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 2019 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 was the year of Peruvian dishes and in 2019 the edible flowers 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.
During 2019 many restaurateurs, both professional and amateur, attempted to open pure Vegan restaurants, most failed. Why do they keep doing it?
Most action this year was in Ubud and Canggu [where new places opened and closed, almost daily]. The biggest surprise was the emergence of a couple of excellent restaurants in Bali’s north, Lovina. Leading the way was Geert de Myer’s intimate, classy 10th Table. To find this level of attention to detail in the previously very basic north of Bali was both surprising and most welcome. Geert’s experience as Hotel Manager on one of the world’s most luxurious cruise ships came to the fore. Fine dining French, with some subtle Asian touches!
Following behind, in the north, is what has almost become an annual event in Bali, a new restaurant from that man, Marinos. This time it is called Riverside [but don’t look for a river], and conforms to his proven recipe for success, comfort food at budget prices with friendly smiling service. Almost 20 years ago he opened a small nondescript ‘Greek warung’, called Mykonos Taverna on a lonely road in Kerobokan [the road to Oberoi] surrounded by rice paddies, Within months with constant packed houses, everyone else rushed to also open a restaurant on what I then called, Eat Street.
Whilst the east coast of Bali remained fairly static, Ubud, as usual, opened its doors to many newcomers and said goodbye to a few. It is becoming very difficult to fill up restaurants in Ubud these days with such an enormous choice of venues, so sadly many are running at a loss or close to it. Hence it is truly amazing, and very pleasing, that last year’s discovery of all time, Aperitif @ The Viceroy has kicked on, continuing to offer the finest dining in Bali, and often to a packed house.
The new flavour in Ubud seemed to be Italian. Both Famous and L’Osteria took over sites that had previously failed but hit the right notes from day one. Famous, in Pengosekan, has a delightful rear garden area that has proved to be very popular and L’Oosteria has survived the tragic loss of their Italian chef in a late night motor bike accident. Other new places such as Bittersweet [Monkey Forest Road] include Italian items on their more International menu [Pumpkin Ravioli in a classic sage butter and a Portobello Mushroom Fettuccine]. Seasoned [Pengosekan] concentrates on rice dishes; Indian, Chinese, Thai and Spanish, as well as Indonesian.
Twist is not much more than a ‘hole in the wall’, so small it is easy to miss. It nestles in the corner of a busy little stretch of budget restaurants on Raya Pengosekan, Ubud [next door to the original location of Taco Casa, to which they have now returned with majestically renovated premises]. The Caramelized Pork is exceptional [a touch of Vietnam?], as are the curries which are Thai style]. The Birds & The Bees is yet another zany name for a Bali restaurant. This one is on Jln. Monkey Forest on Ubud at what was once Lotus Lane [one of the last of the Lotus restaurants in Bali, the original Café Lotus in Ubud having reverted back to the property owner years ago]. An attractive fit out presents it as a happy place, the menu caters for the gluten free crowd with even g/f pizzas. Lettuce Cups and gin-infused cocktails are the specialty of the house
Bonito is found on Ubud’s ‘Cheap Eat Street’, Jln. Goutomo [no parking, pedestrians only, runs between Dewa Sita and Raya Ubud] where many places offer mains at Rp. 50,000, or less. Bonito is marginally more expensive but that does not seem to deter the customers. A healthy salad; Spinach, avocado and mango with pickled fennel, rocket, caramelised cashew nuts and a ginger sesame lime vinaigrette On the corner of Goutomo and Raya Ubud is Union Café, part of the Habitat team and offering a similar fare.
Olive is located in the village of Petulu, north of Andong, Ubud [Jl. Tirta Tawar]. A small place with its home made dips [hummus, baba ganoush], salads [tabbouleh, fattoush] and snacks [falafel sandwich]. OIA is a new Greek and Mediterranean restaurant on Raya Ubud [next door to the Museum Puri Lukisan]. Mezze Platter, Gyros, Souvlaki, and a bit of fusion with Lamb Lasagne. Velvet is hidden away on Jl. Lungsiakan, in Kedewatan, north-west of Ubud. With so many Tex and Cal Mex restaurants all over Bali it is indeed unusual to find a Mexican in the kitchen as is the case here. Whilst referring to itself as a Seafood Grill restaurant, the food is regional Mexican.
Another surprise in the Ubud area was Usha Café, yet again taking a previously failed position on the hill between Pengosekan and Lod Tunduh, it brings Ukranian cuisine to Ubud with those wonderful dumplings, pirogies and chebureki. Even a hearty Borscht for the cold morning!
Mimpi Manis, Jl. Tandakan, Sanur, is just in front of, and operated by the same owner/chef, as Kayu Manis. Not to be confused with the hotel of the same name, as there is no connection. Mimpi Manis has the same attention to detail in the kitchen as big brother but serving local cuisine instead of the international offerings that have long made Kayu Manis one of Sanur’s best restaurants.
Sanur saw a stop to their recent spate of openings with local adjustments only. Ryoshi, one of the Sanur originals, moved to new premises at the southern end and offering the first Chirashi Sushi Bar in Bali. Chirashi Sushi is the way that sushi is often served in the home in Japan. A bowl is layered with sushi rice and topped with a selection of sliced vegetables. The evergreen Massimo is far from a new restaurant but keeps up to date with constant new offerings. Highlights this year were the use of a rotary oven to fire their pizzas and a sensational range of Semifredo, an amazing Italian dessert which must be made at a temperature of minus 20 to set, but then is maintained at minus 5 degrees thereafter, half cold [semi-fredo]. It has a base of sponge cake and rum to which a vast variety of different ingredients are added, The range at Massimo includes Trinakria [pictured] with pomegranate, lemon sorbet and strawberry, quite sensational!
In the south a spattering of new openings in Tuban. Johnny Tacos is a simple name and simple tacos [mostly of the fresh variety, rather than deep fried] is what you get. A small space close to the Green Garden Hotel, Jln. Kartika Plaza, it is easy to miss even though it has a very colorful décor. Always busy which tells its own story! A few other Mex dishes but it is the tacos that they all come for. Sukun is the restaurant at the Amnaya Resort just off Jl. Kartika Plaza, Tuban [Gang Puspa Ayu]. Indonesian is the main cuisine although being in a resort there is also a very International menu. Set in tropical gardens the setting was fittingly designed by the late Made Wijaya, who was once a young Australian tourist who made Bali his home and left many landscaping monuments, such as this, behind. Eggs dishes are to the fore with an excellent Benedict leading the way. An unusual but interesting breakfast offering was to combine eggs with soft shell crab.
Henry’s is a Bar & Grill on Jln. Kartika Plaza, next to Lippo Mall. It is all about dry aged beef that has been grilled, smoked or cured. Jollie Kitchen is a Middle Eastern restaurant on Jl. 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].
New in Kuta, the Boss Man sells burgers, from their two locations; Poppies II and Raya Cendana.The Original has 160g beef patty, American cheddar, iceberg lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, grilled onions, pickles, American mustard, thousand island, horse radish aioli. Nebula is a trendy café in the old tourist area of Poppies Lane II, Kuta. Different from the rest it serves great coffee and a range of breakfasts, brunch, snacks and light meals. The cuisine is mostly Asian but also with many western dishes with Asian touches. Healthy breakfasts, wraps, burgers, etc. The Quinoa Salad is very healthy.
Along to Legian and Maybe Tony almost gets it right. Breakfast [brunch] is served till 5.00 p.m., almost all day. This is an almost new café/restaurant on Jln. Legian, Kuta [opposite Sky Garden]. It is small, intimate and very friendly. Their Italian chef turns quality product out of the kitchen, not just the Italian basics, even the burgers are good. A bit better than what you expect to find in this area.
Happy Chappy Express has opened its 1st outlet in Legian. Whilst it is located on Jln. Padma Utara it is a little difficult to find as it is just off the street in the centre of a line of small shops at the entrance-way to the Garden View Hotel. On offer is a full range of dim sum as well as a selection of the most popular dishes from the main menu at their so popular main restaurant in Jln. Braban; Kung Pao Chicken, Szechuan Beef, Sweet & Sour Pork, Firecracker Chicken, Salt & Pepper Squid, etc.
Canggu as in recent years, saw the most openings [and closings], everyone seems to want to open a restaurant here. Indigo on Jln. Pantai Berawa, Canggu, is quality Japanese. They offer classic dishes as well as their innovative ‘new style’ sashimi and the unusual Yakimono dishes cooked over the charcoal grill. For something very different try the Gyoza stuffed with foie gras. Ithaka began in Canggu [Jln. Pantai Batu Bolong] and then also opened in Ubud [Jln. Tirta Tawar]. They offer what is always popular, simple tasty food that is cheap! It was not the first, nor will it be the last, place opened by surfers who came to Bali, fell in love with the island and stayed.. Nude Café is on Jln. Pantai Berawa, In this case ‘nude’ is supposed to mean food for a healthy body rather than being served by naked staff. It is open from early morning so breakfast is the go and you can be as healthy or not, as you like? The Berry Chia Parfait, berry compote on a chia yogurt with homemade granola, coconut and maple syrup, ticks all the boxes as does the Mango & Kiwi Bowl with its mango, kiwi and pineapple salsa with coconut and orange.
Koloni is a café on Jln. Raya Semat, Canggu. Breakfast is only available in the mornings, something that I always find very strange as in a tourist environment they should always be available all day. However what they do offer is very good. Smoothie Fruit Bowls with dragon fruit, chia seeds, and a variety of fresh fruit. The house special is their Carrot Cake Waffle served with cream cheese and sliced almonds. BB52 is the burger house they are all talking about, Jl. Tanah Barak, Canggu. Even the all Vegan Mushroom Burger gets rave reviews. The Fries come with a truffled mayonnaise and Parmesan flakes. Rise and Shine Caféis on Jl. Padang Linjong, Canggu. As the name suggests it specializes in breakfasts. Souphoria on Jl. Bumbak, in Canggu, is most unusual in that their menu is all pork! They serve their pork ribs in a soup. Pork Sate may not be that unusual but these are very large ones. Loco Moco is a Hawaiian special of rice, meat and a fried egg on top. At Souphoria that meat is of course. pork. The Breakfast Burrito is the star of the show but there are many other options.
Da Romeo is on Jl. Pantai Berawa, Canggu. It is very Italian and very popular. Carpaccio can be traditional beef or tuna but the starter that most regular diners order is their Burrata con Pomodorini, an amazing Italian cheese, mozzarella on the outside and cream inside, simply served with just tomatoes and basil, drizzled with olive oil. The marinated sardines are another favourite. Many different pastas but Pici is their specialty, an unusual pasta from Tuscany. Starter Lab is a bakery, found on Jln. Padang Linjong in Canggu. It has become a go to place for all the lovers of sourdough bread. Perhaps the first Bali operation to make it big in Singapore, now that really is a feat. Well, there’s a new kid on the block definitely worth checking out if you’re a big fan of sourdough. Co-founder Emerson Manibo trained at the famous Per Se restaurant in New York, and Tartine Bakery before venturing into his own bakery business, Starter Lab, back in 2017. Their outlet at Havelock Road, Singapore is their second one!
Occasionally you walk into a new restaurant for the first time and immediately feel at home. Such was the case at Avenue A, an American Gastropub set up by Billy Joe [a.k.a. Bill Collyer], with a homely ambiance, New York Pizzas [fermented dough base], wonderful smoked meats from America’s south and a few of Italian grandmother’s old favourite dishes, you just know that you are going to return again, and again.
Moana Fish Eatery made its name in Canggu and has now also opened an outlet on Jl. Raya Taman, Seminyak. Self-styled as Polynesian it offers Hawaiian dishes such as the strangely named Poke Bowls. According to Wikapedia, Poke is diced raw fish served either as an appetizer or as a main course and is one of the main dishes of Native Hawaiian cuisine. Traditional forms are aku and heʻe. Heʻe poke is usually called by its Japanese name Tako Poke, except in places like the island of Niʻihau where the Hawaiian language is spoken. So Moana offers poke, the Maui specialty, as well a range of other seafood dishes. Duck, Duck, Goose is a Canadian chef’s interpretation of Asian street food. It is found on Jln Mertanadi, Kerobokan. The menu has dishes from just about everywhere in Asia. They do not claim that all are perfectly traditional as many are re-invented from their own travel memories. Fresh, clean and relaxed, an interesting stop for a tasty snack or meal.
Flat Stanley, Jln. Taman Ganesha, Petitenget brings Californian style pizzas to Bali. Start with Salumi and Charcuterie, a selection of meats and pickles or a Cheese Board of 4 cheeses, tomato jam and olives, Small plates include Salt-roasted Beets with whipped feta, sorrel and heirloom radish, Grilled Asparagus with shaved parmesan, Charred Broccoli with peanuts and chilli pesto, Grilled Octopus and Meatballs.
Mauri is Italian on Jl. Petitenget. A small intimate restaurant it also offers a chef’s table setting for 5 persons. Upstairs is just for small snacks. Chef Mauricio was originally at the Bulgari and later at Ubud’s Ritz Carlton before branching out on his own, serving traditional dishes from the south. Their Beef Cheek Tortelli is a great example of tradition with a twist. Tempted is on Jl. Lebak Sari, Petitenget. They tempt you with a range of Italian classics. Such as Polpette al sugo, a famous family dish from Sicily, large meat balls stuffed with a nut of mozzarella in a thick tomato broth. Fritto Misto alla Romana is a plate of deep-fried prawns and squid with pumpkin, sage and onions and a lemon mayonnaise.
Rev Bistro is French. Located on Jln. Yudistira, Seminyak it offers classic French plus a few international dishes. Fish Mosseline with Quenelles Lyonnaise, Foie Gras, Mustard Rabbit, Frogs’ Legs and for your steak a decadent Tournedos Rossini
. Hibiscus is a surprise! It is found on Jl. Drupadi, and presents classic Indonesian but in a creative style, with a selection of international favourites. Even their Spring Rolls are different, minced chicken with pineapple and fresh mint in a crisp casing, so good. Many chicken mains including Lombok’s Taliwang, Bali’s Betutu and Rica-Rica, the fiery chicken from Manado in North Sulawesi. Liebeling is almost rural with its rice paddy views on Jln. Kunti II, Seminyak. They serve both local Indonesian fare and a selection of western dishes. A relaxing spot so close to the action but also far removed from it. The menu has a German influence, as the name suggests; Schnitzels, Currywurst, etc. The Chicken Wings are very popular with their super sticky BBQ sauce [made with honey and palm sugar]. As are the Honey Burgers.
In Jimbaran, not much change but still a few pleasant surprises. None more so that Akua, a great simple Spanish restaurant highlighting the cuisine of the Basques. Standard Spanish plus many regional specials. There is also a Spanish Tortilla, so different from the Mexican version, this one being more like an open omelette of potato and egg or the ultimate Spanish cold plate [jamon], and a jug of Sangria, of course! He’enalu Café is in Pecatu. It is a modern international café with a Hawaiian touch. Open for breakfast, their main offering is the egg special with just about everything, even real bacon. Alternatives are the Breakfast Burritos and Quesadillas, Avocado Toast and a Vegan Falafel Platter. Their signature dishes include Poke Bowls, Loco Moco, Hawaiian Fried Rice and Falafel Tacos. Guapa Mexican Restaurant is at Jl. Labuansait, Pecatu. It offers much more than just the normal Mex, found elsewhere in Bali. Entrees of Meat Empanadas or Tuna Ceviche are both worth ordering. Sure there are Tostadas, Burritos, Quesadillas, and Enchilladas, however their Tacos come with vegetarian options [spicy mushroom, cauliflower or roasted pumpkin]. They even offer Mexican Burgers.
Koral is an amazing underwater seafood restaurant. It is found at one of this year’s new 5 star luxury resorts, the Apurva Kempinsky, west of Nusa Dua. You can watch fish swim by through the adjoining large glass windows as you feast on their siblings. The windows take up entire walls so you do really feel as if you are underwater, effectively you are dining in an aquarium. Feature dishes include the Lump Blue Crab Salad with Granny Smith apples, crisp jicama, and aromatic lemon, basil, and ginger; and the interesting Prawn & Lime, which combines stuffed jumbo prawns with dabu-dabu salsa, potato gnocci and tomato and chili sauce.
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 – 2019
Fine Dining – 10th Table – French – an amazing discovery in Lovina.
Best Value – Akua – Spanish – all the delights of Basque food – Jimbaran.
Pub Food – Avenue A – American – a gastropub in Canggu.
Cheap Eats – Usha Café – Ukranian – wonderful dumplings – Ubud.