I despair at the standard Bali International menu which I often refer to as a ‘tourist’ one, even though I know how necessary it is. Most tourists, whilst they may stray once or twice, prefer food just like home. Of course what is served in many local restaurants may sound like ‘at home’ but not resemble it in looks or taste, and that is the saddest part.
However the Watergarden Kafe at Candi Dasa provides a nice balance and a big thanks to the thoughtful management who were virtually the first in Bali to signify all nut-free and gluten-free items in their menu, a constant problem for Bali tourists with dietary problems. As of today only a handful of restaurants in the south bother to conform by supplying this essential requirement!
Now Watergarden are also adding a selection of dishes prepared with the ‘sous vide’ cooking method to their menu. The equipment has arrived from Europe and the kitchen staff is being trained in its use by a leading international chef.
Sous Vide [French for ‘under vacuum’] is a revolutionary cooking method in which food is vacuum-sealed in a plastic pouch and then placed in a water bath or steam environment for longer than normal cooking times (usually 1 to 7 hours, up to 48 or more in some cases) at an accurately regulated temperature. The temperature is much lower than normally used for cooking, typically around 55 to 60 °C (131 to 140 °F) for meat, higher for vegetables. The intent is to cook the item evenly, ensuring that the inside is properly cooked without overcooking the outside, and to retain moisture.
This sous vide process was introduced to Bali by Chris Salans at Mozaic many years ago, soon followed by a number of other fine dining restaurants in the south. Now, also to be available at Candi’s Kafe Watergarden.
That new part of the menu was not quite ready when I last dined there but should be available from early March.
I often order the simplest dishes when visiting restaurants, items found on many other menus. For me that is where the kitchen’s attention to detail is best examined. The appetisers at Wategarden set the scene for a pleasant meal. The Asian collection includes Thai Fish Cakes, they are not the Thai Tod Man Pla with their rubbery consistency but rather patties of minced fish nicely spiced. The accompanying sweet ginger and cucumber relish is perfect and very Thai.
The Samosas are triangles of a very light pastry wrapped around curried vegetables and eggplant caviar, the flavour a trace of Madras, served with guacamole [different, but tastes good]. To this list add the Indonesian favourite of Prekedel Jagung [spicy corn fritters].
For the International set there are Italian Bruschettas [fresh tomato, basil, garlic, olive oil dressing] and from the USA, Potato Skins [with 2 dips, a cocktail sauce and one of garlic mayonnaise].
Soups can be Indonesian, Soto Madura, bihun noodles, hard-boiled egg, chilli and vegetables in a rich chicken soup, or a selection of healthy vegetarian ones; tomato [with crisp garlic bread], cauliflower [veloute with sesame seeds] or pumpkin [toasted seeds, crème fraiche, feta cheese, spring onion, virgin olive oil & thyme bread].
I love snacking and there a few here which I will find it difficult not to re-try. What can be easier than the standard Fish and Chips, or the more exotic Potato Royale [mashed potato with bacon, melted cheese, jalapeno pepper, accompanied with a black pepper béarnaise sauce]. For the homesick Aussie there are real Meat Pies; beef, chicken or vegetarian.
There is a Cheese & Onion Quiche served with a red pepper sauce and green salad as well as the essential Cheese Burger, etc. For the Vegetarian [there are many options throughout the menu] a Chickpea Burger with a bit of taste [coriander and garlic] which is surprisingly good and a Vegetarian Focaccia [grilled eggplant, roasted bell peppers, onion, sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella on toasted rosemary focaccia] From the pizza oven, thin and crispy pizzas with a variety of toppings.
Asian mains include a Laksa from Sumatra [seafood poached in coconut milk and spice paste with baby corn, bok choy, snow peas, bean sprouts, oyster mushrooms, glass noodles, coriander & red finger chili] very hot and sour, the way it should be! From India a Tikka Masala, chicken fillet, chili, tomato puree, curry masala with yoghurt.
There are also a few International dishes, Fricassee of Mahi-Mahi. Sweet & Sour Pork Chinese style, an unusual Leg of Lamb Confit where the meat is stripped from the leg and rolled, cooked in its own juice with rosemary and tomato. Quality lamb dishes are quite rare in Bali, this one is special. A Fillet Mignon is a welcome blast from the past, tenderloin fillet of beef wrapped in bacon and grilled [the bacon keeps the centre moist whilst the outside cooks, the crisp bacon itself an extra bonus].
Pan Fried Prawns [pictured] are a local special, large prawns cooked with diced zucchini, large red chillies and paprika in a prawn sauce reduction. Other local dishes include Sates [chicken and pork] and Udang Panggang, prawns with a bite, grilled with a spice paste of sambal matah.
The Vegetarian menu gets a lot of attention at Watergarden as it the owner’s personal choice of dining. I like the 3 Bean Chilli dish [for those who want a bit of spice with their veggies] black and kidney beans with chickpeas are served in a thick chilli tomato sauce. Tahu Gunting is dried fried soya bean curd in a spicy peanut sauce with lontong [rice steamed in a piece of banana leaf].
At dessert time it is hard to go past the excellent Apple Crumble, topped with vanilla ice cream compote of blueberries or their Tiramisu topped with orange cardamom cream. For those special dinners there is a full Rijstaffel or the classic Balinese Duck or Chicken Betutu, both for two persons and due to the extended preparation time must be order a day in advance.
Candi Dasa is really growing up! To imagine this variety of cuisine at this standard and low price being available in Candi Dasa says it all.
Restaurant : Watergarden Kafe
Address : The Watergarden Hotel, Candi Dasa.
Telephone : (0363) 41.544
Open : Breakfast, lunch and dinner
Non-smoking Area : Yes.
Smoking Area : Yes.
Air-conditioned Area : No.
Parking : Secure at hotel entrance.
Price : Rp. 400.000 for two [+ drinks].
Credit Cards : All major cards.
Food : Very International.
Wine : Medium list
Service : Friendly and knowledgeable.
Atmosphere : Dining in a water garden.
Overall : Great value and variety for Candi Dasa.
Copyright © 2018 Gerry Williams
Reviews that appear in Bali Advertiser are based on actual visits to the establishments listed, without the knowledge of the restaurants, and are not paid for by the individual restaurants.
Opinions expressed here are those of Gerry Williams and not necessarily those of Bali Advertiser. Gerry Williams attempts to write from a ‘typical’ diner’s perspective and, whilst quality of food is the most important criteria overall, value for money is the real measuring stick.