The Kid asked me yesterday: “When are we going to eat fish by the beach again?” I knew she must have meant the seafood beach cafe at Jimbaran Bay, Bali. She was so impressed the first time we took her to the beach around dusk and saw all the tables lining up right on the sand. She was even happier when we let her play on the beach while waiting for our food to arrive. By the time the fish (and other things) were on the table, and she looked around seeing everybody was eating with their hands, she asked if she’s also allowed to ditch cutlery and to tuck in with her hands. When we said yes, she exclaimed “This is the best place ever!”
I agree with her. If you love fresh fish and seafood, and not afraid of digging the meat out of the bone (or shells) with your bare hands, with your feet on the sand and the warm waves are gently rolling not far from where you sit, Jimbaran IS the best place ever. To start with, most of the cafes don’t even have a menu. You go to one of the establishments, and pick the fish and shellfish you would like to have by piece or weight. Then they will ask you how they should cook it. There’s usually the option of having them grilled or fried, and 2-3 different sauces. You get rice, vegetables and fruit as part of your meal (in some cafes you have to pay for them separately, so ask first if you’re not sure). It’s a very simple concept, but the food always came out glorious.
These beach cafes are popular with locals and tourists alike, but even more so with tourists. There are three clusters of these cafes along Jimbaran Bay: by Kedonganan fish market closer to the airport, at the end of Jl. Pemelisan Agung a block away from Jimbaran market, and one on the southern end of Jimbaran just around the corner from The Four Seasons. The one closer to Four Seasons seems to be aimed more at tourists. The prices are higher, but they have ATM machines and bigger parking space (the cafes also take cards). We haven’t been to the one by Kedonganan fish market, but we love the second one by Jl. Pemelisan Agung. It happened to be within walking distance from the house we rented. I can’t say it’s less touristy because it’s always packed, but I feel it had the authentic feel of how the cafes started about a decade ago, and prices are reasonable too.
Some tips before heading off:
- If you take a taxi, be specific which Jimbaran beach cafe area you want to go to. Map of the area.
- Once you’re there, don’t be afraid to shop around and compare prices. You can also stroll from the beach side and decide which shop seems more promising from the crowds they have.
- Come early just around sunset. Most tables are free, and the view is definitely better than if you come after dark.
- Be prepared to get your hands dirty from ripping the fish from the bone and shellfish out of the shells. Forget proper table manner.
- They don’t usually serve anything else but fish and shellfish. If anybody in your party can’t eat them, it’s not going to be fun for them.
- Not all of the cafes take cards, so be prepared to have some cash on you. As a rule, it usually costs around Rp.150.000 – 250.000 per adult (depending how much you eat and what you ordered, of course).
If you’re bringing kids, some extra tips:
- Bring some wet wipes. You get some paper napkins from the cafe, but nothing cleans fishy hands and face better than wet wipes.
- It’s usually dark by the time you eat, so be extra careful with fish bones.
- Since kids usually can’t resist the temptation of splashing in the water while waiting for their food, bring extra clothes and underwear.