Where to eat in South Bali
Great for: Dinner with friends and family.
The low-down: While most foodies flock to Jimbaran for its seafront restaurants, discerning yuppies head to this secluded coconut grove instead. Why? Because it's where Chef Kevin Cherkas — formerly of BLU at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore — has set up a multi-functional space for tapas and cocktails. More of an evening venue, you walk through a curated garden lit up by the faint glow of lights for a full view of the compound, with the main 40-seater dining area visible from floor-to-ceiling glass windows, as well as an alfresco lounge. Once you enter, the open kitchen greets you with plenty of buzz. If you choose to dine from the elevated bar, you might just spot some Masterchef moments. For a more intimate experience in the main dining area, soft linen curtains drape around tables for added privacy.
Eat this: One of the chefs we spoke with described it perfectly: "It's like grandma's food, but if grandma went to cooking school". And that's exactly what to expect. Quirky food for the soul. All ingredients are locally sourced, so instead of a traditional gazpacho of Italy's best tomatoes, an Indonesian take with ginger, garlic, and coriander are blended with local vegetables to form the base of a sumptuous grilled octopus dish. We particularly enjoyed the chef's creative use of coconut; its shavings gave a toasty edge to scallops while hints of it were whipped into a foam to top a tangy dessert.
Drink this: Ginger tonic, Cherkas's twist on the gin and tonic. Using torch ginger — which lends an aromatic, grassy taste — it's a great way to freshen up your palate in between dishes.
Good to know: Reservations are a must. When we visited during low-season, the restaurant's main dining area was already fully booked. If you're dining in pairs, we suggest sitting by the open kitchen. The chefs here aren't divas and are happy to entertain your requests and queries. On the way out, be sure to pick up flavoured salts prepared by Cherkas himself.
Jalan Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran, Bali 80364. Tel: +62 361 708 066
Great for: An indulgent meal with family or a group of friends. It's best to come as a group as portions are larger than sharing plates and you'll want to have a taste of everything.
The low-down: A spacious nook in the hotel made cosy with mood lighting and Chef Jack Yoss at the helm. The director of cuisine at W Retreat & Spa Bali — also a consultant for the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2015 — created his menu with locally grown and sourced produce in mind. Reveal your likes and dislikes to the candid chef and he'll delight you with small plates tailored to your taste.
Eat this: The melt-in-your-mouth Kiwami Wagyu flown in from Queensland and steamed foie gras chawanmushi. Here, the humble chawanmushi takes a luxe turn with generous pieces of foie gras. It's a flavour pairing made in heaven. To kickstart your appetite for the hefty meal ahead, try the silky Lombok oyster that's tangy with just the right amount of brininess.
Drink this: The banana, date and Yakult probiotic smoothie.
Good to know: It's located just a few paces across from WooBar at the W, where international DJs regularly take to the decks. Fill up on Yoss' steaks and dishes infused with Asian flavours before the party gets started.
W Retreat & Spa Bali. Kuta Utara, Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361. Tel: +62 3614 738 106
Great for: Authentic, Balinese cuisine fit for a king
The low-down: Founded by Chef Heinz von Holzen, Bumbu Bali is one of the leading restaurants on the island serving up Balinese cuisine that doesn't stray far from its roots. Holzen has done for Balinese cuisine what Chef David Thompson has done for Thai cuisine. His interest in Balinese food is not just confined to whipping up a culinary feast. Holzen has gone on to author books on the subject including such titles as Feast of Flavors from the Balinese Kitchen and Street Food of Bali. During our visit, we spotted him cooking alongside his bevy of chefs at the open kitchen. Diners will certainly find themselves in good hands.
Eat this: The extensive menu pays homage to the diversity of Balinese cuisine and the best way to experience a little of everything is to order up the Balinese Rijsttafel set which begins with a minimum order for two. A veritable feast of 12 dishes, ranging from sate babi (pork satay) to be sampi mebase Bali (Balinese beef rendang), is served alongside two different types of steam rice. The meal concludes with a dessert platter of traditional Balinese sweet treats paired with your choice of Balinese coffee or tea.
Drink this: Curious to sample some locally made alcohol? Arak, a distilled palm wine produced in Bali, is offered here too.
Good to know: The restaurant also runs a cooking school programme that begins with morning market visits and ends with a tasting of your very own homecooked meal.
Jl. Pratama, Badung Regency, Nusa Dua, Bali 80363. Tel: +62 361 774 502
Great for: Date nights for two (or three, if that's how you swing).
The low-down: Republik 45 has planted its flag on the site of a former furniture factory, which explains the dramatically tall ceiling that hangs over the main dining area. The seven-month-old restaurant is all about serving up familiar Indonesian flavours presented in modern stylings. Live acoustic sets commence after 8pm on certain nights, setting the mood for couples to cosy up as they savour their meal.
Eat this: Rendang sapi (beef rendang), is sous vide till tender and served with a chilli and coconut emulsion. Ayam bakar taliwang, a familiar dish from Lombok, features perfectly grilled free-range chicken sided with a spicy sambal. Love coconut? Try the tum ayam jamur, featuring chicken, shiitake mushroom, and coconut milk steamed in a banana leaf.
Drink this: Despite its nationalistic leanings, you won't find Indonesian wines in the cellar. New and old world wines rule the roost.
Good to know: Ladies night here is not just an alcohol-fuelled affair. On the last Wednesday of the month, rock up with your posse and drink your way through a complimentary wine tasting flight. The best part? The restaurant has partnered with famed hair spa Rob Peetoom to give ladies a free blowout and makeover.
Jl Kerobokan Raya 86A, Bali 80361. Tel: +62 8191 6741 844
Great for: Lunch before hitting the beach for an all-day tanning session.
The low-down: Vietnamese food in Bali? Well, why not? We'll pick up our chopsticks when it tastes this good. Regulars at Ku De Ta might already know of the joint thanks to the fact that it was opened by Aki Kotzamichalis, the very man who co-founded Ku De Ta in Bali. Neon light installations preside over an assuredly cool interior while a cosy outdoor terrace makes for a great spot to watch the cool crowd of Seminyak drift by. With chef Geoff Lindsay at the stove, you'll find classic and regional Vietnamese dishes given a contemporary makeover with Aussie sensibilities.
Eat this: The humble rice paper roll plays host to Peking duck, spring onion, and cucumber while hefty tiger prawns are given good crunch when fried with a crisp coating of green rice. The grill here prides itself on being fired with a variety of different woods. Call for the masterfully grilled barbecue quail. The bird is notoriously hard to cook, but it was tender and lightly charred at the right places. It comes sided with a refreshingly light, watercress salad topped with watermelon and spearmint. For dessert, don't miss the chewy, deep fried coconut balls filled with molten salted caramel.
Drink this: Freshly squeezed sugar cane juice comes in a flight of playful variations. It can be combined with coconut water or muddled with such fresh fruit as strawberries or guava. Why didn't anyone think of this earlier?
Good to know: As Saigon Street opens till 1am daily, it's a great spot to knock back a few cocktails while munching on bar bites that transcend your run-of-the-mill bar grub.
Jl. Petitenget Raya No. 77X, Kerobokan, Bali. Tel: +62 3618 974 007
Great for: Fusion food done right. It's also a great spot to toast to a special occasion sans the stuffy ambience so frequently found at fine dining joints.
The low-down: Like its sister restaurants in Singapore, the Bali outpost of Kilo does not disappoint. In fact, our meal here was easily one of the best we had during our stay. Fusion food is always a tricky beast to tackle, but the chefs at Kilo not only tame the beast, but turn it into one heck of a meal to remember. The modern minimalist stylings of the restaurant doesn't seek to distract you from the real star of the show, which is really the food on your plate.
Eat this: Tuna tartare mixed up with avocado and accented with wasabi; cream of ebiko pasta topped with grilled tiger prawns; and squid ink rice cooked till al dente and tossed with crispy baby squid, briny bursts of salmon roe, and creamy licks of garlic aioli.
Drink this: The compact wine list features a crowd-pleasing selection of old and new world wines by the glass and bottle.
Good to know: If you're dining in a big group, book ahead for the long marble table that can fit 12 comfortably.
22 Jalan Drupadi, Bali 60361. Tel: +62 3614 741 006
Great for: Big groups of friends. During our visit, there was a huge group of about 20 women having a slightly raucous girls' night out. It's also ideal for a romantic dinner for two. Simply ask for seat tucked away in a corner. As the restaurant is open till midnight, take your time to savour your meal.
The low-down: In a dark, romantic courtyard, this Bali offshoot of Singapore-based Italian restaurant ilLido serves comfort Italian food and does it well. Set in a charming, al fresco setting, the vibe is not overly formal — sundresses and sandals are fine — and the food does not disappoint. A great restaurant for artisanal pastas and a wide selection of shareable starters.
Eat this: Most of the dishes lean towards classic Italian fare with a focus on pasta, meat, and fish. Highlights for us were the jamon Iberico de Bellota with cherry tomatoes as well as the the rich and flavourful linguine with crab and Mascarpone. The crispy calamari, though delicious, arrived at our table pan fried — which came as a surprise for those of us expecting it to be deep fried. Save room for dessert if you love Italian treats, no one at our table could resist the dark chocolate profiterole.
Drink this: ilLido has a good selection of wines, but cocktails are available too if that's what you fancy. No one will judge if you order a Negroni over a Nebbiolo.
Good to know: The restaurant is well spaced out, so you're never packed in with fellow diners. It's a quiet sanctuary underscored by service that is attentive but not overly fussy. The restaurant manager Saurab and his team noticed that someone in our party was not feeling well and even left the premises to procure medication for us. How's that for going beyond the call of duty?
Jl. Raya Kerobokan No. 38, Banjar Taman, Kuta, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361. Tel: +62 361 731 175
Great for: Aussie-style breakfast, lunch or brunch.
The low-down: Marble counter seats, a swank interior, and perfectly tanned bodies tucking into Acai berry bowls and sipping on freshly made juices — we could very well be in Australia, but this is Seminyak and we're dining at one of the most popular brunch spots in town. With tables turning by the minute, Sisterfields doesn't take reservations and they certainly don't need to. Here, Executive Chef Jethro Vincent turns out mod-Aussie plates that carry through from breakfast to dinner. A respect for provenance comes in the form of milk from cows pastured in the paddocks of Banyuwangi Java. Vincent transforms these farm fresh milk deliveries into buttermilk, ricotta, and cultured butter.
Eat this: Feeling virtuous? Call for the massive Acai berry bowl. The colourful dish features a cool blend of frozen blueberries, banana and almond milk, all topped with cocoa nibs, fresh strawberries, and a goji berry granola amped up with coffee honey. There's also Berkshire pork belly cooked for 18 hours till tender. To cut through the magnificently fatty meat, a refreshing Thai style rice noodle salad lifts the dish with a showering of fresh mint and coriander. For dessert, don't miss the Strawberries & Cream, a grown-up take on a familiar childhood flavour pairing made all the better with a herbaceous drizzle of basil oil.
Drink this: The shots here are well pulled, so coffee snobs shouldn't be afraid to call for their regular caffeine fix. The smoothies featuring housemade nut milks are delicious, too.
Good to know: BO$$ Man, the burger joint sited just next door, is run by the same people behind Sisterfields. Scoot over if you're in the mood for a huge, messy burger.
Jl. Kayu Cendana No. 7, Seminyak, Bali 80361. Tel: +62 8113 860 507
To discover more insider tips for Bali from W Insider Rika Wisna, click here.
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