Bali’s Best Bites

The island of the gods has a bewildering array of dining options—from street food to fine dining. Here, Fredina Rebecca chooses the choicest eight of the best of the bunch

Last year, a so-called friend made a somewhat disparaging comment: “Rebecca, doing what you do for a living, I’m surprised you’re not a fat, raging alcoholic.” I did wonder that myself—five kilos of weight gain and partial sobriety are nothing if you see how the hospitality industry spoils me. It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it.

Of course, being based in Bali and getting assignments like this one (“eat as much as you can then sit down and write about it”) don’t help. But what’s a girl to do? So I loosened my jeans a little and set off wondering: just how will I fit into my wedding dress next year?

AUTHENTIC

Raja’s

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa, Nusa Dua

Award-winning Raja’s brings you the best—and only—authentic fine-dining Balinese cuisine on the island. Served in an immaculate poolside setting by attentive wait staff, the must-try here is the bebek betutu, slow-cooked (roasted) whole duck marinated in 16 Balinese spices for a reasonable AU$45. Newly appointed Australian executive chef Geoff Clark is at the helm, making Raja’s a recommended stop on any itinerary as he fine-tunes the menu. Balinese chef Mudana also told me that only one couple had ever finished the duck completely, so I did my best (it was so spicy) and hoped my next stop would offer up simple salads.

FRENCH

Métis

Jln. Petitenget No.6, Seminyak

OK, so this one’s not exactly simple: basking in the light of consistently rave reviews, Métis—a candidate for the reputable Miele Guide to dining—is arguably one of the best in the area, if not the island itself. Chef/owner Nicolas “Doudou” Tourneville was previously at the internationally famous Kafe Warisan. The prices tend to reflect the quality (a three-course meal with wine can come in at $200++ per head), but don’t be put off splurging here: the lily-pond atmosphere, the rice field, the jazz trumpet accompaniment and service are all worth savoring. The restaurant also played host to a cooking competition between WTA tennis champions Aravane Rezai and Kimiko Date-Krumm last year. Note to self: do more exercise…

STREET FOOD

Warung Babi Guling Sari Kembar

Jln. Teuku Umar Barat, Kerobokan

Bali is one of the top destinations for quality street food, with this warung (café) serving some of the best babi guling (suckling pig) in Bali—it was certainly a favourite of celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain when he visited Warung Babi Guling Bu Oka in Ubud. But if you stay in the Seminyak area, you don’t have to go all the way to Ubud: this warung is 10 minutes away from Métis. You’ll be paying around AU$3 for a plate of pork meat, pork fat and almost everything else over rice with a glass of iced tea. My personal advice? Fast for half a day before visiting.

SEAFOOD

Omang Omang

Bali Hyatt, Sanur

My next stop was seafood—a slight respite from succulent meats and desserts, but no less delicious. One of the prime seafood outlets in Bali, Omang Omang is located in the Bali Hyatt hotel in one of the quietest areas in Sanur (there are two Hyatts on the island, so get the right one). The grill is housed in a traditional fisherman’s beach house with a thatched roof, lending it a briny feel, while the gardens and pool remind you that you’re actually dining in five-star luxury. The crowd here tends to be somewhat mature, so don’t expect 24/7 partying (and let’s face it, we all need somewhere peaceful to dine sometimes).

INTERNATIONAL

Rumours

Jln. Laksmana No. 100, Seminyak

A little more casual than Ultimo, it’s more famous neighbour, Rumours is the perfect place for fine dining in a comfortable atmosphere. Located on Seminyak’s stylish strip, across from Amadea Resort & Villas, this recently renovated and reopened eatery is the ideal venue to visit with your mates for succulent steaks, perfect pizza and imaginative salad dishes. Cool tunes from the DJs add to the relaxed ambience of the place, and you’ll only find friendly service at Rumours. I recommend the wagyu steak (AU$12) washed down with strawberry daiquiris (AU$7 a pop), and the chocolate mousse (AU$5). The next day I ran five kilos, nearly passed out, and decided to abstain from chocolate for a while—definitely a few hours.

COMFORT FOOD

Flapjacks

Various locations in South Bali

Love banana pancakes? Course you do, so what better place to head to than this hip and funky pancake chain. The array of pancakes, waffles, crepes and more makes it a true temptation. However, it’s the all-day breakfast with its Make Your Own Omelette innovation that may grab your attention. I managed to drag my rumbling tummy away from the comfort food, though, and was delighted with the chicken salad. Note that in the past year, Flapjacks has opened outlets close to many popular hotels and attractions, like Waterbom Park (Kuta), Mall Bali Galeria (Kuta), Bali Hyatt (Sanur), and Amadea Resort (Seminyak).

POOLSIDE

H2O and The Upper Deck

Bali Dynasty Resort, Kuta

H2O is the newest addition to the premier, beachside Bali Dynasty Resort. This stylish poolside eatery serves a sumptuous buffet-style breakfast, while lunchtime diners have access to an extensive à la carte menu consisting of tasty snacks, pastas, pizzas, and more wholesome main courses. My personal recommendation is the tasty chicken casadilla, which will set you back AU$11. And my personal must-do is to come for sunset and head to second floor (called the Upper Deck) for tapas and cocktails. Hotel guests will also love the themed buffet dinners, which start at AU$18 per person. Tip: children under 12 eat free when accompanied with the same number of paying adults.

CASUAL/BEACHSIDE

Salt of the Earth

Jln. Raya Pantai, Kuta

Salt of the Earth is the epitome of casual Kuta beachside dining and located within walking distance of Harris Resort Kuta. Seemingly open all hours, this is one to visit for breakfast followed by a day of splashy beach fun, and then back for dinner. Renowned for its seafood platter with ice-cold vodka shots, I would also highly recommend the tapas or the lamb. Salt of the Earth has very recently been joined by Mocean, which offers a more intense party atmosphere, with lite bites and choice cuts of laidback vibes. And with one of those serendipitous moments that writers rarely get, I literally just received a reminder about Mocean’s grand opening party. I’m off—waistline be damned!

Published in TravelTalk Australia, June 2011

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