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Bali's top 5 authentic restaurants
Publication Date : 21-05-2013
Bali recently added another point to its list of reasons for global fame: good food
Here is our list of five favourite eateries in Bali serving Indonesian food range from fine dining restaurants to humble buffet warung and roadside satays.
One of its eateries, Mozaic Restaurant Gastronomique, made its appearance on the Asia 2013 winner list of San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and another one, Sarong, made it to The Miele Guide’s list of Asia’s Top 20 for 2013.
Apart from these two, Bali still has plenty of culinary delights up its sleeve. In this article, we have picked five outstanding restaurants from the many on the island serving Indonesian food.
The latest offering for fine dining in Seminyak, in the increasingly popular Petitenget area, is Merah Putih, named after the colours of the Indonesian flag.
But unlike others in the area, this is an Indonesian restaurant.
Here, traditional Indonesian dishes are served alongside innovative twists of classic dishes hailing from various parts of the archipelago.
Merah Putih stands inside a stunning architectural environment but the setting belies the casual atmosphere and the reasonable prices.
It was Jasper Manifold who first came up with the idea for the restaurant –fuelled by his realisation that there was nowhere to go for a good Indonesian meal at night in Seminyak once the local warungs (cafes) had shut.
The first thing that hits upon entering Merah Putih is its spectacular setting.
Relaxing with one of their delicious martinis in the bar area, your eyes will feast on the meld of modern and traditional Indonesia throughout.
A carved wall from SumbaIsland is one of the elements that have been picked from the islands for the design of the restaurant.
The restaurant area looks like a vast tropical cathedral, where diners scatter around curvy columns and a soaring ceiling.
Despite this powerful décor, the restaurant is very comfortable and relaxing thanks to elements such as flowing water and palm trees.
Bali-based Inspiral Design and Motif Surface Design & Interiors in its design for Merah Putih has blended visual design, eco-sustainability and functionality.
Merah Putih is designed to be like its own ecosystem, which captures rainwater and channels it into a UV recyclable water system meaning there is only 1 per cent of wastewater. The workmanship is all local with as few materials imported as possible.
Balinese chef Wayan Mustika and Australian Kieran Morland have devised a rich menu divided into ‘Traditional’ and ‘Modern’ Indonesian sections with plenty of vegetarian items as well as an extensive wine list.
The ingredients are locally sourced as often as possible from Bali and the surrounding islands.
A selection of small and large plates are designed for sharing in the Indonesian family table way.
Starters, with small plates, are priced from 50,000 rupiah (US$5.10).
In the ‘Traditional’ part, the lobster tahu Mangkok is an exceptional mélange of flavours combining lobster, tofu and green papaya; it is a rich but slightly zesty combination.
From the ‘Modern’ the Padang beef shin bak pao is a slight twist on the steamed bun filled with tender beef rendang set off with a hot sharp green sambal (chilli sauce) that melts in the mouth. For vegetarians there is a version made with mushrooms.
The menu for Merah Putih’s large plates resembles a culinary tour of Indonesia.
The tuturuga udang is a Sulawesi curry of prawn, snapper and squid. It is also available in a vegetarian version, which is made with tofu.
Carefully blended spices, herbs and seafood give this a creamy yet fresh texture that is a perfectly blended light curry.
The kari sapi Sunda is a Sundanese curry. The beef is exquisite and again is perfectly balanced with the other flavours of lontong (rice cake), potato and quail’s egg.
To finish off the desserts are again small tasters, so order a few to share. Kelapa tart, a velvety cut of coconut pudding with tart local berries, is sure to awaken your palate with its contrasting tastes.
The indulgent coklat rokok, or chocolate cigarette, meanwhile, blends a deliciously chocolaty flavour with a clove mousse. This treat captures the vice that is kretek cigarettes without the nicotine or tar risks.
Dapoer at Bambu Indah
For those visiting Ubud, Dapoer is the place to go to for a taste of real Indonesian cooking.
The name simply means ‘kitchen’ in Indonesian, and this is exactly what it is: a simple kitchen serving delicious local organic food.
Dapoer is located in Sayan, about ten minutes out of Ubud. It is the restaurant of the eco-chic Bambu Indah hotel, which boasts the most stunning views over the Sayan rice paddies. Most of the vegetables are grown in the hotel and the gardens meander around the rooms.
Recently appointed manager Meliana Salim is using the restaurant as a way of empowering local women in the area to cook in their own way and in a home style.
She has seen so many hotels on the island bring in foreign chefs to adapt or dismiss many traditional cooking methods, or to try and create fusion.
However control of Dapoer’s kitchen is firmly in the hands of the local women who have cooked for owners John and Cynthia Hardy for years.
The food is all organic and locally sourced from around Ubud.
An impressive 80-90 per cent of the vegetables and herbs used come from the perma-culture gardens that are a characteristic feature of Bambu Indah.
The kitchen is open-style in a long Balinese barn-like structure, placed inside are quirky upside down basket-like structures.
Home cooking sometimes conjures up images of simple flavours but not at Dapoer, where intricate mixes of herbs and spices in the Sumatran curry satisfy the taste buds. Local specialties, such as fish satay, organic soups, salads and ice cream are available throughout the day.
Just at the top of Sunset Road, coming from Jl. Kerobokan, in a hidden little nook rests this warung. It works on the traditional buffet style found around Bali and you can see the kitchen behind the counter so everything comes straight out, piping hot to be served.
The place is very much decorated in the style of an antique Javanese joglo (house) style that is unique and charming, with mismatched colours and pieces of furniture that seem to mix together to create a relaxed lunchtime spot.
The main choices of food are from Bali and Java but they also have items from all over Indonesia, with the menu changing daily depending on what is fresh.
The crispy tempe is worth visiting in itself as is the beef rendang or sambal udang (prawns in spicy sauce).
It is always packed at lunchtime with locals and foreigners alike and once discovered, it is one of those places you will continually visit.
Just don’t drive too fast after coming off Jl. Kerobokan as you may well overshoot it!
Location: Jl. Sunset Road no. 98
This is another ‘blink and you could miss it’ kind of place, located near Jimbaran on the bypass. It is however well worth keeping your eyes peeled so you don’t.
Warung Kampoeng may well be one of the best places for Chinese Indonesian food on the island. The menu is also probably one of the most comprehensive and largest on the island too, so whatever your taste there is something to savour here.
The eatery looks like little more than a hole in the wall stuck on the side of the road but when inside it opens up into a clean and slightly kitschly decorated Dutch bar, which is a contrast to the very authentic, delicious and outrageously reasonably priced food it serves.
Seafood that has become very expensive on nearby Jimbaran Beach is available here including crabs, fish, clams and prawns
Sweet and sour squid or whole fish is a hot favourite, as is the seafood tofu clay pot and various seafood and beef noodles or nasi goreng. If you are feeling a little more adventurous then sometimes local delicacies, such as frog’s legs are available cooked in various ways.
Don’t be put off by the exterior of this place, because once inside you will see it is constantly packed with locals and those in the know.
Dishes are cooked as they are ordered and you can hear the wok sizzling from the kitchen constantly. A great place if you are whizzing up or down to the southern Bali beaches.
Location: Jl. Bypass Ngurah Rai no 123, Jimbaran.
On the Street
Obviously, a great place to find good Indonesian food in Bali is on the street.
There is a wide selection on the carts that go around or park up next to the beach in the evening.
Bakso is a great favourite, which is basically a meatball and noodle soup, excellent satay can be found smoking away on street corners made from beef or goat, local blood sausages, fried tofu and chicken wrapped in coconut leaves (pandan).
If you lean more towards a sweet tooth then pisang goreng or fried bananas topped with palm sugar are always a treat or a kelapa muda, which is ice cold coconut with lime and palm sugar that must be one of the most delectable drinks on the planet.