vodka (it’s Friday, remember) plus a load of frozen fruit ice cubes, while the Mojito doesn’t look much like a Mojito at all but comes muddled with all the usual ingredients.
It’s not long after that our food arrives, promptly and in the hands of the smiling server. Holy cow (or should we say ‘chow’) the Oriental Burger is MASSIVE. It’s only when we give it the thorough inspection, however, that we realize the towering masterpiece is mostly just ‘slaw, with a modest burger patty hiding somewhere beneath the mountain of chunky-shredded cabbage and carrot. That said, my eating partner confirmed that the patty was neither disappointing nor lacking substance – juicy, tender, and every other succulent-suggesting adjective out there that describes a well-crafted burger.
Unfortunately there weren’t as many complimentary adjectives for my Seafood Hawker Pad Thai – unless you like things “fishy.” As someone who turns their nose up at the slightest scent of fish (yes I know I’m eating seafood, but still…) the ocean flavors of the Hawker Pad Thai were a little overbearing for me. Don’t get me wrong, it certainly captured the essence of hawker food in the sense that authentic street-side Pad Thais don’t exactly use the finest fish from the market, but for me, I’d like to have been able to taste the earthy peanut crumbles sprinkled on the top as well, and the acidic stickiness of the tamarind sauce, not just the seafood (the whole prawns were delicious though by the way).
Nevertheless, the saving grace was a generous handful of freshly plucked cilantro stalks that gave each bite a refreshing, aromatic break from my mounting fish breath.
By the end, both of our plates (or rather, rustic wooden boards) were licked right down to the banana leaves that the food was resting on. We didn’t feel too full, nor still hungry, and again, seeing as it’s Friday, it was only natural for us to check out the dessert menu. There were only three sweets to choose from so I have to admit, we were pretty devastated when the quirky waiter told us that the Green Tea Crème Brûlée wasn’t available (seriously, how good does that sound?). So we decided to call it a night without an overly sweet ending.
But I guess that gives us a good reason to come back. And after all, we definitely would come back (I’d even order the fishy Pad Thai again) which at the end of the day, is what it all really comes down to, even if it’s just for the sunset, the carbs, the cocktails, or to get the hell out of Kuta.
Coconuts Critic’s Table reviews are written based on unannounced visits by our writers and paid for by Coconuts Media.
Fat Chow Temple Hill. Jl. Raya Uluwatu No. 8D, Jimbaran, Bali