You can certainly eat well on a tight budget on Nusa Lembongan, but you can also successfully indulge in haute cuisine — you know, fancy food — at prices that are very good value by Western standards. The top spot to head on the island, we heard, is Ylang Ylang at Indiana Kenanga, which boasts chef/owner Clement Fouquere, a Frenchman who has worked at a string of Parisian fancypants restaurants. How does he scrub up beachside? I decided to undertake a hardship assignment to find out.
I hadn’t had a good impression from some snooty staff here earlier in the day who disappeared after promising they had WiFi that didn’t actually exist (which seems to happen right along Jungkut Batu, except at Scooby Doo) but the reception after sunset was a different experience.
I took a seat at the front, overlooking a spotlit ocean with crashing waves and a colourful jukung plonked just so offshore. Digging my feet into the sand I browsed the short but far-ranging menu while sipping a Marseille Lembongan (85,000++): vodka, Ricard, strawberry juice and lime, blended to liquid-y perfection and served in a simple glass with a simple garnish and a simple straw. Ah, beach life! A solid range of non-alcoholic cocktails is on offer too, such as Le Rainbow Cooler: passionfruit, orange juice, watermelon and fresh vanilla. I love it when restaurants in Bali make an effort to highlight the best local ingredients, and vanilla is far underrepresented in meals here.
The food menu at Ylang Ylang is short but far-ranging, though with occasional dishes suffering baffling names and descriptions, such as Bagus Asparagus Thai: green asparagus from Australia cooked in different ways, served with home-made Hollandaise. OK, bagus is Indonesian for good, but which bit of the dish is Thai?!
After a prawn-y, citrus-y (free-by) amuse bouche, I went straight for a main course, knowing the dessert menu looked alluring. If I was vegetarian, I may have been disappointed with the vegetarian offering: Vegetarian dish, fine combination of different vegetables selected by the chef (90,000++).
But meat eaters will not be disappointed. I went for the La noix de Saint Jacques (195,000++), scallops from Hokkaido, with coriander coulis, home-made gnocchi and clam sauce with crispy parmesan. And a glass of (grimace) Aga white (90,000++), which I ordered after the first mouthful of scallop because these scallops deserved wine. They deserved far better than Aga, actually, but that was all I could afford — remember, alcohol is ridiculously expensive in Bali.
The scallops were divine. Divine. Exquisite little flat-balls of seafood-y goodness. This is why one eats out — I could never have sourced such seafood, let alone made such a brilliantly executed dish at home.The parmesan crisps were fragile, and perfectly crisp, lending texture to the otherwise tender-smooth gnocchi. And the dribble of clam sauce made it rich and French and fabulous. Only downer: I couldn’t really taste the coriander in the coulis, but it looks mighty fine, doesn’t it?
Other mains included a Fisherman dish (150,000++), fish of the day and clams from Lombok, tomato raviolis, eggplant caviar cumin, coriander and coconut sauce, while meat eaters could go for the duck: Duck breast, with wonderful combination of turnip and orange reduction with datte puree (yes, not sure on that one — 245,000++).
Around a half-dozen desserts are on offer. Of course, I went directly to All about chocolate, chocolate fondant with fine crispy biscuit and chocolate sorbet (65,000++). It was superb: a small cake-pudding nestling an explosion of molten chocolate, accompanied by smooth chocolate sorbet spiked with exquisitely thin biscuit swirls.
For most travellers these are prices for a special meal, so lunchtime may be a more affordable time to visit, with the menu slightly cheaper. Pasta carbonara with penne, for instance, is 48,000 ++, while prawn satay with rice, dry grapes, roasted almonds and mixed salad is 55,000++. The little extra you pay here compared to elsewhere on the beach for lunch is more than worth it for the escalation in quality.
But if you are looking for a really special meal, dinner time is when this restaurant comes into its own. Call me a sucker but I love little touches during a meal like, say, a jasmine tea granita between courses, and warmed bread on the side. Recommended.
By Samantha Brown
Last updated on 28th November, 2014.