The rush to be a part of the Bali food scene continues. As with almost anywhere else in the world those who know what they are doing succeed, and most of the others fail. 2018 has seen so many new operations open and many close, some even opening and closing in the same year…
The following are some of the new places of 2018 that we have looked at, plus a few not so new that we discovered for the first time. Every year sees a new fashion that all seem to crave. Once it was to be called Mediterranean [often with no more than a pasta dish and a Greek salad], then it was Tapas [without any necessary Spanish connection]. Then it was the dry-aged beef and last year the Burger craze [irrespective of cuisine] catching up with the rest of the world. Now you find Burgers on almost every Bali menu from local cafes to 5 star restaurants. 2018 has been the year of Peruvian dishes and the edible flowers which have became fashionable with the success of René Redzepi’s incredible cuisine experiments at Copenhagen’s Noma [4 times voted the ‘Best Restaurant in the World’]. Rather ironic as flowers have been a part of Asian cuisines for centuries, The wonderful Thai Banana Flower Salad leading the way. Even in Bali stuffed zucchini blossoms had already been on menus for many years. Now a myriad of colours adorn many different dishes, across the island.
Most action this year was in Ubud and Canggu [where new places opened and closed, almost daily]. There was little activity on the northern and southern coasts, Lovina and Nusa Dua although Lovina welcomed Secret Garden, only 5 tables in a very secret garden so reservations are always essential. The attraction here is for the experience as a whole. Simple, but good, food. Italianish [pasta], fish & chips, local curries and seafood plus some local Balinese [sate lilit]. Nusa Dua, another secret, Secret Place, a friendly little place that classifies their coffees as their specialty. It is very popular for breakfasts with the many who want to escape from the 5 star hotels for a change. They serve simple food, well prepared and very cheap. On offer are local and international dishes. The place is hard to find but worth the effort.
Ubud saw many new openings
The Watercress Group opened an Ubud Milk & Madu after its success in Canggu, a bit more difficult here, up near Ibu Oka. Malabar is now one of Ubud’s many Indian restaurants. This one specializes in India’s cuisine of the south, Malabari, from the famous area of Kerala, where the curries are milder and more aromatic. The restaurant is located down a small gang [Arjuna] that runs off Monkey Forest Road at the top end.
Tulen is outside of Ubud in the northern village of Junjungan [Jln. Sri Wedari], it is in a perfect Bali rural setting of rice paddies and trees. Whilst the menu highlights most popular Balinese and Indonesian dishes there is also a full International menu, including many vegetarian options. Ubud Taliwang is just an open wantilan [with parking] opposite the Pertamina station on Jln. Raya Pengosekan. Taliwang is the national dish of Lombok; baby chickens or as they are called there Kampung [village] Chickens, are grilled or baked, sometimes with prior marination and sometimes just with accompanying sauce which is usually a nice fiery Sambal Ulek which is made from fresh hot red chilli (chopped, but seeds left in them), ground to a paste.
Nikkei is on Jln. Monkey Forest, opp. the public car park, next to Habitat and under the same management, it offers Nikkei cuisine a blend of Japanese and Peruvian, cool and fresh! The Salmon Carpacio is ginger flavoured, a Seafood Ceviche combines king prawn, tuna and salmon with wasabi and lemon juice. Lomo Saltado is Peruvian, stir-fried tenderloin in a dark Kyoto sake sauce with onion, baby potatoes, capsicum and edamame beans. Chicken Onigirazu is teriyaki chicken wrapped in nori seaweed, coated with tempura. The Poke Salmon Soba is so healthy; salmon and soba noodles. Enjoy a glass of coconut water with your meal.
Aperitif @ The Viceroy is a nostalgic visit for any of us who were lucky enough to have experienced 20th century fine dining at any of the great restaurants of Europe, and the star of 2018. The evening begins at the cocktail bar for pre dinner drinks whilst plucking snacks from the canapé tree before proceeding to the impressive dining room for the 8 course degustation dinner by their talented Belgian Chef Nic Vanderbeeken. Highlight of the meal for me was the Venison Wellington with foie gras, kale and a mushroom rendang sauce. Cut at the table by the chef and placed inside the ring of black truffle mash potato, honshimeji mushrooms and nasturtium leaves. The ultimate in fine dining! The original restaurant at The Viceroy was CasCades and it is still very special. Now headed by English chef Miles Belfield it offers French based cuisine but with Asian flavours. The new menu at CasCades includes some very interesting dishes such as a Quail Wellington.
Maison is Ubud’s newest Indian restaurant, It is found in Pengosekan at the busy corner opposite the petrol station. Entrees are standard; Samosas [potato and peas in a puff pastry], Paneer [cottage cheese], etc but it is only the 2nd Indian restaurant in Bali to offer Frankies [after Gateway], a great entree, soft Indian bread rolled around a choice of fillings, vegetarian, chicken or mutton.
Food Courts are difficult to establish outside of a busy business district but the Ubud Food Court on Tebasaya deserves to succeed. Professionally setup, immaculately clean [unlike many food courts in the world] with a large variety of cuisines, easy to eat for less than Rp.100,000.
Ubud restaurants are now extending into surrounding areas such as Andong, Mas, etc.Tek Kko Tek, is on Jln Raya Mas, very popular with all of the local villagers. Even adventurous foreigners venture there for spicy food. Their menu does not lie, it is titled “Chicken Firehot”. One of the most popular dishes is spicy chicken pieces served on noodles, Mie Tek Krotek. Further down the same street is Odette, stylish and great value. Their Middle Eastern Shakshuka is one of the best I have ever had, a perfect brunch; eggs poached in a hearty tomato ragout with either your choice of beans or minced beef, which comes with two large slabs of toast, very good for dunking. Dine inside or in the lower garden terrace.
Only a little action at Sanur. The Clubhouse, is it Sanur’s best kept secret? The Clubhouse is simple; just steaks, hot dogs and fish & chips. However most go there to enjoy some of the best steaks in Bali. On the back streets of Sanur it is not easy to find for the first time. It is in behind Hardy’s and The Oasis; Jln. Kesari II Gang Penjor No 15, sign-posted on Jln. Danau Tamblimgan. If you prefer a smaller steak then order a Steak Sandwich or Burger. The Hub has been all the rage in recent months, and threatens to be one success among many failures to open on The Bypass. It is on the northern end and is a giant glass house which seems to be the latest fashion in Bali restaurants. The Hub is offspring from the well established Bali Kopi House of Butterfly Coffee fame, at the southern end of The Bypass. The food is normal modern café fare seemingly with the emphasis on presentation.
Curry in Bali has opened on the old site that was once Warung Kayu Api, on The ByPass in central Sanur. After testing the water at Uluwatu for a few years they now bring this concept to Sanur. Indian with a difference as the menu concentrates on food from southern India, Kerala in particular, which is where the owner originates. South Indian style potato masala is made with boiled, crumbled potatoes in mild, flavorful gravy. It is served with hot, puffed Poori’s (deep fried Indian wheat bread). Chicken Livers are marinated in spices, then pan roasted with onions & tomatoes. Kerala Beef Fry is a classic from this mostly non-Hindu Christian area. The star of this menu must be their Crab Masala [pictured], thick and rich. For me it was the all day breakfast Kerala dish that I liked most; the Poori. With its potato curry which you spoon into it, fold and eat, sublime!.
Beach House Sanur may sound like a new restaurant, it is and it isn’t. On the beach at Semawang, south of Sanur it is the re-branded Stiff Chilli which was always one of Sanur’s best budget-priced restaurants. The Tree Bar, beachfront at Maya Sanur has become the most popular sunset bar in Sanur. There are all of those standard bar snacks; olives, onion rings [remoulade sauce], potato wedges [spiced] and Japanese Endamame [steamed soy beans with sea salt] plus many more exotic options. Their tasty Chicken Wontons are served in the style of that popular Thai entrée, translated as ‘money bags’, minced chicken in a thin crisp wrapping with spicy aioli dip. The Salt & Pepper Squid arrives in a bucket of generous size, all of which are small bite-sized tender pieces, the dip is soy and red pepper [just enough to keep up the thirst].
Half way between Ubud and Sanur is Kalamansi, a new stylish Indonesian restaurant on Jln. Raya Batu Bulan, an extension of the popular Odette restaurants in Ubud. With ample parking in front and air-con inside, it is all very professional. Standard Indonesian entrees include Otak-Otak [minced fish and spices wrapped in banana leaf]. Kroket Kentang are of chicken and mashed potato, crumbed and deep fried. Batagor are dumplings of a combined chicken, prawn and tofu whilst Asinan Udang are tiger prawns tossed in a spicy salad. Nasi Campur is a feature of Kalamansi but only available for lunch. The Beetroot Carpaccio is combined with mint yoghurt, red berries, cashews and feta.
There are the normal number of new arrivals [and departures] in the Kerobokan area. Why do newcomers keep saying their address is Seminyak [or now even Canggu] when it is actually Kerobokan? Misinformation and very confusing for all!
Sangsaka is new on Jln. Pangkung Sari, with chef Kieran Morland presiding over the woks. Start with Udang Woku [charcoal prawns with vermicelli and komangi] or Gurita Kalio [wood roasted octopus] then Ikan Kalap [Red Emperor, Clams, lemongrass, calamansi] Pipi Sapi Andaliman [glazed beef cheek, tomato, chilli] or Celeng Siobak [suckling pig, rose apple, star anis]. The Fat Turtle is small and cosy. It is so small that you can easily mss it [near to Deus Machina] on Jln. Petitenget. Its specialty is all day breakfasts or brunch. They have all of the standard options plus a few exotics including that American breakfast norm of Pancakes. Honey Bees, also on Jln. Petienget is that old style Bali restaurant that has almost disappeared. Mainly local cuisine [plus local interpretations of International cuisines] Indo-English on the menu and crazy low prices. Many breakfast sets for less than Rp.30,000, very good rice and noodle dishes all served with friendly smiles.
Chachara describes itself as being ‘in the heart of Seminyak’! In fact it is far from Seminyak as it is on Jln, Batu Belig, Kerobokan. For such a stylish fit-out the prices here are amazingly reasonable. Open for Brunch on Sundays and dinner only on other days, Tuesday to Saturday. Mini Hamburgers are what the Americans call Sliders. South American Ceviche [marinated raw fish], Italian Polpettes [meat balls] and Spanish Churrasco are all available. That wonderful Spanish cold soup Gazpacho is served Andalusian style, a classic Paella Valenciana, a steak and whole fish and you have a menu that should suit everyone.
Atlas Kitchen & Coffee may be hard to find but it is worth the effort. Situated in a small gang by Gourmet Café, Gang Kecapi, off Petitenget. They serve a variety of food from SE Asia but it is the Crisp Pork Belly and Hainanese Chicken Rice that are the two main house specialties that everyone comes for here. Bikini is on Jln. Kayu Cendana. The Décor is a blaze of colours. The food is modern International and include Spice-glazed Chicken, Barramundi with XO Clams and seaweed crackers, Miso Butterfish, Grilled Beef Ribs, Suckling Pig, or Lamb Shoulder.
Aya Street is a Peruvian restaurant on Jln. Petitenget. Ceviche is almost the national dish of Peru, although it is commonly served at all coastal areas of South America. Its origins are from the fishing fleets of years gone by that would be at sea for many days on end. The food of the fishermen was to eat some of the fresh fish that they had just caught, gutting it and cutting it up into chunks whilst fresh, marinating it in squeezed lemon juice then adding salt, onions and peppers. It was easy to eat whilst they were fishing. Naturally at Aya Street Ceviche is their signature dish. Pulpo, Spanish for octopus, is so difficult to prepare and cook. There are also many other seafood dishes but one meat dish that is very popular is their Lomo, another Peruvian specialty, marinated beef strips with tomato and onions.
Balkan BBQ, Jln. Kunti, Seminyak offers food from the Balkans, S.E. Europe including the popular ćevapčići, minced meat shaped like a skinless sausage and grilled on the BBQ, kebab style. Jackson Lily’s has emerged on the site that once was the popular Belgian jazz restaurant of Mannekepis, Jln. Raya Seminyak, now operated by Dean Keddell of Ginger Moon with his interpretation of Modern Asian cuisine. Fresh Spring Rolls, Mushroom Dumplings and Pumpkin Salad are just some of his creations. Canggu and the changes are almost daily.
INK is a good name for a Tattoo place but a strange one for a restaurant. However that is what this new Japanese in Canggu [Pantai Berawa] is called but they do at least admit that they are a little bit crazy, cheeseburger stuffed spring rolls, what next? At least they are different not all same, same! Fat Mermaid, strange name, strange place. It is one of the newbies in Canggu. It is a little hidden and out of the way on Jln. Nelayan. There is a large mural on the front wall of the two tier building and a colourful neon sign on the garden wall inside the restaurant. Hearty food but not old fashioned as traditional dishes are often given a modern twist.
Sizzle Wraps, on Jln. Padang Linjong, is Mexican with a touch of fusion.The Tostados can be chicken, pork, beef or vegetarian based with eggplant, lettuce, beans, corn, feta, guacamole, cheddar, sour cream and chipotie sauce added.. The Fish Tacos use grilled Mahi-Mahi. The Carnitas [slow cooked pulled pork tacos] are also with lettuce, cheddar, guacamole, sour cream and chipotie. Rise and Shine Cafe, Jl. Padang Linjong, Canggu, starts the day with breakfasts. Sundays they are served all day, but only till 11.00 a.m, on other days. They offer a range of ‘Benedicts’ all served on English muffins, poached egg on top and breakfast potatoes on the side, in either half or full portion sizes. There is even a fish version, either grilled or blackened. More unusual is the Corned Beef Hash as a Benedict? Or you can have your Hash and Eggs on toast if you prefer? 3 Egg Omelettes are also on the menu with many different ingredient combinations.
Taco Casa keeps on spreading its wings. Now at Jln. Batu Mejan, Canggu with its popular Cal-Mex, Tex-mex offerings. No doubt that will be yet another success story? Berawa’a Kitchen is Canggu”s classy food court, Jln. Raya Semar. With outlets selling Pizza, Indian, Burgers, Crepes and a variety of other dishes. Snacks and meals. local and international in s pleasamt gardem settimg.
Como Beach Club has hit the road running! The project, that was once to be a Como Beach Sentosa, has taken an eternity to reach fruition and is now the Como Uma Canggu. The Beach Club is its all purpose restaurant. Way different to the budget restaurants that made Echo Beach what it is today, and obviously much more expensive but no one seems to complain due to the food, service and location. Their Kiwi Chef offers a menu that is full of seafood specials. The Beach Club is a place to linger and enjoy; eating and sipping, quality dining! What we have come to expect from this incredible group.
Gypsy is found on Jln. Munduk Catu, and is the home of Canadian Chef Robin Filteau-Boucher. Open all day, breakfast can be toast many ways [French, avocado, eggplant or eggs], or eggs the usual way with roasted potatoes or Hash Browns actually made on site. Or you can have Tuna Tacos or Tuna Tartare wrapped in rice sushi-style. A crispy Bacon Roll or a Sloppy Jack; pulled jackfruit tossed with BBQ sauce, coleslaw, avocado and cashews. Refreshingly different!
Banh Mi & Beans on Jln. Raya Semat, is the place to go for that special Vietnamese sandwich. A Banh Mi is a French baguette stuffed with assorted fillings after its inside has been coated with a chicken liver pate, Traditionally the baguette is very crunchy on the outside, and soft inside. The Banh Mi Thit Ga [chicken] Is probably the most popular. The Coffées can be Vietnamese or the normal espresso options. Souphoria on Jln. Bumbak, is most unusual in that their menu is all pork! They serve their pork ribs in a soup. Loco Moco is a Hawaiian special of rice, meat and a fried egg on top. Or you can go Chinese with Pork Belly and Salted Egg. Nothing is wasted here…. you can also order Pig Ears, very spicy!
Burritos by Goodwood is one of the latest rave places in the new Canggu. Yes they are Mexican based, very Tex-Mex in fact, but offer a lot more than just burritos. They are found on Jln, Pantai Berawa. These burritos though are different, stuffed with your choice of chicken, pork or beef, all the meats are smoked. There is even a Vegetarian Burrito, Shady Shack, on Jl. Tanah Barak, can be best described as a trendy café. Whether that is good or bad purely depends on your personal preferences. Places such as this, catering mainly for the vegetarian, even vegan, market, can sometimes disappoint those who want a bit more. It offers healthy food and that even includes Burgers, but these are with Tempe or Halloumi. As in many vegetarian restaurants much of the food comes in bowls, just many different combinations of raw and cooked food. Rice, Tempe, Halloumi, Nori Seaweed or just Veggie. If this is your scene then this will be foodie heaven for you. Moana is on Jln. Pamtai Batu Bolong. It calls itself a ‘fish eatery’, a strange title but I guess that is what it really is. The owner is Polynesian and the fish is prepared in that style. Many of the dishes feature raw fish, even in some of the salads In fact the Poke Bowl is a raw fish salad that originated in Hawaii. Tuna can be just seared in a Carpaccio [Italian Polynesian or just International?] but the cooked versions are never overcooked which is a pleasant change. There are also many grilled fish dishes and that normally includes an excellent Mahi Mahi.
Hai Ling has replaced the long closed Feyloon Restaurant on Raya Kuta [opp KFC]. Still serves Cantonese cuisine with a large selection of dim sum, in fact nothing much seems to have changed since it was Feyloon.
Jollie Kitchen is a new Middle Eastern restaurant on Jln. Kartika Plaza in front of and a part of the Paradiso Hotel. Bathinjan bil Humus [mixed vegetables with curry sauce, topped with feta], many Kofta [minced meat]; bil Sanayah with potato curry, Labanieh with bread and garlic sauce, or Mixed Kebabs [both kofta and sheesh kebabs]. Mains include Shawarma [lamb or beef], Djaj Mahwi [BBQ chickcn leg with fatoush salad and potato or a fusion mish-mash of Spaghetti and chilli tuna, Rista bil Sammakh.
At Jimbaran Above Eleven Rooftop Bar & Restaurant is an intruder from Bangkok, Thailand, where it has been packing them in ever since 2012. It is situated at the Movenpick Resort in Jimbaran, on the rooftop, but with its own separate entrance. It can almost be called a beach club as it overlooks the sea. The Nikkei cuisine, a blend of Peruvian and Japanese food specialties, is complemented with a raw seafood bar. There is a range of Peruvian Ceviche such as the original with red onion, sweet potato and chilli or just a simple one with mango and chilli. There are also Causas [mashed potato, chilli and lime with various toppings, such as crab meat, quail egg and avocado], Tiraditos [Peruvian sashimi] and Anticuchos [grilled skewers of meat or seafood; pork neck, baby squid, chicken thighs, beef heart]. The stars of the mains are Lomo Saltado [grilled beef tenderloin with onions, chilli, coriander], and the amazing Seco de Cordero, lamb shank slow cooked in beer, chilli and coriander For such an up-market operation the prices are quite surprisingly moderate.
Up on the Bukit at Uluwatu Sake no Hana is a high class Japanese restaurant. A part of the Hakkasan Group it was first established in Mayfar, London then subsequently exported to Saudi Arabia. Now it is also in Bali at Uluwatu. Headed by Michelin guide-starred chef Hideki Hiwatashi, the restaurant offers the refined Toban and Kamameshi cuisines. At the Sushi Bar you can watch as your order is prepared, which is the way that it should always be done. The restaurant joins the Omnia Day Club at the Uluwatu Alila Resort. This is very fine dining, Japanese style.
Sundays Beach Club is re-branded from the original Finns Beach Club at Uluwatu. The place is called Sundays but it is open every day. The food menu is designed to suit the location with many finger food options; Tacos [Barramundi], Viet Bao Buns [stuffed with Tempura Lobster or Char Siu], Duck Sang Choi Bao [wrapped in crisp lettuce leaf]. The Burgers include Bacon & Egg, Barramundi, Crisp Chicken, Falafel or the Original.[Aussie beef, onion & cheese]. For dessert the Aussie/NZ Pavlova.
As for 2019 will it be more of the same? As Bali continues to grow its reputation as the culinary hot spot of Asia no doubt more and more will attempt to establish a presence, those with industry knowledge of operating restaurants in a tourist environment may well succeed, others will not.
What we do know is that current successful ones will continue to expand. The Happy Chappy chain will open EXPRESS versions [mainly for take away] in a number of new locations. The management of the highly successful Naughty Nuri’s Seminyak [so much better than the original in Ubud] will open other new franchises. Ryoshi Sanur moves to a new larger site further south, same road. Taco Casa, one of Ubud’s most successful restaurants of the past decade, currently in temporary premises, moves back to its original location in a big new two level building. Also in Ubud a new fish restaurant on Raya Ubud and the weirdly named Burger Cartel in Pengosekan. Melting Pot, Bali’s biggest and best sports bar and Texan restaurant, is always extending and is now adding a new front entrance that will feature Texan style saloon swinging doors, the only thing missing will be the gunfights.
As well many long established restaurants re-invented themselves with new modern menus, such as Ubud’s Lamak, one of the pioneers of fine Ubud dining. 20 years ago there were three before the arrival of Mozaic [Ary’s and TeraZo are long gone]. The new menu at Lamak includes my favourites; Chicken Breast stuffed with mango puree and a great Pomelo Crab, edible flowers and all [pictured].
Bali still presents the best ‘value for money’ dining in Asia, and the widest variety of different cuisines. Aren’t we lucky?
Best New Restaurants – 2018
Fine Dining – Aperitif – the ultimate in traditional fine dining.
Asian – Curry in Bali – the fragrant curries of Kerala, southern India.
Best Value – Odette – International food at almost warung prices
Café – Tree Bar – location, taste, value
Cheap Eats – Ubud Food Court – range of cuisines, budget priced