Balinese and Javanese food! Yeah baby, this is the variety we’re talkin’ about!
Mark this date in your diaries boys & girls, 3rd Feb 2019- the significance being that Four Senses- Touch Smell Taste Sound was the first food blog to review/write about Enjoy Café- Haymarket!
It’s pretty funny when you go to a restaurant with close to no online presence (to date no one has reviewed Enjoy Café yet on the major foodie web-sites or foodie blogs) as it’s like the olden days when you just don’t know what to expect as you don’t have a point of reference. On the Zomato web-site, they had Enjoy Cafe classified as an Indonesian restaurant, but we found out that it’s actually more specifically a Balinese/Javanese restaurant, meaning that their food has Chinese influences! Neat! As we’ve never tried and haven’t been to Bali before!
Enjoy Café is located on Sussex Street in between Liverpool and Goulburn St. Posted on either side of their doorway is their menu – breakfast and weekday lunch special menu on the left, the a la carte menu on the right. Thus as you climb up the 6-or so steps up to the service counter (didn’t see an access ramp though), you already have in mind what you’d like to have when you’re greeted by the friendly service staff behind the service counter. Make your orders and payment at the counter, then take your table number to the dining section and select a table from the large modern and spacious dining area (the ceiling is lined with black&white vinyl record covers).
On this Sunday afternoon (it was just past 2pm) there were still a few tables of people having a late lunch, so we pretty much had the run of the place and we elected to sit against the windows facing out to Sussex Street. Table water was a self-service station and within 10 mins or so our food was brought out to us.
My wife had ordered the Mee Goreng Javanese Style ($12.00) from the House specialty section of the menu- Traditional Javanese Mee Goreng topped with chicken and egg. On the menu it was described as being sweet with a hint of chili.
After coming home, I did some fast Googling of what Javanese food is all about, and I read that Javanese food is more sweet compared to traditional Indonesian food. And we can attest to that, as their Javanese Mee Goreng was dried noodles coated in a thick sweeter sauce (due to either palm sugar or sweet soya sauce); and when the menu described ‘a hint of chili’, I’m thinking they’re describing a ‘hint’ according to their scale of spicy. Haaha. As it was pretty spicy, not a smash-you-in-the-face level of spice, but spicy enough that you’re downing a bit of water and your nose is running from the heat. 2/3 of the way through our dishes, my wife and I performed a swap as the sauce was getting a little heavy for her (some sourness/acidity would have been a nice touch to break-up the sweet and spiciness- but I guess that would be messing with tradition).
I had also ordered from the House Specialty section of the menu, choosing the Pork Matah Noodle ($15.00) – noodles topped off with BBQ pork and roast pork sautéed in sambal matah (a favourite condiment in Bali). The first thing I noticed when the dish was placed down in front of me, was the glorious fragrance of toasted coconut. Mmmmm. The dry noodles (thick and crinkled like Ramen) was served in a larger bowl with the meats and Sambal heaped on-top of it. While in a second bowl (a rice bowl) contained a thin soup broth, which you pour over your noodles (just enough to moisten everything, don’t picture swimming noodles). My crash-course in Javanese cuisine included an equally quick scan over Balinese food, and the Chinese influences on Balinese cuisine was evident in this dish. The flavours were subtle- just a hint of chili (my definition of a hint) which came from the sambal, and to drive-home the Chinese influences on this Balinese dish, the veg in this dish was Bok Choy, and the BBQ Pork and Roast Pork is what you’d find from a Chinese BBQ store. So our first try of Balinese food was really interesting! Noodles like Japanese ramen, toppings you’d otherwise find in a Chinese noodle/wonton store; spice/flavours akin to Indo food; and you can also see the Hinduism aspect to their Balinese culture, as there wasn’t a beef dish to be seen on their menu.
As we ate our meal, the clientele came and went (although it was almost 3pm by now), but the one similarity between all who dined there was that they all spoke what I presume was Indonesian. That’s a real tell in how good and traditional their food is, when locals of the cuisine are willing to pay good money for food that ‘mum could otherwise cook at home’. And what stood out to us, was the relaxed vibe of the restaurant, where we didn’t feel rushed to finish our meals and we oddly felt at home there. I think it was because the place was so spacious and everyone had their own personal space that you weren’t taking on the frenetic energy of the people around you in more cramped environments. **Note: Mid-week lunch special is $11 which includes a selection of dishes from the a la carte menu for a few bucks less, and includes a soft drink (otherwise $2.20). While all a la carte menu options range from $11 to $15.00.
Our end verdict, 4.5 stars from 5! (2.5 from 3 stars for Food; 0.5 from 0.5 for Service; 0.5 from 0.5 for Atmosphere (as they were playing a pop Spotify playlist just at the right volume); and 1 from 1 for Value for money).
I apologise for harping on and on about this topic, but we’re so glad that there is some variety returning back to Chinatown! For a number of years every new restaurant opening up in Chinatown was another Hot-pot or Northern Chinese style restaurant, which is great if it’s the right weather for it and when you’re in the mood for it. But during 30+ degree summer days? Who’s looking for that at lunch-time? So we found that people weren’t coming to Chinatown anymore, as people were associating Chinatown with only those cuisines. Hopefully with new cuisines like Javanese/Balinese entering the marketplace, some of those who had left Chinatown over the years will come back to try something new, or try re-capture memorable moments from an enjoyable Bali trip!
Enjoy Café- Sunday 3 February (4.5 stars)
PH: (02) 9261 8441
375 Sussex Street, Haymarket NSW
Mon-Wed 8am – 9pm
Thurs-Fri 8am – 10pm
Sat-Sun 10am – 10pm