Nom nom nom.
UPDATE, November 2013: We’d add Merah Putih and Mamasan to our list of places to consider heading for Balinese food. Merah Putih focuses on Indonesian dishes, both classic and modern, but you’ll find a scattering of Balinese selections in among these, while Mamasan has a variety of Asian dishes, including some Balinese selections as well. They are still not, however, quite as Balinese focused as the below.
You can always grab a fantastic streetside or market meal in Bali, or duck into a restaurant with a babi guling sign and be sure of a pretty decent feed. But if you’d like to delve into traditional Balinese cuisine in restaurant surrounds, where should you head?
Restaurants are not big historically in Bali, with people generally eating at home or in large groups as part of major festivals or ceremonies. Heinz von Holzen, of Bumbu Bali restaurant and cooking school fame, can take a lot of the credit for stoking interest in Balinese food among foreigners as tourism has grown over the past few decades here, and when he opened his first restaurant on the island it was pretty much the only formal eatery you could head to for a typical Balinese meal. These days a few more restaurants focusing mostly on Balinese food have opened, but they’re still rather thin on the ground.
Here are restaurants for three budgets: cheap, mid-range, and splurge-a-rama.
This unassuming but comfortable spot in Sanur is located on the main Danau Tamblingan drag and is open to the street, where a barbecue gets fired up for cooking sate (yes, traditionally Javanese, but still popular here) and seafood. The interior is all moody dark woods and red cushions on bench furniture, with blown up photos of Balinese scenes from decades ago gracing the walls.
The menu boasts a selection of Indonesian dishes, with the emphasis very much on the Balinese. Prices are higher than what you’ll find at markets, but the quality rises commensurately. Expect to pay 15,000 to 25,000 rupiah for starters such as urap pakis and deep fried calamari, while mains are around the 30,000 rupiah to 50,000 rupiah mark. For mains, think siap sisit mebase barak, or shredded chicken in a Balinese sauce served with a crunchy coconut-sprinkled urap on the side (30,000 rupiah) or betutu siap, Balinese roast chicken with yum leaf (30,000 rupiah). Or choose from a fairly decent selection of seafood, such as pepes be pasih, a whole fish in banana leaf (50,000 rupiah). Leave room for dessert — and go the palm-sugar sweet Balinese pancake (20,000 rupiah).
Bumbu Bali in Tanjung Benoa does the real deal when it comes to Balinese food, with a huge selection of delectable dishes. You can browse their menu ahead of going to the restaurant (and actually there are two main ones, located a lengthy walk apart). Go a la carte if you like, or the Rijsttafel (rice table) represents great value as well, priced at 295,000 rupiah for dishes including sate, ayam betutu (roast chicken in banana leaf), be celeng base manis (pork in sweet soy sauce), be sampi mebase Bali (braised beef in coconut milk) and bubuh injin (black rice pudding).
The service is great, there’s always a crowd, the atmosphere’s convivial, and you’ll have a great time — trust us.
The Warung at Alila Uluwatu
You’ll need a healthy wallet for a meal at The Warung at Alila Uluwatu, but you’ll have a superb meal in a truly breath-taking setting overlooking the Indian Ocean on Bali’s Bukit. You can really make a special occasion of a visit to this isolated, ultra-modern, environmentally friendly and clean-lined resort — arrive at sunset and enjoy drinks in the bale jutting out over the sea.
You can then go a la carte or banquet style. A delectable a la carte selection might be their lawar bebek, which is a young jackfruit salad with duck (110,000++ rupiah ++), soup wong dadah (Balinese creamy mushroom soup, 95,000++ rupiah), sate campur (mixed beef, chicken and fish sate, 115,000++) and ikan bakar Jimbaran (grilled whole or filleted fish, 190,00++ rupiah). They also have a short menu of items from Sumatra, Java and Sulawesi if you’d like a culinary trip around the Indonesian archipelago.
On our two visits here we’ve gone for the “Ubud” chef’s selection, a set menu at 330,000++ per person (of a total of four differently priced set menus — ranking as the second least expensive). Ours included, among other dishes, lawar ayam (green bean salad with chicken), sate campur, gedang mekuah udang (green papaya soup with prawn), babi kecap (pork in sweet soy) and tum bebek, minced duck in banana leaf.
But one of the highlights each time has been the fantastic array of krupuk or rice crackers and various yummy condiments such as mouth-puckering pickles and eye-watering sauces served complimentary ahead of the meal. The staff will explain everything and are happy to answer any culinary questions, too, so test them out!
The Warung has a refined feel completely removed from an ordinary Indonesian warung, so it’s not the spot for a big group meal, but for a couple of people really into Balinese food wanting to celebrate something special, it should hit the spot.
106 Jalan Danau Tamblingan (two doors from The Porch)
T: (0361) 7862397
Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa
T: (0361) 772299
Alila Villas Uluwatu
Jalan Belimbing Sari
Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu
T: (0361) 848 2166
By Samantha Brown
Last updated on 21st April, 2015.