Bali: 5 Hottest Restaurants
July 25, 2019
Bali’s world-class food scene sets it apart from other Southeast Asian beach destinations. The main thoroughfares in Seminyak and Ubud teem with vibrant and sophisticated restaurants that offer Balinese, pan-Asian and European fusion cuisines, delivered in tasteful spaces that marry modern sensibility with South Pacific charm.
To put the cherry on top, the Indonesian rupiah has weakened against the Hong Kong dollar by nearly 40 per cent since 2011, giving bigger bang for the buck. That, combined with a constant influx of culinary talent from across the globe, has made Bali a sun-drenched epicurean heaven worth returning to over again.
We tried five of the most-talked-about eateries on the island, from new kids on the block to old favorites that have stood the test of time.
Opened just eight months ago, Mauri is perhaps the most sought-after hot spot in Bali at the moment. It is a see-and-be-seen hang-out for discerning foodies and hospitality executives alike. The new entrant is named after its 36-year-old executive chef Maurzio Bombini, whose previous stints include Il Ristorante at the Bulgari Resort and Mandapa at the Ritz-Carlton. From the six-course “discovery” menu to the majestic, Insta-worthy Mediterranean interiors, every aspect of Mauri reflects Bombini’s ambition to “bring Puglia to Bali.”
The signature Parmigiano ravioli is the primo piatto not to be missed. A trio of handcrafted dumplings, each stuffed with a generous helping of 24-month-old Parmigiano, soaked in a delicate onion consommé that perfectly balances the intense flavors of the Italian cheese. For the second course, we recommend the red mullet served atop a silky smooth white bean purée. Cooked over coffee-infused wood in a custom-made charcoal furnace, the fish makes a lasting impression with its beautiful smoky aroma and melt-in-your-mouth textile.
2. Som Chai
Som Chai is the latest addition to the Sarong Group, one of the largest and most respected names in Bali’s culinary scene. It is also the brainchild of celebrity chef and cookbook author Will Meyrick, who wanted an outpost in the up-and-coming Kuta Utara district, away from overcrowded Seminyak. The 18-month-old restaurant celebrates modern Thai cuisine and caters to the dressed-down, hipster expatriate crowds.
For starters, the crispy Thai-style tacos are a crowd-pleaser that do not disappoint. Thong muan wafers typically used for Thai desserts are inventively repurposed as taco shells, holding a hearty serving of smoked chicken, pickled cucumbers, sweet chilis and a coconut cream sauce. For mains, try the salt-baked barramundi stuffed with lemongrass and dill. The fish is Indonesian-farmed, served whole, and its freshness brought out by the accompanying nam pla prik and nahm jim, traditional Thai and Vietnamese dipping sauces.
Bambu has been wowing guests since it opened in 2014 with its regional cuisine and exquisite gazebo structure modeled on a traditional Javanese joglo house. The menu is thoughtfully put together by executive chef Denise French who chose classic dishes from across the archipelago. Her mission is ambitious: bring the best of Indonesia under one roof and in a single meal.
Among the starters, the stand-out is kepiting soka from Sulawesi, a soft shell crab deep fried to crisp perfection and served on top of a rose apple salad in chili sauce. For mains, we recommend the Timorese “thousand-spice” baby back pork ribs. The braised meat’s finger-licking flavors and fall-off-the-bone tenderness are neatly complemented by a refreshing banana blossom salad.
A decade on, Métis remains the queen of French cuisine and the de rigueur locale in Bali to impress and entertain. The matriarch continues to reinvent herself by converting an adjoining rice field into a stunning back lawn and carving out a chic lounge area to attract a young crowd. Loyal customers keep returning for new gastronomic concoctions by executive chef Nicolas “Doudou” Tourneville and his protégé Dove Sudarsana.
We started with the legendary pan-seared foie gras served on a splash of port and raspberry reduction. It’s hard to decide what tastes better: the buttery goose liver or the poached morello cherries and roasted apples that provide the countering sweetness. For entrée, you can’t go wrong with le porc Kurobuta—pork belly served with braised red cabbage, broccoli purée and porc jus. One bite into the crunchy pork skin and you are sure to fall in love with the grande dame all over again.
Also celebrating its 10th anniversary is Sarong, a pan-Asian restaurant so popular that it has spawned five restaurants in the eponymous group. Regulars are drawn to Sarong’s family-friendly setting and clever reinterpretation of classic Indonesian fare with an Indian twist—and vice versa. Dim lighting, combined with sheer drapes and lacy lampshades, whispers the intimacy of a luscious boudoir.
The starter to beat is the tuna betel leaf with lemongrass, green tomatoes and sambal matah, a spicy Indonesian salsa. The complexity of flavors will linger on your palate long after the last bite. For mains, try the tandoori seafood tikka with prawn, squid and local fish, all marinated with yogurt, chickpea flour and garam masala. The dish exemplifies the way Sarong fuses locally-sourced ingredients with subcontinental seasoning to delectable effect.
This article was published in South China Morning Post under the title “5 of Bali’s hottest restaurants that offer world-class food in vibrant settings.”