Bali’s Best Restaurants

The days when nasi goreng, chicken sate and banana pancakes were about your only options for a meal in Bali are long gone. Increasingly known as a gourmet destination, the island now has so many great restaurants that it’s hard to keep track. If you are looking for something truly special, here’s a glimpse into some of the island’s most extraordinary dining experiences.

 

Cuca

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Nestled amidst soaring palm trees in a tranquil corner of Jimbaran, this innovative restaurant offers inspired dining of the highest order with a unique concept of tapas, cocktails and desserts. Minimalist in design, at Cuca its all about the food and you will discover a gourmet foodie experience to rival anything you would find in Melbourne, London or New York. Canadian chef, Kevin Cherkas, describes his creations as “Clever comfort food, inspired by the best things you have ever eaten.” One of the most impressive feats on the menu is the use of 100% Indonesian ingredients, from organic herbs, fruit and vegetables to hand crafted sea salt, Balinese coffee and locally produced artisan wines. Take a seat at the food bar for an interactive chef experience or dine by candlelight under the palms. Make sure to try the moongria – a sangria made with layered cubes of frozen fruit that slowly melt to reveal new layers of taste with every sip.

Where: Jimbaran

 

Kayuputi

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The signature restaurant of esteemed St Regis Resort in Nusa Dua, Kayuputi brings beachside elegance to a whole new level, with picture-perfect views over a magnificent stretch of white sand lapped by the azure waters of the Indian Ocean. Truly fine dining at its finest, seafood lovers will find themselves in culinary heaven with decadent platters like the Indian Ocean seafood experience stacked high with lobster, king prawn tempura and fish skewers marinated in Balinese spices. More than a restaurant, Kayuputi is a destination dining experience and with over 400 wines in its esteemed cellar – overseen by sommelier extraordinaire, Harald Wiesmann, wine connoisseurs are also in for a treat. A sumptuous high tea is also served daily in the King Cole Bar, while the sumptuous Astor Champagne Sunday Brunch is also highly recommended.

Where: Nusa Dua      

 

Mozaic

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Serving up an endlessly evolving menu that blends the exotic flavours of Bali with international techniques and the highest quality ingredients, Mozaic is Ubud’s greatest claim to culinary fame. The al fresco dining area is set in an enchanted grove flourishing with palms, pine trees and lush ferns. Here, in the coolness of evening, starlight meets the flickering flames of tiki torches to create a devastatingly romantic atmosphere. The exotic herbs, spices and fruits of Indonesia serve as inspiration for the four tasting menus (optionally paired with wine.) These include a seasonal ‘chefs tasting menu,’ a ‘surprise menu,’ based on rare and precious ingredients, a ‘vegetarian menu,’ and a ‘discovery menu’ – essentially market cuisine prepared with western techniques and presentation. A true gourmet experience Mozaic is designed for foodies looking for the thrill of discovering new taste sensations, so expect the unexpected.

Where: Ubud       

 

Sarong

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Probably Bali’s most famous restaurant, and rightly so, Sarong has a spicy concept of elevating Asian street food into an exotic fine dining experience complemented by good wine, bespoke cocktails and sumptuous surrounds. Known as the ‘travelling chef,’ founder Will Meyrick gathers recipes in his travels throughout Asia then uses the highest quality ingredients and cutting edge techniques to create an Asian food experience unlike anything else. Think Tuna Betel Leaf with lemongrass green tomato sambal, Grilled Whole Squid with young coconut ginger flower, mint lemongrass & kaffir lime green nam jihm, and Slow Cooked Sri Lankan Lamb Curry with coconut milk, coriander, cumin, lemongrass and curry leaves.The chandelier-filled dining room has a graceful colonial ambience, while billowing drapes the colour of molten gold softly frame the flourishing gardens. Choose Sarong for a special evening out, the soothing and refined atmosphere is definitely one to savour.

Where: Seminyak    

 

Teatro Gastroteque

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Teatro is an intimate space with seating for just 30. Combining theatrical flair with gastronomic innovation and a theme of French Asian cuisine with a twist, this is a dining experience like no other. For the ultimate indulgence, choose the 11 course Discovery menu paired with fine wines, then sink back into your velvet-clad chair for a steady flow of dainty, moreish delights, including amuse-bouche, sorbets, surprise courses and mignardises. Degustation menus include entire vegetarian sets, so that, unlike more usual fine dining experiences, vegetarians don’t miss out. The Valrhona Chocolate Bar dessert was definitely the highlight of our visit, with a sensational homemade ‘snickers bar’ composed of chewy nougat smothered in rich dark chocolate, and served with a side of chocolate mousse and raspberry gel.

Where: Seminyak    

 

Locavore

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Locavore uses local ingredients to create imaginative modern European cuisine and consistently dazzles diners with beautifully fresh, fabulously- presented fare.  Named for the locavore movement where food is sourced from a 100-mile radius, much of the produce served up at Locavore comes direct from the restaurant’s own organic gardens. In fact it’s the fruit and vegetables ripening on the vine that provide the inspiration for the seasonal degustation menu, which comes with a sensational vegetarian option (who knew cauliflower could taste this good?) Offering a celebration of the island’s farmers, fishermen and artisanal food producers, the emphasis is on slow food, so we recommend allowing plenty of time to soak up the artistry and thoughtfulness of this truly world class culinary journey.

Where: Ubud     

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Bali’s coolest warungs

There is far more to Indonesian cooking than chicken sate and nasi goreng. In fact, with thousands of islands making up the archipelago, you will discover an incredibly diverse cuisine with a myriad influences, including Chinese, Malay and Indian. A key of course to the flavour of Indonesian food is the liberal use of spices, from galangal to cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, garlic, shallots, lemongrass and all types of chilli.

The best way to discover the true taste of Indonesia is to head to a pasar malam (night market) or a warung. These no frill restaurants are generally small, casual, family-run establishments. Some specialise in a particular dish, like Bali’s famous babi guling (suckling pig) or bebek betutu (roast duck), while others have a mixed menu of dishes from around the nation. The most commonly found warungs serve Padang-style food, named for the region of Sumatera where this ‘buffet’ style of eating originated. You simply choose what you want from the dishes displayed in the glass cabinet and send your taste buds on a culinary journey.

Typical local warungs in Denpasar and regional Bali provide the most authentic experience – think fiery hot food, bright lights and plastic table cloths, while those in the tourist areas tend to tone the spices down to suit a more western palate and may offer simple western dishes and a more atmopsheric setting.

Made’s Warung, Kuta.

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Bali’s first warung opened in 1969, back when Kuta was a humble fishing village where dirt tracks meandered through coconut groves to emerge on a pristine sandy beach. The warung had humble beginnings – in a small hut filled with wooden benches, and was run by teenager Made, her mother and her sister. As Made says, “Food was simple and served from the heart, there were no calculations of profit and costing – it was a case of, if you’re happy I am happy.” These days Made’s Warung is more restaurant than warung, but it still serves up traditional Indonesian food and gives a tantalising glimpse into Bali of old. Walls are adorned with black and white photographs, taken by Made’s husband, a Dutch photographer. Make sure to try Made’s specialty, black rice pudding with fruit salad – the dish that captured her husband’s heart back in the early 70’s.

Jalan Pantai Kuta

 

Warung Heboh

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One of the most popular warungs to spring up in Canggu in recent years, Warung Heboh can be found opposite the short cut to Echo Beach from Berawa. Set in a breeezy wooden house overlooking the rice fields, it attracts a lot of westerners and gets packed at lunch time. At least 20 dishes are offered up, Padang-style, from tuna and chicken to cap cay (stir fried vegetables,) fried tofu and beef rendang. The perkedel (crispy corn cakes) are very good, as is the sweet crunchy tempeh manis, and there is a choice of white rice, or the healthier, nutty- flavoured red rice. Freshly made passionfruit juice is a house specialty. Get there early if you are thinking of going for dinner as it’s often sold out by 8pm.

Jalan Raya Semat, Canggu

 

Dayu’s Warung

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A warung with a difference, Dayu’s pays homeage to the holistic vibe of Ubud with its healthy organic twist on Indonesian food. “Good food means good life,” says founder Dayu, who also offers private cooking lessons. Drinks include sugar free juices and fresh herbal teas from the garden, while the food menu lists a tempeh lemongrass omelette, red rice coconut pancakes and sweet potato samosas. You will also find perennial faves like nasi campur, chicken curry with brown or red rice, and an aromatic tempeh mango curry. Cheerful and affordable Dayu’s is more atmospheric than your average warung and includes a shady outdoor dining area.

Jalan Sugriwa, Ubud

 

Warung Murah

 

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Bright and basic, with all the spirit of a typical warung, (but slightly less spicy to appease foreign taste buds,) Warung Murah has central locations in Legian and Seminyak. It’s busy any time of the day or night which means the Padang-style food doesn’t sit around for too long. Order from the menu or better yet choose from the display, piled high with Balinese, Indonesian and Chinese dishes. Chicken dishes are the most popular, try ayam betutu – chicken with Balinese spices, soto ayam – spicy chicken soup with vegetables and glass noodles, or the fragrant chicken curry. When it comes to dessert the avocado with ice cream and chocolate is better than you would think.

Jl Petitenget, Seminyak and Jl Double Six, Legian.

 

Warung in Salt

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Set in a Javanese teak house and filled with 70’s style surfing memorabilia – including a great collection of old photographs, Warung in Salt is on the road to Balangan Beach (turn right at Nirmala supermarket.) Take a seat at one of the communal wooden benches if you feel like being social, or hang out in the garden under the big shady tree dangling with lanterns. The gado gado (vegetables with peanut sauce) is a great vegetarian option while the beef rendang is always popular and there is often freshly caught fish on the menu. Service may be a bit slow when its busy, but it’s a great hangout spot and the staff are lovely.

Jalan Pantai Balangan

 

article by Alison Bone