Paradise Island: Bali’s 10 Best Cultural Restaurants
From the culinary treats of Ubud to the high class resorts of Jimbaran Bay, Bali is a foodie haven which can surprise even veteran travellers. The island’s thriving restaurant scene embodies the best elements of Balinese culture; Indonesian traditions, Western and Australian influences and an endless party atmosphere, whilst using the fruits of this tropical paradise to create unique culinary creations.
Since opening its doors in 1990, Bebek Bengil has developed into a Bali institution, and is one of the many distinctive restaurants in the foodie paradise of Ubud. Bebek Bengil translates as the Dirty Duck Diner, a reference to the restaurant’s speciality bebek tutu (smoked duck), as well as to the many ducks which apparently frequent the site before it turned into a restaurant (and who presumably ended up on the table). The smoked duck has to be ordered 24 hours in advance, since it is slowly smoked over the course of a whole day, and the succulent meat and crispy skin is incomparable.
Describing itself as a ‘fresh oasis of ingenuity in the world of gastronomy’ Mozaic Restaurant is a culinary laboratory which explores the potential of Bali’s many lavish ingredients. Run by Chef Chris Salans, the ever changing menu is a testament to his continual search for culinary innovation and perfection, as well as to the restaurant’s dedication to freshness of ingredients. Mozaic was named the 50th best restaurant in Asia by San Pellegrino, who called it ‘Bali’s finest restaurant… (And) a genuine global gastronomic destination’, and recommended the ‘Javanese quail and foie gras pastille with Balinese rujak sauce, or grilled tiger prawns with pink grapefruit and ginger flower’.
Lamak is a Balinese term meaning ‘a carefully crafted element of sacred offerings’, which is what Lamak Bali seeks to achieve with its gastronomic offering. The restaurant aims to combine Balinese tradition with culinary innovation, and prides itself on the local touches it adds to both the menu and the interior design of the restaurant such as local wood, stones, and carvings. The food is a mixture of modern Asian and European cuisine, and has merited the award of Indonesia’s Best Restaurant from Tatler twice, in 2005 and 2009. Dishes such as smoked snapper medallions coated with curried yogurt, alongside almond-raisin rice, lentil patties and tomato chutney, epitomise the best of Bali’s thriving food culture.
Chef Will Meyrick is a heavyweight on the Bali culinary scene, with the hugely successful Sarong restaurant to his name. With Mamasan he has ventured into new territory, an attempt to ‘open a place that is more than just a restaurant…an environment where people can feel comfortable to eat, try their hands at cooking or just lounge in a bar’. The result is a trendy, restaurant cum bar in which patrons are encouraged to make themselves at home. The décor purposefully evokes ‘colonial Britain in Shanghai during the 1920s, with marble top mah-jong tables and oversized tan leather chesterﬁelds’, whilst the food is a combination of Chinese, Indonesian, Indian, Malay, Singaporean, Thai, Cambodian and Vietnamese dishes; the crispy ‘confit’ pork hock on the bone with nahm jihm jauw & nam pla prik comes highly recommended.
Evoking the best in street food, Naughty Nuri’s is a self-proclaimed ‘funky street side food haven’, which prides itself on being ‘naughty but nice’. Naughty Nuri’s specialises in appealing to the more carnivorous diners, and their many takes on the humble pork rib have become legendary. Their specialities include ‘wicked ribs and brutal martinis’, whilst the pork chops, chorizo sausage and satays all come highly recommended. As much a party venue as any restaurant in Bali, Naughty Nuri’s promises an unforgettable dining experience.
Naughty Nuri’s, Jalan Batubelig, #41, Kerobokan, Denpasar, Bali 80361, +62 361 8476722
A focus on local, ethical produce defines Clear Café, and this ethos is evident in everything they do. Their work to promote and foster the produce of local Balinese farmers is laudable, as is their dedication to healthy eating and positive energy - indeed they profess a belief that energy can be transferred through food, and therefore maintain a positive and upbeat atmosphere in the kitchen at all times. However it is the quality of the food that comes out of that kitchen that really counts and theirs is second to none. Dishes such as Bali Tataki, a cocoa, cayenne seared tuna with fresh daikon in delicious mangosteen sauce and Ikan Asli fresh coconut crusted snapper burst with freshness and flavour.
A ‘restaurant, cocktail bar and coffee den’, which encapsulates the laid back lifestyle of Bali, Sea Circus is fast becoming one of the best places to eat, drink or just hang out on the island. The effervescent interiors are matched by a colourful façade which makes Sea Circus impossible to miss, and the meticulous attention to detail is evident in the food as much as in the cutting edge design. Dishes such as pan roasted barramundi with tomato & chili jam, cous cous, fennel & coriander or red quinoa and raisin salad with avocado, grated carrot, cherry tomato, celery & lettuce use the abundant natural produce of Bali to maximum culinary effect.
Claiming to ‘promote Balinese cuisine and culture without exploiting it or its people’, Bali Asli puts ethical considerations into everything they do. Their menu is designed around considerations of provenance, and ‘supporting those who fish, farm and forage in the nearby fields, ocean and jungle’ is central to their gastronomic ideology. This focus on local produce is matched by a commitment to tradition and authenticity, with food that purposefully evokes the traditions of Balinese culture. Alongside the conventional restaurant aspects of Bali Asli, they also offer ‘Experiences’ which allow guests to experience culinary Bali in a range of ways, from cooking schools, to guided food tours.
Bali Asli, Jalan Raya Gelumpang, Gelumpang village, Amlapura, Karangasem, Bali, +62 8289 7030098
Lilin aims to provide a comfortable and intimate dining experience, in which traditional Asian flavours are pared down to their purest and most potent aspects. The tapas style menu brings out the best of Asian culinary traditions and allows guests to sample delights from all over the Asian gastronomic map. The restaurant’s interiors purposefully evoke traditional Indonesian design, whilst giving it a slick, contemporary update. Some of the most intriguing tapas dishes are baby shrimp and glass noodle salad with fresh greens in garlic, chilli and lemon dressing and roast duck red curry cooked with grapes, pineapple, tomato and fresh Thai basil whilst their cocktails are as innovative and delectable as their food.
Merah Putih Restoran
Serving traditional Indonesian cuisine using only the highest quality ingredients, Merah Putih offers flavours and ingredients from across the archipelago. The restaurant aims to reflect the diversity of Indonesian culinary culture, which takes in aspects of Indian, Chinese and South East Asian cuisines and recreates them in their own distinctive way. The focus on the traditional roots of Indonesian cuisine extends to the convivial dining experience, which evokes the family eating which is at the core of Indonesian cooking. However Merah Putih doesn’t simply reproduce Indonesian classics but also seeks to update traditional flavours; the menu is split between ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ which allows guests to experience both sides of the Indonesian culinary spectrum.
Merah Putih Restoran, Jl. Petitenget No.100x, Kerobokan, Denpasar, Bali 80361, +62 361 8465950
By Thomas Storey
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