Asian street food, without the street
Award-winning Sarong takes diners on a mouthwatering culinary odyssey of authentic recipes and tastes across Asia, with a healthy dose of refinement
Opening 2008, Sarong was a forerunner of Bali’s gastronomic epicentre, Petitenget, and is Will Meyrick’s flagship restaurant, the first in this British celebrity chef’s culinary empire (which includes Mama San and Hujan Locale). Dinner-only Sarong has garnered numerous accolades and often features on Asia’s Best Restaurant lists, such as S. Pellegrino and Acqua Panna 2014 Awards and Miele Guide. With its refined Euro-Asian elegance, Sarong is one of Bali’s few fine dining restaurants that evokes old-school Asian glam, where guests come dressed-up for dinner.
This sumptuous setting contrasts somewhat with Meyrick’s long-running fascination with Asia’s vibrant street food culture and the region’s exotic spices, flavours and aromas – which led to Sarong’s creation. Sarong masterfully balances sublime modern Asian signature dishes inspired by traditional and authentic home-style recipes and cooking techniques, which are then customized to refinement – an Asian culinary odyssey gone five-star and an innovative concept of “Asian street food without the street”.
Intrepid Chef Meyrick repeatedly journeys through the Asia region, especially Southeast Asia, from seething cities to remote mountain villages, personally unearthing authentic street food and traditional recipes, revealed by street hawkers and sage old matriarchs. Sarong’s continually evolving menus are mainly influenced on the back of these culinary forays, with acquired recipes sourced across Asia tweaked and integrated into the menu: bold, contemporary tastes without compromise, balanced with fresh elements and complexity of flavours and textures.
Sarong thus offers dinners a diverse array of authentic Asian dishes, each showcasing distinctive national tastes, focusing on the South and Southeast Asia region. With an in-house Indian chef on board from the start, Sarong stands out for its repertoire of full-on, mouthwatering Indian dishes; from amongst many notables, the Gosht Nigiri Korma Lamb Shank, simmered in coriander, mint, green chilli and tomato garam masala, is worthy of a mention. With Meyrick’s long-term side-kick chef from Thailand helming the kitchens, expect authoritative and piquant Siam offerings, including to-die-for Smoked Red Curry Chicken, with pineapple, pea eggplant and Thai basil. Diners are also treated to regional Chinese- and Vietnamese-inspired dishes, including DIY Grilled Beef, with fresh herbs rolled in Vietnamese rice paper and Malay offerings such as Peranakan Black Pepper Stingray and Panang Curry of Pork, swimming in an aromatic and creamy coconut sauce.
Sarong additionally dishes up more unusual offerings from destinations such as Burma, Sri Lanka and Laos – a rare treat in Bali – covering dishes like richly flavoursome Laotian Style Grilled Chicken, with jauw bong dipping sauce. Meyrick’s adopted home, Indonesia, is increasingly on his culinary radar, especially little-known regional recipes found off the beaten track (including from East Java and Sulawesi) presented in a genuinely modern way, such as juicy-licious Bebek Madura Twice-Cooked Duck.
Part of the pepper family and cultivated in South and Southeast Asia, betel leaves are used for medicinal and ceremonial purposes, as a mild stimulant and even play a small role in cuisine, especially in Vietnam. In Bali, this locally sourced, organic ingredient is one of Sarong’s “bestsellers” and standout ingredients; here the glossy, heart-shaped betel leaf is eaten bite-sized, rolled-up together with ingredients such as tuna, lemongrass, green tomato and sambal, for a true taste bud explosion.
Wherever the origin, dishes simply burst with fresh flavours, mostly due to ultra-fresh ingredients, adding a naturally wholesome depth. Meyrick’s iconic “Temples of Asian street food” use few imported ingredients, but rather, a strong commitment to local, fresh produce sourced across Indonesia – around 90 percent – which seamlessly blend in these Asian-inspired recipes. Sarong Group’s highland farm in Jatiluwih supplies free-range chickens, pigs and organic produce, while Meyrick’s hands-on gastronomic quest for local sustainable and traditionally produced ingredients extends to scouring far-flung regions of Bali and the Indonesian archipelago. Among key sustainable ingredients that sensationally enhance these Asian recipes are three wonders sourced from Bali’s eastern coast. Hand-harvested, finely-flaked sea salt lends a pure, subtle yet zingy taste, a magic touch for baked fish and curries, such as fragrant Sri Lankan Slow-Cooked Lamb in coconut milk, infused with coriander, cumin, lemongrass and curry leaves. Pure palm sugar goes down a treat in dressings, robust curries and delicious desserts, such as ever-popular Duck Egg and Ginger Custard, while organic cashew nuts, paste-pounded or whole, are stars of several Sarong numbers, but especially Indian: Butter Chicken with cashew nuts, ginger and garam masala and Tandoori Squid are two examples.