Feb 25 2012
It’s not often you return to a restaurant in Bali to find it’s truly doing better than it was before; too often you have a lovely night out, return six months later and find that the fickle clientele has moved on, seduced by something shinier and trendier that has opened down the road. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that the lovely Sardine, on my first visit in more than a year, has expanded and has an even more convivial vibe than before.
We turned up a weekend or two ago without a reservation, and snared a table for two by the entrance. The restaurant was pretty much full the entire time we lingered there; being near the host desk, we even got to hear an Australian guy insist he was “a really famous Australian footballer — so do you have a table for us?”
Sardine sits on Jalan Petitenget in Seminyak/Kerobokan overlooking that patch of paddy between the road and Umalas that seems to be fast disappearing, forsaking rice for bamboo scaffolding as the concrete jungle encroaches. At night, the view is of beautiful lights and lit up umbrellas stretching into the distance, sort of like a study in distance points for art students. It really is pretty. The restaurant itself is set under a soaring bamboo structure, open at the sides to the elements, lending it a casual al fresco feel; an upscale blend of back-to-nature, historical Bali, breezy and chic.
We liked the local twist on the cocktails — Bunga rosella cosmopolitan, a mix of vodka, rosella infusion and orange juice (90,000 rupiah), plus an enticing range of arak cocktails — arak madu with arak, honey, fresh lime and nutmeg for 60,000 rupiah or a fancier espresso arak martini, a mix of arak, kahlua, espresso and cocoa powder for 85,000 rupiah. Alcohol is prohibitively expensive in Bali; these prices are on par or less than upper end restaurants.
I am a sucker for a beautifully written menu; I think many people are and more restaurants should hire writers to do their menus, to be frank. Doesn’t “Papua crab tower” sound better than say just “crab”, evoking images of crabs scuttling in rainforest-filtered streams atop difficult-to-reach mountains? Yeah, sucker, I know. But the crab, mixed with avocado slices, tomato and mango, nestled in a papaya and lime coulis (85,000 rupiah — plus 8% service, 10% tax on all prices listed here) was really, really good. Obviously if you don’t like fruit in savoury dishes, this is so not for you, but if you do; goodness, I could have had two.
But my memory of Sardine from earlier visits was that the sardines were good — and I’m partial to sardines in Bali as I know they’re caught fresh offshore (or at least, I can buy them fresh from my oddly named fishmonger — so oddly named I can never actually remember it — on the bypass, as well as Dijon, just in case you’re self-catering and must have fresh fish.)
So I elbowed Mr Travelfish into having the grilled sardines (with steamed potatoes and tomato salsa, 90,000 rupiah) which I do believe he enjoyed, while I had as a main the starter of smoked sardines with warm potato salad and caper berries — big fat juicy delectable caper berries, if you must know (65,000 rupiah).
It was indeed a little piece of Scandinavian delight, though as the fish were from nearby, perhaps I need to adjust my world view a little.
The overall Sardine menu is seafood-heavy — grilled octopus with warm chick pea salad and lemon and red wine vinaigrette (80,000 rupiah) was another dish I could have easily checked out for you, dear reader, else the pan-seared diver scallops with mushroom ravioli, parsely truffle emulsion, with oven-cured tomato and herb relish (235,000 rupiah) could also have done with attention. Do you need me to return, dear reader? Do you?
Another seafood dish was the grilled lobster (over coffee firewood — see above about the money good menu writers bring in to a restaurant) with organic Bedugal veggies (120,000 rupiah per 100g); this Bedugal veggies thing is important.
Sardine has its own patch at the Organic Farm Bali, along with a clutch of other Bali restaurants who prefer to remain anonymous, apparently fearful of their competition catching on and doing the same thing. We give Sardine big points for firstly doing this, and secondly, publicising their move.
If you’re not into seafood, meatier and a couple of veggie options are available — single chicken, duck and tenderloin/lamb dishes or a veggie risotto will satisfy non-seafood lovers.
We did occasionally feel a little rushed by over-eager waitstaff wanting to take our plates away before we were done; I guess that comes with a full restaurant.
Wine isn’t cheap here — though nor is it anywhere else, so don’t let this be a black mark — but you can get a bottle of Hatten rose for 300,000 rupiah. The average bottle is around the 750-800,000 mark, with a glass of Oddfellows 2009 chardonnay 110,000 rupiah — so I think you’re better off going for a bottle or sticking to no alcohol — a small Bintang is 40,000 rupiah, the same price as a raspberry mint iced tea.
We didn’t go for the desserts, but we would have loved to linger at the lounge fronting the paddy. Gosh, we really are going to have to go back for that, aren’t we?
Jalan Petitenget 21
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