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(1/1/2012) The Wrap of 2011 by Balieats.com
2011 was no different to those of recent years. An unbelievable number of new restaurants were opened. Many were instant successes, some will take time and many will never work, in fact ,a few have not even lasted the year out, and have already gone.
Do you remember Bali of the 90’s? It is a cause for constant amazement at the ever-increasing range of quality restaurants, in almost every area,
covering so many different cuisines, and at all levels of the pricing yardstick.
The north of Bali is fairly stagnant, only two newcomers took the gamble in 2011. Seyu replaced the old Bali Apik in central Lovina, and after a full
refit re-opened as the area’s ‘1st Japanese restaurant’, that is if you
overlook Octopus Garden years ago. Seyu offers a full range of sushi
[traditional, modern and Americanized], sashimi, snacks, mains and even a fusion special looking like Nasi Goreng but called Teppanyaki Garlic Rice.
The other newbie of note is Le Jeanzan, opened by the long time local chef at Damai. I recall an incredible Balinese Snail Soup he produced when he was there, it was quite amazing.
The coastal strip south of Amed sees constant development. Every visit I
discover new small hotels and warungs, mostly locally owned, some with
foreign involvement. This year, however, not one overtook the previously
established favourite eateries.
There is much excitement about this area’s first ever up-market development - The Griya, which is due to open early in 2012, luxury pool villas, high on the hill with views across to Gili Trawangan, within the complex will be Maku a fine dining restaurant, an open terrace for more casual dining and an underground [no noise pollution] Lounge Bar with live music. This experienced management team, has long operated the very successful Santai in Amed and Rio in Seminyak, so the resultant quality is not in question.
On the hill above Amlapura is found Bali Asli, the brainchild of that bundle
of energy from England via Australia, Penny Williams [ex exec chef at Alila
Manggis and currently consulting chef at Lovina’s Damai]. Penny learnt her trade in the kitchens of London’s famous Savoy Hotel, subsequently working with some great chefs in Sydney before discovering Bali. Bali Asli presents totally original East Balinese cuisine, and is100% organic.
Candi Dasa has slowly been waking up and 2011 saw a host of new restaurants, some even with daring concepts, such as The Dining Room offering something from every cuisine around the Mediterranean Sea. Highlights for me were their Turkish dish, Beyaz Peynir Haydari, is a thick slice of grilled feta that had been sprinkled with paprika and served with Haydari, a yoghurt-based sauce with dill, mint and garlic, and a dish from Malta, Zalza Pikkanti, green bell peppers stuffed with a spicy mix of finely ground beef with tomato, garlic, mint, marjoram and olives, baked in a beef and tomato broth.
The Dining Room started its life as La Sala da Pranzo which resulted in a
number of existing restaurants changing their names [but nothing else] to real or bogus French to compete, rather childish I thought! So, sensibly,
now it is back to just The Dining Room. They have since added a giant
wood-fired pizza oven at front and a separate restaurant on the side is
called Pizza Express, offering a range of tempting pizzas.
Joglo was one of the better new restaurants to open, immaculately clean and offering pure Indonesian food such as Gudeg Jogja, boiled young jackfruit, Beef Empal, sweet fried beef and Telur Pindang, boiled eggs in guava leaves. Although the secret newcomer is found at The BayShore Hotel’s Oceanside Terrace Restaurant. The owner is a retired chef from Perth, Australia, who was ‘never going to cook again’ but could not resist the temptation in this wonderful location.
Ubud retains its fame as being different from the rest. Highlight of the
year was the opening of the perfectly renovated Bridges with outside terrace overlooking the rapids below. Their young Australian chef came up with one of my best dishes of the year, although, for me, poorly named as a Goat Cheese Brulee, it is a hollowed out beetroot filled with thyme-infused goat cheese cream, roasted and served hot with very crisp prosciutto, crunchily good, and roasted garlic on the side, wonderful contrasts in taste.
In a quiet corner above a small river is the quaint Taksu, a perfect spot to
relax and enjoy organic food. An amazing variety of breakfast dishes [for
Ubud], some of which are available all day. They include Eggs Florentine and Benedict [even on real English muffins], Frittatas, Pancakes and Belgian Waffles. Set menus include American, Indonesian, Japanese and Mexican breakfasts.
Ryoshi made a temporary move from its long established position to a back water location in Padang Tegal and was surprisingly busy, the garden setting at front proving very popular. They are now nearing completion of the all new Ryoshi [next door between the temporary Ryoshi and Bebek Bengil] that may even see the live Jazz nights that have proved so successful at their Seminyak restaurant. In the same area Kakiang also rebuilt and re-opened to a full house, still making the best croissants in Bali.
Many new cuisines arrived in Ubud, The Melting Wok with its fresh produce stir-fries with a touch of Laos, Ramen Boy serving those Chinese style wheat noodles cooked in a meat or seafood broth, Delicious Onion from Singapore, Istanbul Café became Ada to back up its change of management, great Turkish food. Il Giardino is Italian at the Han Snel Bungalows, operated by the Three Monkeys clan. Ubud Green is a new villa complex with rice paddy views and a few well-known faces. Their Firefly Café offers Mediterranean snacks and meals [an all day tapas menu to start early in 2012], a rotunda with 270 degree views of mountains and paddies. The late night sports bar The Melting Pot offers tasty Mexican finger food, great quesadillas.
Ubud got itself a steak house, replacing Casa Pasta and Bebek II, the CP
Royal Steakhouse, offering different beef cuts, venison and an unusual Tuna Steak, first marinated with miso. In the back streets of Ubud new small places appeared, Warung Sopa is vegetarian [curried lentils, seaweed lumpia and potato/okara samosas]. Up amongst the rice paddies of Katik Lantang, near Pennestenan, is Warung Om Namaste, a large two-level bamboo structure, serving a full range of Indian food including all the regular dishes and some tasty Biryanis.
On the hill between Tjampuhan and Sayan many local warungs and restaurants opened but the only one to make its mark was Pulau Kelapa, serving traditional non-Balinese Indonesian food from Java and other islands, all at very reasonable prices. In the same area Dijon Café arrived, fresh and clean, with a similar menu to the popular Kuta original. 2012 will see a larger evening hot meal menu.
In Sanur very few changes, the best newcomer was All Spice Café on The
ByPass. Subtle spices for a small but interesting range of dishes at modest
prices. Moroccan Chicken, Balinese Duck, Javanese Rawon Beef and a great Chilli con Carne with yellow rice. Other than that Starry House replaced Triana, now Cantonese instead of Spanish. Doner Kebabs day and night from a warung of that name and a few more new places about to open.
The Renon area of Denpasar is virtually a constant line of warungs and
restaurants, mostly local but some internationally appealing. Virgin Duck
led the way with duck done many different ways, even in pizza, but mainly Betutu, or deep-fried or grilled and that wonderful Yogyakarta Kalasan, braised in turmeric and coconut milk, the resultant flesh is soft and tender falling off the bone with fork alone.
In Denpasar central Imperial Xi-Fu offers Cantonese and Bejing specials.
Their dim sum menu is small but very interesting particularly their pastry
Char Siew of diced BBQ pork. Here they are superb, the pastry light, the
surface shiny from the egg wash, dotted with sesame seeds, the filling
Canggu is one of Bali’s new dining areas. A natural follow on from the
hundreds of villas being built in the area. At the super luxurious villa
complex Ametis is the Eternal restaurant. No tourist menu of many cuisines here but just traditional Indonesian, the chef many years at Four Seasons Jimbaran, the place simple and relaxing. The quality is obvious. Not far away is Deus Café. Everyone knows about their custom bikes but the wonderful food is yet to be discovered. Simple Thai Malee Yum Pla, fresh fish tossed in mint, coriander and lemongrass and the sensational Sri Lankan Chicken, a biryani of rice and chicken studded with leaves, berries and spices, another great dish of the year!
Umalas was Bali’s first area for private villas for rent. No restaurants
just villas. Now they have Crazy Cow. So popular when it opened that it had to close down so it could expand next door and use a larger kitchen. My favourite dish there is their Chorizo Chicken, thinly sliced breast rolled
around a chorizo sausage and roasted in the oven. The chorizo is totally
unlike those you buy from the deli. This one is soft, luscious and strongly
flavoured, the perfect match for the outer layer of chicken meat. The
sausage is prepared on the premises by their Spanish Master Butcher David. Unique!
Kerobokan as usual was the centre of restaurant openings in 2012. The much delayed W Hotel joined the fray with two up-market restaurants Fire and Starfish Bloo. Semara opened their Atrium with an exotic breakfast menu, a rarity for the area, but is already doing a major upgrade to include The Deck. Potato Head opened on the beach, literally, to take on the established trendsetters. Bali finally has a high quality Turkish restaurant, Tulip. Their Mezze tray is the real thing presented with all combinations described for your choice, served with that wonderful Turkish bread, baked in the wood-fired oven at front. Many Kebabs and slow cooked meats, very
EVO replaced Blossom at Sentosa Villas. A revelation with its basic simple
Italian fare but all prepared with an attention to detail rare in Indonesia.
Tomatoes from San Marzano, Cured meats from Spain and Italy, homemade salami [pigs specially raised, fat ones for the salami, not so fat for the bacon and hams]. Their Claypot of Meatballs, slow cooked with all red ingredients; Chianti wine, red onions and tomatoes is the original grandmothers recipe, handed down and faithfully reproduced. The Chicken Cotoletta is perhaps the best example of how 'simple' food can be so perfect. A thin slab of chicken breast is coated in bread crumbs combined with a dash of balsamico.
And then there was Mama San. Everybody knew it was coming, and since opening everyone has visited, reservations are now essential for prime evening dining. From the Sarong team, the cuisine is what was originally intended for Sarong, street food of Asia via a modern hygienic kitchen. The dumplings are Beijing style stuffed with snapper, chili and black beans, steamed and full of surprise, they really pack a wallop! From Vietnam Grilled Pork Belly encased in betel leaves. Indian Chicken with betel leaves, ginger, mustard seeds, pickles, lime and coriander. Peking Duck rolled in what are commonly referred to as Mandarin pancakes, with hoi sin, fresh cucumber sticks andngreen shallots. Mama San has it all!
Smaller good value places opened as well. Thai Corner on Petitenget, Bistro Batu Kali on Eat Street, Bar Bie Q inside the centre is a giant German beer garden [from the owner of popular Extrablatt] another beer garden is Little Bavaria where Loloan used to be. Also on Eat Street Khaima re-opened with a modern renovation and next-door L’entrecote opened with Bali’s first Prix Fixee, salad, beef and dessert.
Seminyak saw more openings on Sunset Road, none yet to set the world on fire. An up-market version of Sip, same menu and chef as the original, and many Indonesian variations along the busy road. More are opening but most of the car parks are empty. Sushi Hana was one of the few exceptions, modern sushi, pleasant service and good value.
Gado Gado used to be one of the islands top nightspots, now after a high
quality renovation Chez Gado Gado is a romantic beachfront restaurant, its tree-lined terrace tables in high demand. Amongst their exotics is Pork
Neck, first braised then grilled and stuffed with sage and lemon, served
with white beans, roasted onion and peppers.
Legian is family holiday area and Pavone is just what they want.
Char-grilled Lamb Cutlets [3 of them], all the way from OZ, are with a
coulis of mint and lemon and Cajun potato wedges, many other BBQ and pan fried meats and seafood and all at budget prices. Malo’s appeared opposite old Aussie favourite hotel Rumah Manis just before it was demolished. Chef Marcus is in his 4th Bali restaurant, same Swiss menu, same great food.
Closer to the beach is Sang Ria from the owners of long time favourite
Waroeng Asia. Again simple food, BBQ’s [wonderful ribs], oven and stir fries in a most pleasant garden setting. Some evenings non-intrusive live music an added bonus. Shisha Café added to the choice for mid east cuisine, a shisha bar with water pipes and scented tobacco, the food extremely good. Bil Sanayeh a good example, spicy potato and crushed kofta balls between thin slices of unleavened bread.
The Bukit [comprising Uluwatu, Ungasan and Pecatu] is an unusual area. Once not much more than a mountain of dry rock, it is rapidly developing as a budding metropolis of 5 star and boutique hotels, villa complexes and
private villas. Yet the area is still thin on the ground for standalone
restaurants of quality and value. However whilst the locals are always
complaining about their lack of choice when one does open that offers
something different [last year with the small great value Vietnamese My
Kitchen] they do not support them, so closure is inevitably just months
away. A problem they seem to share with the residents of Sanur. Best new openings this year was El Kabron with its Spanish chef ex Barcelona’s famous San Pau restaurant. Atop the cliffs at Pecatu, a place to relax with food and drink. In the hotel/villa scene Finn’s Beach Club opened at the Semara, snacks and pizzas on the beach.
Jimbaran also offers little outside of the hotels and this year no change
with the only newcomer of note Topeng, in the new Kupu-Kupu Barong hotel. Their young Belgian chef does it the European way with Salad of Artichokes, Calf Liver in raspberry vinaigrette and the very Flemish Beef in Black Beer.
Nusa Dua has many standalone restaurants but most have a distinct tourist flavour, with many menus almost identical, almost all of which these days have a Russian translation. Along the peninsula at Tandjung Benoa was more action with the opening of Queens of India with the same menu as their Kartika Plaza one. Further along towards the point Sakala is a serious attempt at fine dining. French restaurateur and Maitre d’ Herve Hedbert and French Canadian Chef Frederic Bouley combine to present one of Bali’s best dining experiences, food and service both exemplary. The Carpaccio of Butterfish and Duck Foie Gras [imported from the Lande region of France, coming as two perfect small discs, prepared Torchon style, sitting on rounds of thin warm brioche] are just two examples of their attention to detail, using relatively simple ingredients to produce incredible dishes.
Ubud’s iconic Bebek Bengil has just opened in Nusa Dua, in a restaurant
complex next to The Grand Hyatt. Others at that site are due to open soon. In Ubud BetelNut opened under the trees on Raya Ubud, from Art’s Warung.
What happens in 2012? There will be even more activity than 2011 if all the plans and rumours come about. The Mozaic team to open an ocean front restaurant [different name and style] at Batu Belig, Kerobokan. Bali Deli to open in Sanur and Ubud, Café Moka to open on the Bypass in Sanur. That man Marinos will be back with his Mediterranean MY Café behind Ultimo in Kerobokan. Warren Mead returns to Bali [for a short time he was at Karma Jimbaran] with his simple but effective style of presenting fish so you can actually taste the fish; fresh fish filleted on the premises, dipped in an egg wash to seal the flavour in, then pan fried with olive oil and a dash of butter, with a drizzle of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt. Perfect! Ubud to get a Swedish restaurant, but no one knows where?
The Sea Sentosa project at Echo Beach supposedly will have 5 restaurants, some beachfront. First restaurant due to open early 2012. New Sheraton, Intercontinental, Marrriot, Regent and Westin Hotels and hundreds of new villa complexes.
Bali, a gastronomic holiday, every day!
Best New Restaurants – 2011
Best Fine Dining - Sakala – Tandjung Benoa
Fine dining but still with that Balinese touch, poolside and overlooking
beach and ocean. French Maitre d’ and French-Canadian chef produce
gastronomic masterpieces turning simple things into food that amazes!
Best Restaurant - EVO – Kerobokan
Simple Italian, but with incredible attention to detail. Even the salamis
are made on the premises from specially fed pigs raised on a controlled
diet. Grandma’s recipes like you have never tasted before.
Best Value - Mama San – Kerobokan
Best this year and best every year. Following on from their success at
Sarong, Mama San present the street food of Asia. All original with nothing
toned down for the tourist masses! Reservations essential.
Best Cafe All Spice Café – Sanur
small neat air-conditioned café offering a variety of local and
International dishes, all with a subtle variety of spices.
Best Cheapie - Virgin Duck – Denpasar
Located in that area of Renon that features 50 other warungs and restaurants but uniquely different to the rest. Duck many different ways even shredded with pineapple and cheese in their thin crisp Hawaiian Pizza…for $3.