Indonesia: Warung Kokak

Since CL and T weren't going to arrive until sometime in the evening, my sister and I spent our first full day in Bali on the beach.  While we were waiting for Alec's cousins to come on their motorbikes, Alec introduced us to his brother, Agus, who he said owns a warung on the beach.  Too excited about the prospect of riding a motorbike, I vaguely remember shaking someone's hand and taking a glance at a business card before tucking it away.

One awesome grin-inducing motorbike ride later, we arrived at Virgin Beach.  It was still early in the morning and the beach was almost completely void of people.  We walked around for a bit and when people started trickling in, we took out the business card and made our way to Warung Kokak:


People from other warungs tried to tempt us to their lounge chairs, but we politely declined.  However, when we got to Warung Kokak, there was not a staff member in sight.  A group of (Australian?) surfers informed us that the owner hadn't arrived yet.  We sat down to wait.

The warung itself is pretty small.  There are a couple tables with seats facing the ocean:


In the back is a very, very basic shower room and a very, very basic bathroom.

After waiting for a while, Agus arrived.  He recognized us right away.  Good thing we weren't swayed by the other warungs.

Deciding to stay loyal and stick to Alec's recommendation proved to be the best decision ever because we got to get to know Agus.  Agus, who is only the sweetest Balinese man around.  He giggles like a child, swims like a dolphin, and is overall one of the most generous, kind people you'll ever meet.  Plus he makes some wicked seafood.

When I asked him how much he charged for renting a lounge chair for a day, Agus flashed his soon-to-be-familiar grin and told us we could have it for free.  Well.  We definitely couldn't say no to that.

It took me a while to get a handle on how to lounge on the beach and do nothing (I always feel like I need to be doing something).  By lunchtime, I had worked up an appetite.

What?  It takes a lot of effort to relax and...do nothing.

My sister and I snagged a table right on the edge of the warung.  We ordered two things to split.  The fried calamari:


And after Agus showed us the fresh red snappers he'd caught that day, we got one of those too:


After this red snapper, we had an epiphany: always order the grilled fish.  So tender.  So fresh.  So much better than everything else.  The fried calamari tasted like nothing but batter, but the snapper.  Oh, the snapper.

Our meal also came with some veggies:


Looks simple, but so good!

But the best part?  SAMBAL:


I.  Love.  Sambal.  (One caveat: this one wasn't spicy, which is probably why I loved it so much.)  There's just something about the tomato and shallot and garlic combo that goes so well with rice.  And fish.  And whatever else you have on your plate.  (But really, just rice and sambal is sufficient.)

Completely stuffed for 140,000 rupiah or what amounts to less than $12.

My sister and I ordered two juices for the beach:


She went with watermelon, while I went with pineapple.  The pineapple was good, but the watermelon was even better.  The juices were brought out to us at our chosen lounge chairs.  Sipping on juice, tanning in the sun, listening to the waves...man, that was the life.

We couldn't wait to bring T and CL.  The day after they arrived, after our morning scuba diving outing (more on that in a later post), all four of us zipped to Virgin Beach via motorbike courtesy of Alec's relatives aka the motorbike gang.  Of course we couldn't sit at any lounge chair except for those owned by Warung Kokak.  We're loyal like that.  Through no effort on my or my sister's part, CL and T quickly became fans of Warung Kokak and more specifically, fans of Agus, all on their own.

That evening for dinner, we got the mixed satay:


Each skewer included fish, chicken, and calamari.  On the salty side, but very delicious.

We also tried the grilled mahi mahi:


Agus had someone show us the entire mahi mahi when we asked him what was fresh that day:


Holy moly.  Of course we had to order it.  Along with the red snapper.  Grilled, of course.  As usual, our dishes came with veggies and sambal.

CL and T are big coconut drinkers:


Me, on the other hand...not so much.  Nor am I one for massages.  While T, CL, and my sister were enjoying their voluntary torture sessions on the beach, I took great pleasure in the plate of fruit that Agus brought out for us:


Out of the jackfruit, pineapple, and green bananas, the bananas were the best.

We originally thought that we wouldn't return to the beach on our last day in Karangasem, but in the end, we couldn't stay away.  So once again, after our morning scuba diving adventure, we found ourselves at Virgin Beach.

Warung Kokak is not just a place for food.  You can also rent snorkels and fins and even a boat to go sailing.  We asked Agus if we could fit some sailing in even though it was kind of late in the day and he made it happen for us.  So.  Much.  Fun.  Agus even took CL and T snorkeling.  My sister and I elected to stay on the boat and just enjoy being on the water.

By the time we got back to shore, it was getting late and the other warungs looked like they were closing for the day.  We asked Agus if there was time for dinner and he smiled and said of course.

Besides the mandatory red snapper, this time we also tried the fish curry:


It came with these strange rice blocks:


The rice blocks weren't our favorite - something about the texture just threw us off - but the curry was fantastic.

So was the grilled calamari:


So much better than fried.  Other lesson learned: always choose grilled over fried.

It's really hard to go wrong at Warung Kokak.  The seafood can't get any fresher than that.  Agus's cousin told us that the ocean is like Agus's aquarium.  You want something, he'll go out and get it.  On our first day at the beach, my sister and I saw Agus come back from a swim with a small rock lobster on his spear gun.

The man swims like a dolphin.  Which is fitting because his business card reads "Agus Dolfin".  When the tide swept away a girl's sandal, Agus cheerfully grabbed his snorkel and his fins and went hunting.  We thought he wasn't swimming out far enough, but after slowly swimming up and down the shoreline a few times, he found it.  And when CL's mask was ripped off her face by a particularly nasty wave (one that made us all eat sand and land in an undignified tangle of limbs), Agus picked up his snorkel and fins once again.  Unfortunately, he couldn't find the mask.  But we believe he could have if we'd gone to him for help immediately after the mask was lost.  Precious time was wasted trying to find it ourselves.

These are just a couple examples of Agus's kindness.  Another would be how my sister asked Agus for some seashells while he, CL, and T were snorkeling and he brought back not just one, but a whole handful of them.  Yet another would be how Agus would call Alec after we finished dinner so that Alec would know to come pick us up.

The food is good, yea, but Agus really is the heart of Warung Kokak.  You never get the feeling that he's running a business and is merely trying to milk tourists for their money.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Instead, you can tell from the get-go that he's just a man who genuinely loves the ocean and genuinely loves making friends.

Out of everything in Bali, he was my favorite.  I'll be loyal to Agus forever!


Warung Kokak
Jalan Pasir Putih
Dsn Perasi Kelod, Ds Pertima, Karangasem, Bali, Indonesia
087 762 853 558

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