Seafood at Harbour Bay

So a group of us headed to Batam over the christmas break in part to play 80 points and in part to try the purportedly cheap and good seafood there. We only tried two seafood restaurants here: Wey Wey 2 and Harbour Bay Seafood Restaurant, since they are not open for lunch. I’m not sure what the difference between Wey Wey 2 and Wey Wey is, but they are all located at a stretch near the coast, west of the ferry terminal. It’s easy to find – there are about 4-5 seafood restaurants in a row with huge tanks of fish and shellfish. They don’t seem to be open for lunch though (hardly anything is open in the day), as we surmised from our first day there.

Look at all those shut shutters

Nearly every single store front is like that, and it’s holiday season right now.

Anyway it’s obviously too hot to eat seafood in an alfresco area for lunch (all restaurants were alfresco, which is something you hardly find in Singapore, the air-conditioned nation), so we either ate in small coffee shops or ordered room service.

The seafood at the stretch on Harbour Bay was fresh but nothing amazing. I thought the execution was pretty dismal, actually. I mean I would eat it (it’s better than the D** canteen lol) but that’s really not very hard.

We ordered their chilli crab (two crabs were 1kg, so they were pretty small), fried baby squid, mantou, garlic fried kailan, and cereal prawns. The pictures didn’t really come out very good, which is why only the crab is here. Their chilli crab sauce isn’t authentic (well, it was invented in Singapore), and it’s a real hassle picking out meat from small crabs. Even when I buy mud crabs from the supermarket I try to get the largest ones there. The baby squid were simply deep fried and not tossed in the sticky sweet sauce you usually find it in here. I liked the cereal prawns and kailan the best. All the portions are much smaller than typical zhi char portions, so I wouldn’t really say it’s cheaper per se, but its definitely a more comfortable amount to eat. We spent 410,000 IDR = $42.64 including drinks which is quite cheap I guess. How our expenses worked was everyone contributed 600,000 to a common fund which we used to pay for our meals and magnum ice creams :P

We liked the food at the Harbour Bay Seafood Restaurant so much we ate here two nights in a row. The execution is much better than Wey Wey, and it is a little pricier but the price is at least fixed, not something that they will change at will. Both Wey Wey and the HB Seafood Restaurant tried to offer us a variety of dishes before the meal, such as otah or random dimsum. We refused all of them, which I would do in general for food that I did not order. The indonesians are pretty savvy folk – they lay all these fixings out for ang moh folk as if they are non-optional, so the ang moh folk treat it like they would a complimentary bread basket, although those are far from complimentary. Also, if you refuse the otah, it just circulates to another table – you don’t know how many tables it’s been through that night! It’s extremely unhygienic and unfresh to boot.

On Sunday night, we had

The Harbour Bay style steamed black garoupa (some kind of spicy assam sauce)

Charlotte wanted to try the clams in chilli sauce. These were really nice – originally mussels, but they were out of mussels, so we ordered clams instead, or la la in some chinese dialect). La la are also half the price of mussels.

For veg we ordered stir fried beansprout and sambal kangkong – these are in small portions and pretty easy to finish.

Their scallops in XO sauce was a tiny portion and had more vegetables than scallops. Ah well. This is probably the case in most chinese restaurants too.

We tried their Thai style beancurd, which is deep fried egg beancurd doused in a Thai sweet chilli sauce with chilli shreds and sliced shallots. I liked it a lot.

The only thing is there are mosquitoes at this restaurant – most of us were bitten quite a few times on the calves. I’d recommend spraying mosquito repellent before eating here. The alfresco area of this restaurant is also a lot more chill than the brightly lit interior. We were seated on a pier right next to the sea, and they have this performing duo crooning various pop songs to the customers. There are tons of performers here, even in the beer garden at the ferry terminal. I think the people on this island really like singing, and do it pretty well too, even if there isn’t much of an audience.

On our second night here we met an extremely scrawny cat which liked to sidle under our table (we were the last ones left, and also possibly the only ones there with nothing much to do) – everyone else at the restaurant seemed to be local muslims celebrating special occasions. We didn’t really have any scraps to feed the cat though, because our resident cat had very cleverly polished off everything!

She’s just like L’s parents. They know how to eat every single part of the fish, from the head to the tail. His mum even prefers the fins of a pomfret to any actual meat.

Because the first night’s dinner was a tad too spicy for me, we had much milder dishes this time:

Lemon chicken – they placed the sauce on the plate, and then the fried chicken, which I think is ingenious. The chicken doesn’t get soggy, and you can scoop up as much or as little sauce as you like. I really liked this (and I’m a lemon chicken aficionado), there was a slightly sprite-y flavour to it.

We also had the Hong Kong style steamed garoupa. I ordered it in chinese because we actually had a waitress that spoke chinese! She looked totally indonesian malay (she was indonesian malay) but her chinese was better than ours. I mean, some of her tones were not accurate (as in the Beijing Mandarin that we were taught in schools), but her vocab was probably much larger. I was duly impressed – it must take a lot of effort to learn Chinese as a second language, especially in a country where education/being globally relevant does not seem to be a top priority. Most of them barely speak English!

We had the sambal kang kong again (this plate is only about $2.50, so why not), and also bai ling gu with kailan. Bai ling gu is sort of abalone mushroom – not actual abalone mushroom, but it can be sliced to look like slices of abalone.

The black pepper crab was awesome. It really is much smarter to order a large 1 kg crab than 2 small crabs that make up 1 kg. They keep their crabs in water, and they look a lot fresher and less despairing than the mud crabs in coffee shops here, which are simply dumped in a dry aquarium with their legs tied together. At night, a sack is thrown over them to prevent them from seeing anything/escaping. It’s a miserable existence. I really liked the black pepper sauce (lada hitam) although none of us have any idea what goes into the sauce.

Charlotte wanted to try the squid in chilli sauce. Apparently sotong refers to cuttlefish, whereas cumi refers to squid, although I think sotong is used for both in Singapore. The page in the menu with squid/cuttlefish was really funny – they put pictures of all the squid dishes first, and then repeated with pictures for the cuttlefish dishes (all cooked the same way as the squid dishes), which were exactly the same pictures as for the squid! Only the pictures for the cuttlefish were rotated or enlarged or flipped. They could use that page to teach math students about the dihedral group :P

In general I thought the seafood was quite fresh and pretty affordable. The big ticket items here are the same as big ticket items in Singapore though – crab and fish cost extra. Our Sunday dinner at the Harbour Bay Seafood Restaurant was 610,000 IDR = $63.44 for drinks, steamed garoupa, scallops, thai style fried tofu, fried sprouts, kang kong belacan, clams, and four bowls of rice. Our final night dinner there cost $88.77, which included drinks, lemon chicken, kang kong belacan, kailan, squid rings in chilli sauce, HK style steamed garoupa, and “Kepiting super size” or big crab in black pepper sauce. Pretty worth it! Although I suspect you can get similar prices at some zhi char places here…


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