new Things I Ate in Cambodia: Bayang: Fancy Indonesian Food in Singapore, Food on Sticks

Monday, October 31, 2011

Bayang: Fancy Indonesian Food in Singapore, Food on Sticks

3A River Valley Road,
#01-05 Clarke Quay, Singapore

Indonesian food: a cuisine that's just about impossible to find in most of the USA, and for reasons I find unfathomable - peanut sauce, fried rice, fresh ingredients and less aggressive spicing than Thai food, what's not to love? Thankfully, I live in Southeast Asia now, and we decided that we'd pay a visit to Bayang in Clarke Quay for our final dinner in Singapore.

Clarke Quay is a bit of a zoo at night, full of US marines on the hunt and young Singaporeans dressed to kill and backpackers really feeling their vow of partial-poverty, but it's kind of a fun vibe - the same as any Where Young People Go pre-fab destination in any major, wealthy city. As a resident of Phnom Penh, it felt rather exotic.

Bayang is also a bit of a pre-fab restaurant, with a chic and subdued interior, an English menu that explains things, and friendly waitstaff. The food is more than serviceable and attractive (though I'd like to go to some sort of po-dunk authentic Indonesian joint in Singapore, someday), and the location is convenient for a post-or-pre meal wander along the river on a busy weekend. I dock them some points for a curiously beat up menu - time to print out some new ones, tiger - but there's a nice selection of Indonesian classics with a special emphasis on grilled stuff.

We very much enjoyed the satay sampler with beef, chicken, and shrimp. All three meats were very tender and nicely marinated, and the lemongrass skewers were an attractive touch. Something about satay is bizarrely charismatic. I chalk it up to a nigh-universal human love of Food on Sticks and peanut sauce. Well, except for those of you with food allergies. Guess it sucks to be you.

Whole grilled marinated fish was also done nicely, with tender meat that didn't require rocket-scientist levels of precision to fillet. A delicately seasoned marinade with lemongrass, ginger, and chili gave the white flesh a nice additional kick - the three house-made dipping sauces on the side were another nice touch.

Nasi goreng, Indonesia's ubiquitous fried rice with Stuff on the Side was on offer, complete with a shrimp cracker, sambal chili paste, and an additional stick of chicken satay. It had an appropriately smokey, coconut infused flavor and was quite tasty - there's a reason one of the planet's biggest countries is absolutely nuts over the stuff. I still haven't tried the epic Dutch-influenced Rijstaffel spread, which all my expat relatives grow a bit misty about when discussing the dish, but someday, someday, someday.

And then there's gado gado, Indonesia's classic mostly-boiled warm salad smothered in delicious peanut sauce. Another dish I'm astounded hasn't hit big in the US - are we THAT scared of peanuts? It's made differently just about everywhere, but the regular players are hard-boiled eggs, cashews, green beans, cabbage, shrimp crackers, bean sprouts, cucumber, tofu, and whatever else happens to be lying around the kitchen that would taste good with spicy peanut sauce on it. I love the stuff and could probably eat it from mixing bowls.

I can suggest Bayang for upscale and reasonably priced Indonesian food in a pretty setting in a great location - good for a meal and a stroll. Probably worth looking elsewhere for true authenticity when it comes to Indonesian cuisine in Singapore, but hell, do you need that all the time?