Malaika Secret Moksha re-opens on Jl. Danau Poso
Historically Sanur has not been noted for culinary excellence. There exist a handful of well-run cafés that do a reasonably good job of it serving decently cooked and nourishing food, with a couple of recent welcome additions. This innate Sanurian middle-of-the-roadism may be about to change. Opening this month is a new restaurant, which appears set to break the pattern. Situated at 68 Jalan Danau Poso in an airy attractively designed 2-storey building with air-conditioning is Malaika Secret Moksha, an eatery serving freshly cooked food using nothing but freshly cooked and organic ingredients across a range of Asian and European dishes.
Don’t let the name fool you; this is not some faux hinduistic new age mish-mash trying to please all tastes. Nor does it serve ‘hippy food’, by which I mean ‘digger’ food so plain in its serving that whatever the nutritional benefit all pleasure in the eating is removed. As for the eatery’s name, I’ll bet very soon we’ll all be calling it ‘Malaika’s place’.
Let me be clear, none of the above paragraph is meant to belittle the concept of moksha or its connection to food. Serving genuinely living and life-giving food is as good a way as I know of serving that end. No, I’m at pains here to allow poor souls like myself, who may rush to judgement at the faintest puff of commercial opportunism enfolded in a soul-filled filo pastry, because by doing so we can actually miss a lot.That we prefer our food fresh and prepared with herbs so we can taste it, rather than spiced to hell-and-back, might also have something to do with it.
Mas or Malaika as she is known to friends and acquaintances, sole proprietor and inspiration behind this venture, is the only child of a noble house from Tabanan; full name: I Gusti Agung Ayu Mas Malaika Budawati. Much of Malaika’s life has revolved around food, the growing of it and the preparation of it. She has a passion for real living food and runs a very successful catering business embodying these precepts, in a way that is both flexible and uncompromising. Uncompromising in that all ingredients are fresh and organic; flexible in that – other than that, there is no other agenda but to serve delicious health-giving food. The meat served (mostly chicken) is organically raised, the fish fresh from the sea. There are in fact four grills or ovens; one for meat, another for fish, a general grill/oven and a clay tandoori oven. Good to know if you don’t want your choice cut of sea bass tasting of sirloin. There are three chefs, including an Indian one, in addition to Malaika, who – like all successful restaurateurs, manages to see-all and still have time to schmooze with her guests.
Underpinning and essential to the entire venture is the 60 hectare co-operative farmland back in the ancestral highlands of her forefathers where over the past 40 years she, her family and the farmers living on the land have united in creating a successful market garden operation growing organic fruit and vegetables.
What this means is that Malaika’s place is not just a restaurant cum café, but it is also a shop where you can buy much of the food you prepare at home, ranging from fruit and vegetables to packaged, bottled and refrigerated (but not frozen) items we all want.
Jalan Danau Poso, which is the western exit to the by-pass from Jl Tamblingan, now effectively High Street Sanur, has steadily been coming to life. New bars, eateries, hotels have appeared moving progressively up from the southern end of the street. Malaika’s place, is midway coming from the by-pass, on the right just before the Jl. Sekarwaru turn. It adjoins the large cleared site where the new Hardy’s supermarket will appear some 4 years from now. Meantime the site will provide ready parking and leased space for a Weekend Farmers Market, selling organic fruit & veg along with other strictly artisanal products, that Malaika plans to open soon.
The essentially wooden two-storey structure of the café itself has been thoughtfully designed to accommodate the varied needs and aims as a relaxed and comfortable place to eat, shop and hang out. Yes, it does have wifi – la patronne wisely leaving it up to us to decide whether of not to we wish to compromise our digestion by working or having long-distance conversations with absent parties at mealtime. The ground floor comprises the entrance, where market garden produce is on display and a steep-stepped ‘wooden wall’ where people can sit out with drinks and snacks; the length of one side of the public area is given over to a bar and counter with a large glass-partitioned air-conditioned area opposite for diners and display of dry and refrigerated foods. Upstairs is a large well-ventilated eating area with overhead fans, where the daily buffet and à la carte menu are served. The overall effect, is one of cool airiness and roominess. The acoustics are good and noise levels low. There are some pleasing and unusual design features included.
As for the menu, not only are all ingredients both fresh and organic, but I’d say 70% of it is both raw and vegan. None of the ingredients contain gluten, if that is a concern to you. That said if you are neither of those things you can very happily eat fish and meat along side this and not eat anything raw at all. As noted, Malaika is on a mission to give us real food, not to flog a dietary agenda.
Prices are very reasonable, particular since tax and service are already included. For the hungry, the daily buffet comprising some dozen dishes ad lib costs just Rp95K, which is good value. Clearly Malaika has foregone the bad habit so common nowadays where anything sold as healthy, whether it actually is or not, attracts a hefty and unwarranted premium while purveyors award themselves a cash bonus simply because these things are said to be good for us and they feel doubly entitled since for doing the right thing.
If anything demonstrates this, it is Malaika’s policy when it comes to her wine list. I don’t know if any of them are organic as such, but the list contains good table wines and upward from France, Italy, California, Chile, Australia and New Zealand. To give an example, I spotted a grand cru St. Emilion from Chateau Tremoulet, costing you Rp950K (US$70) from a supplier. You can buy this at Malaika’s for Rp 450K (US$34.00) which ain’t bad considering a bottle of the local plonk use to cost you that at a 5-star hotel. Malaika’s wine policy is both good business and a good deal. Instead of the usual 300% mark-up on a bottle of wine she adds just Rp100K to whatever she pays for it. If you bring your own, you will pay the same Rp100K in corkage. Seems as good if not better deal than you’ll find anywhere.
A good restaurateur, and they do not grow on trees, knows that providing good food at fair prices is the bedrock of their business. Anything else is but hype and fashion, which has its place too. We just need to know the difference when we see it.
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