hellobali Guide to Bali - - EATING IN BALI - Text: Holly MacDon­ald

Those who love to eat are set to have a fan­tas­tic hol­i­day in Bali. Whether you’re a con­nois­seur who favours de­gus­ta­tion menus with an in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence paired with ex­em­plary wines, or you’re on a tight bud­get and will spend your time din­ing on the cheap, Bali has you cov­ered.

The is­land plays host to a mul­ti­tude of cos­mopoli­tan restau­rants that would be at home in any of the globe’s bet­ter-known culi­nary cap­i­tals. Three Ba­li­nese restau­rants made it into the pres­ti­gious Miele Guide Top 20 restau­rants in Asia list in 2013: Mozaic, Sarong and Metis. Pre­cisely zero restau­rants in Jakarta made the cut.

Sip on cock­tails cre­ated by tal­ented mixol­o­gists, then en­joy meals con­cocted by world-class chefs in in­cred­i­ble sur­rounds – cliff­side, river­side, sea­side and moun­tain­side are all pos­si­ble in Bali. And the price? Even the most high-end meal here is likely to be ex­tremely com­pet­i­tive by in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, of­fer­ing value that adds a cer­tain spice of its own to a meal. Most top restau­rants will charge from around 150,000 ru­piah per course for a six- to 12-course de­gus­ta­tion menu. One word of warn­ing, how­ever: thanks to tough taxes in In­done­sia, al­co­hol prices will mostly be more ex­pen­sive than those you’d pay in many places else­where in the world. (Lo­cal beer, sadly, seems to be the only ex­cep­tion.)

At the other end of the bud­get scale, you’ll still be very well fed in Bali. If you’re din­ing road­side at warungs, mar­kets, or ba­sic, fan-cooled joints, you’ll find de­li­cious lo­cal fare as well as fiery dishes from right around the In­done­sian ar­chi­pel­ago. You can be very well fed for around 20,000 to 30,000 ru­piah, in­clud­ing a non­al­co­holic drink.

Bali’s din­ing scene has evolved dra­mat­i­cally over the past decade, and in par­tic­u­lar the past five years has seen an ex­plo­sion of in­trigu­ing, cre­ative restau­rants open. Ba­li­nese and In­done­sian chefs have be­come more con­fi­dent in ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and ever more renowned in­ter­na­tional chefs are bas­ing them­selves on the is­land, in­spired by both the chilled-out life­style and the su­perb lo­cal pro­duce.

If you’re a gen­uine foodie, you’ll prob­a­bly want to tra­verse the en­tire is­land to reach the best it has to of­fer, but par­tic­u­lar ar­eas do hold cer­tain attractions.

The Nusa Dua and Tan­jung Benoa area boasts the great­est con­cen­tra­tion of five-star re­sorts, where you’ll find ex­trav­a­gant brunches, re­laxed day­time din­ing and so­phis­ti­cated evening meals. While in the West se­ri­ous eaters might es­chew large ho­tels, ex­pect­ing stand-alone restau­rants to of­fer bet­ter meals, that isn’t nec­es­sary so in Bali – many top ho­tels push the en­ve­lope in terms of in­no­va­tion and should be in­ves­ti­gated, from renowned Kayuputi at St Regis, to the newer pool­side To’Ge at Rimba and Sakala at The Chedi.

The Seminyak area of­fers a huge se­lec­tion of restau­rants across many cuisines. This is ar­guably where you’ll find the largest clus­ter of more cut­ting-edge restau­rants such as Merah Pu­tih, but

a smat­ter­ing of old places are worth a look-in here as well, such as the es­teemed Kura Kura at The Oberoi. Slightly fur­ther afield in fast-chang­ing Canggu and Echo Beach the em­pha­sis shifts slightly to­wards more re­laxed cui­sine with a fo­cus on healthy din­ing.

Ubud is well known as a cen­tre for heal­ing and many of its restau­rants re­flect this. Din­ers are spoiled for choice when it comes to lo­cal, slow or raw food restau­rants, and the mar­ket can be very high end as well – Glow at Como Sham­bala and the River Café at Maya are just two op­tions for raw or health­ful cui­sine.

Bali’s rel­a­tively sleepy vil­lage of Sa­nur has be­come more lively in re­cent years on the din­ing front, with some more up­mar­ket op­tions, such as Three Mon­keys and Gro­cer & Grind, mak­ing this a more in­ter­est­ing din­ing des­ti­na­tion than it used to be.

Out of the way places can un­ex­pect­edly de­light in Bali too. We’ve stum­bled on ex­cel­lent restau­rants in com­pletely un­ex­pected places in Bali’s north (Kali Manik) as well as in the hills around Be­dugul (The Or­ganic Farm).

Bali’s rel­a­tively low costs mean that chefs can re­ally af­ford to ex­per­i­ment un­til they hit their stride – and din­ers are the ben­e­fi­cia­ries. The is­land is

likely not far off pro­duc­ing at least one in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised celebrity chef – en­tranced din­ers of­ten claim Pa­puan-born Man­dif Warokka of Teatro Gas­troteque is cook­ing to Miche­lin-star lev­els.

At the same time, Bali con­tin­ues to lure in­ter­na­tional tal­ent. Ital­ian chef Ezio Gritti, who won a Miche­lin star for his Berg­amo, Italy restau­rant, has just opened So­lata, while famed Amer­i­can pas­try chef Will Gold­farb cre­ates the avant-garde desserts at 2013-opened Me­jekawi, work­ing along­side Aus­tralia’s Ben Cross. French-Amer­i­can Chris Salans blazed a trail years ago with his de­gus­ta­tion menus at Mozaic, Ubud; Ni­cholas “Doudou” Tourneville presents ex­quis­ite FrenchMediter­ranean cui­sine at Métis, and Scots­man Will Meyrick has made Asian food very sexy by open­ing sump­tu­ous Sarong and Mama San. And that’s just the tip of the ice­berg.

So, where to eat what? Th­ese sug­ges­tions can­not be con­sid­ered any­where near ex­haus­tive, but should of­fer some ideas on where to start.

For truly spe­cial de­gus­ta­tion menus to spend en­tire evenings lin­ger­ing over, long­stand­ing Mozaic and its newer sis­ter restau­rant Mozaic Beach Club re­main top choices, joined in the past year or two by Teatro Gas­troteque, Me­jekawi and Lo­ca­vore.

For pan-Asian cui­sine, book well ahead to get a ta­ble at your pre­ferred time at Sarong and Mama San. Baba’s at Hu’u fo­cuses on Per­anakan cui­sine; down a few price notches, Ginger Moon Can­teen is a good bud­get choice. Ryoshi has long pro­vided top-notch af­ford­able Ja­panese cui­sine in is­land- wide lo­ca­tions while Mi­nami has a more re­fined set­ting, both in Ubud and Sa­nur. For In­dian, Queens of In­dia is a re­li­able choice.

For FrenchMediter­ranean op­tions, Métis and Sar­dine should

bar chain lo­cated in a vast 20-me­tre high bam­boo struc­ture.

Cof­fee is be­ing taken se­ri­ously in Bali th­ese days. Our top picks for a good brew are Ano­mali, Re­volver, Sen­i­man Cof­fee Stu­dio and Sea Cir­cus; you can’t go past at­mo­spheric Biku for its range of ex­quis­ite teas; and when it comes to pas­tries, Mon­sieur Spoon has blown the is­land away with its but­tery crois­sants and se­duc­tive tarts. For ar­ti­san ice cream, we reckon Gusto’s can’t be beat, while Gaya of­fers stiff com­pe­ti­tion -- but you’ll prob­a­bly have to try both to find your favourite.

Bali’s or­ganic food scene has been around a long time now – Sari Or­ganic in Ubud shouldn’t be missed, while for

so­phis­ti­cated din­ing, Chandi is a great choice. Raw food fans – and even car­ni­vores! – must not miss the in­cred­i­ble restau­rant at Fivele­ments, both for its set­ting and its world-class fare; for more every­day veg­e­tar­ian and raw meals, Alchemy, Clear, Soma, Earth Cafe, Bali Buda, Betel­nut, Manik Or­ganik, Zula’s and Wa­ter­cress are just a few of the many great op­tions spread across the is­land.

Some great restau­rants mas­quer­ade as beach clubs on the is­land too. The new Sun­dara is in a stun­ning Jim­baran lo­ca­tion, while is­land in­sti­tu­tion KuDeTa shows it still de­serves its great rep­u­ta­tion. Other top choices for a re­lax­ing gourmet day pool and beach­side in­clude Finn’s

Beach Club, the Beach Club at Karma Kan­dara, Co­coon and Potato Head.

For tra­di­tional, old­school Ba­li­nese food, try the Ba­li­nese nasi cam­pur at street­side Made Weti’s in Sa­nur, the fried fish set menu at 1941-opened Mak Beng’s, also in Sa­nur, or the chicken rice at Nasi Ayam Ibu Mangku in Ubud. Ar­gu­ments fly over who serves the best babi gul­ing on the is­land, but Ibu Oka’s in Ubud is a popular choice – and we’re fans of Warung Babi Gul­ing Sa­nur. The Renon area of Den­pasar of­fers an ex­plorer’s de­light when it comes to street and justoff-street din­ing – you’ll have to follow your nose in this area.

For Ba­li­nese food served in more salu­bri­ous sur­rounds, try Pregina in Sa­nur, Bumbu Bali in Tan­jung Benoa, Bali Asli near Am­la­pura – it’s worth the trek, trust us – Merah Pu­tih in Seminyak (which also cov­ers the rest of the ar­chi­pel­ago) and Alila’s Warung in Uluwatu.

A fi­nal word: cook­ing classes are a great ex­pe­ri­ence in Bali, whether for whip­ping up Ba­li­nese food or learn­ing the lat­est tech­niques on the in­ter­na­tional stage. Plenty of ho­tels of­fer Ba­li­nese cook­ing classes, but Bumbu Bali of­fers a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence with chef Heinz von Holzen, and you can’t beat Bali Asli’s lo­ca­tion, where Penny Wil­liams and her staff of­fer ex­cel­lent classes too. Mozaic Ubud and Me­jekawi are among those of­fer­ing more spe­cialised culi­nary classes.

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