The rijsttafel (rice table in Dutch) is an elaborate banquet composed of rice and between seven and 40 side dishes from across the archipelago. The colorful symphony of flavors and textures dates back to the Dutch colonial era, when it was used as a way to sample a wide variety of delicacies in one sitting. The side dishes are usually served at various temperatures, with pickled vegetables often eaten to cool the palate between different flavors.
Today, the rijsttafel has disappeared from most Indonesian restaurants, and the feast is only served at a few select venues that usually cater to foreigner visitors. Here are five Bali restaurants where the rijsttafel is still the star of the show.
Tugu’s lavish Grand Rijsttafel is held at the Bale Puputan, a dining chamber that pays tribute to the Balinese who gave their lives during the Puputan of Badung in 1906 and Puputan of Klungkung in 1908. The room’s Balinese royal antiques, some dating back to the 19th century, and artifacts from the Puputan war make an opulent setting for a feast. Tugu’s rijsttafel features Javanese dishes prepared using traditional recipes that have been passed down generations. The smorgasbord, which is served by 12 waiters in traditional attire, is comprises of 12 dishes including fish with turmeric spices, cucumber and carrot pickles; stuffed chili fritters with potato; marinated beef in crisp-grated coconut; and prawns in red sauce. The feast comes with turmeric rice, rice cooked in coconut milk and shrimp crackers. Advanced bookings are required.
Bumbu Bali has been attracting epicureans since it opened in Tanjung Benoa two decades ago. Focusing on authentic Balinese flavors served in a traditional village atmosphere, the semi-open restaurant serves two types of rijsttafel. The Balinese Rijsttafel consists of a soup, main dishes and three types of desserts, including pork, chicken and seafood sate; shredded chicken with chili and tomato; pork in sweet soy sauce; and diced fish grilled in banana leaf. Meanwhile, the restaurant’s Vegetarian Rijsttafel features dishes such as green papaya and mushroom soup, fermented soy bean cake sate, and braised vegetable in coconut milk. Both types of rijsttafel come with steamed rice, seasonal Balinese fruit and Balinese coffee or tea.
Back in the day, Bumbu Bali also used to serve a Seafood Rijsttafel but the feast was taken off the menu once sourcing fresh fish in Bali became too difficult. “The waters around Bali are empty,” proclaims Bumbu Bali’s website. Even though Bali is surrounded by oceans, the restaurant’s proprietors have found it impossible to serve the smorgasbord without flying seafood in from outside the island. Seafood still features on the restaurant’s a la carte menu, and the restaurant’s guests can rest assured that the its small number of seafood dishes are always fresh and of top quality.
Named after the popular Kuta lane, Poppies has been welcoming guests from around the world since it first opened its doors in 1973. The iconic restaurant offer both top notch fare and respite from the crowds outside its walls in a verdant garden setting, complete with small pools and fountains. The venue’s rijsttafel, which is served to the table on a specially adapted revolving Balinese ‘dulang,’ represents various cuisines from across the archipelago. Guests can expect dishes such as beef rendang, lamb stew, stir-fried squid in curry sauce, deep fried battered prawns and black rice pudding. The smorgasbord also comes with a range of sambal, including sambal kecap (chopped chili with sweet soy sauce) and sambal matah (sliced shallots, chili, lemongrass, oil and lemon juice), as well as cucumber and carrot pickles, steamed rice and fried rice.
Wijaya Kusuma Restaurant
Located just outside Ubud, Wijaya Kusuma overlooks verdant paddy fields and majestic mountains. To complete the lush picture, each Friday, the restaurant serves Indische Rijsttafel, a smorgasbord of dishes from across Indonesia, from the Betawi cuisine of Jakarta to the Padang fare of West Sumatra. The feast also consists of dishes with “hybrid influences,” such as Chinese babi ketjap (braised port ribs in sweet soy, chili and ginger). The Indische Rijsttafel is composed of delights such as sweet and sour crispy gurami, mixed vegetables in peanut sauce and creamed coconut chicken. The feast is served with the obligatory rice, as well as peanut crackers, selection of Balinese sweets, different types of sambal and coffee or tea.
Set along Jimbaran beach, a little away from the main strip of restaurants on the northern end of Jimbaran Bay, Bawang Merah delivers great food, spectacular sunsets and Balinese dance performances. Served on the terrace or a private beach table, the restaurant’s Balinese Rijsttafel consists of eight dishes and includes dessert. Food enthusiasts visiting the restaurant can look forward to sampling savories such as chicken and seafood sate, vegetable spring rolls, chicken and duck steamed in Balinese condiments and shredded chicken in thick coconut sauce. For dessert, black rice pudding sliced seasonal fruit in tamarind and palm sugar chili sauce are bound to satisfy even the most discerning sweet tooth. Bawang Merah’s rijsttafel also comes with rice, two sambal and crackers.
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