Experience a Bali spice rush

IT SEEMS to me that the western end of James Street, around Russell Square, Northbridge, is becoming a zone of Asian dining which makes it more intriguing.

Here you will find some of the finest eateries in the precinct, including the Dusit Thai Restaurant, The Bambu Oriental/European Fusion Cuisine, The Golden Century Chinese Seafood Restaurant and The Denpasar Moon.

The Denpasar Moon takes you to Indonesia both in cuisine and atmosphere.

The authenticity of the cuisine is very credible, the prices of the food easily affordable, which augurs well for an inexpensive family outing if you can introduce the kids to a spicy world.

Food here isn’t particularly chilli-hot, although sauces and sambals are available to provide a lift if required.

Rice is a respected staple of course in Indonesian food, but this young nation with a modern language combines many cultures to its ancient cuisine.

Spices are a national treasure and in some parts the fertile soils give up to three harvests of rice a year.

This is a mixed nation of Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian blended in a cauldron of races and influenced by Dutch colonialists and the Chinese. When Europeans discovered these spice-islands, they experienced not a gold rush but a spice rush.

Operated by a Chinese-Indonesian, the Denpasar Moon offers diners a fine selection. The best way to dine is in a party where all can savour a banquet of various dishes.

The cuisine deserves this sort of scrutiny because of the vast differences.

There is no question that the restaurant can handle groups handsomely for it is made up of two bamboo-decorated rooms that, if combined, could seat 250 diners.

Don’t get the impression this is a barn. The restaurant proper is cleverly broken up with a bamboo and frond roof hut that serves as a service bar.

Everything is bamboo or matted palm frond right down to the tables and chairs.

Artisans were imported to decorate the place from Indonesia. The back room is a large function area that reeks of Bali. It is also bamboo but it is open air without windows to allow breezes to flow.

The restaurant makes memories of Bali flood back, minus the possibility of the gut-wrenching uncomfortable pain of Bali Belly.

If you are heading for the beautiful island, or like many Western Australians, have recently returned from the popular place, Denpasar Moon would make a fine preview taste or celebration of your return.

If you are searching for the signature dish of the restaurant, spend $6.50 on Rendang Daging. The restaurant does a fine job of the beef delight and this rich, aromatic dish will help balance your banquet.

Meat is not generally an everyday dish on an Indonesian diet, but when it is included it’s generally marinated and sauced and is spectacular.

This is a central Javanese dish, but in Northbridge, good Australian beef is used – beef medallions that almost fall apart with a prod from your chopsticks.

This is a dish of concentrated flavours pan-broiled in an open pan in a complex, coconut cream sauce over a lengthy period.

Multiple flavours are concentrated in the beef from herbs and spices that include turmeric, lemon grass, onions, lemon leaf, garlic, coriander, sweet chilli and ginger. One serve will do two people when banquet dining.

All the Indonesian classics are available – dishes that would equate to our steak ‘n’ eggs as a cultural staple.

The communal table will be flattered with the vegetable dish Gado Gado ($7), an expertly put-together combination of vegetables in a peanut sauce. This sauce should be poured over the dish just prior to serving with the remainder served in a sauce bowl – think of it as gravy to be added if more is required.

Gado Gado is mainly green vegetables such as snake beans, spinach, cabbages and choko. At Denpasar Moon, the vegetables are not overcooked and the dressing of tomato, cucumber and sliced boiled egg present the dish well.

Vegetarians are well catered for with this cuisine and 14 meatless dishes adorn the Denpasar Moon list of offerings from as low as $2.50.

This is testimony to the inexpensive stature of the restaurant.

The fulcrum of any Indonesian meal is rice and the Dutch colonialists were aware of this important factor with their rice-table feasts. If you keep this is mind, could banquet handsomely for less than $25.

Satay meat sticks are a must for your meal. These chicken and beef satay sticks, cooked over charcoal, are what I enjoy kick-starting my dining with. Sauced as they cook and again as served with a mix that includes raw peanuts, deep-fried then blended with garlic, sweet Soya, shallots and onion, even a sprinkle of sugar.

There is a tendency for the feast to appear with the entire banquet arriving at the same time and under this system, the dishes become somewhat tepid. Take my advice and slow down the service, ask them to break-up your service so the dishes come in groups and are eaten at the peak of their heat.

Denpasar Moon is fully licensed with a fairly bland, commercial wine list that if you visit regularly becomes a lack-lustre selection.

The good selection of local and international beers is served delightfully, blizzardly cold.

White wines go well with this spicy food, particularly fruit-driven wines. I would suggest you choose a label with a sauvignon blanc content, perhaps a semillon/sauvignon blanc blend or an unwooded chenin blanc.

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