In part one of our series on Bali, we discussed areas to stay. In part two, we gave our picks for the best activities to experience on Bali. For part three, we’ll give you some of our top Bali dining experiences, in no particular order. Some of you may have a different list of your own. That’s fine. These are our favorite Bali dining experiences, rather than simply the best restaurants. We try to provide some variety for you to keep life interesting.
1) Casual dinner at Bumbu Bali, Tanjung Benoa
Bumbu Bali is a great spot to get an introduction to some of the flavorful wonders of Balinese cuisine. There is a location in Ubud, but we like the location in Tanjung Benoa, on the way to Nusa Dua from Seminyak/Kuta.
Set in a very tranquil courtyard garden setting, the music is traditional gamelan, prices are reasonable, and we recommend you try the Rijsttafel, literally “rice table,” course here, which includes many small dishes for you to try, giving you a great sense of the possibilities of your dining experience in Bali. Rijsttafel is a beautiful combination of Dutch and Indonesian culture, and not to be missed.
2) Fancy dinner at Metis Restaurant, Seminyak
Metis is upscale and swank, featuring a chic and sexy open layout in a gorgeous setting overlooking some rice fields. Its menu, created by French chef Nicholas Tourneville is full of variety and quite simply superb. This restaurant ought to be saved for a special night. It is marvelous.
3) Dinner with a view at Seafood Barbecues on the beach at sunset (5pm latest), Jimbaran Bay
Along the stretch of beach at Jimbaran Bay, on the west side of the island, you will find a cluster of seafood restaurants on the beach. The tables are placed directly in the sand, so ladies, don’t wear heels, and gents, maybe leave the Gucci loafers at home for this one. There are lots of options in terms of restaurants, and most of them look similar; however, this is not the case. Taxi drivers get paid to take customers to certain restaurants, usually the ones that aren’t so good. Prices can vary widely, too. All these restaurants are based on a system where it costs xx,000 rupiah per kilo of whatever seafood.
The three most regularly deemed reliable are: Menega, Lia, and Sharkey’s. They’ve managed to survive for years as well, suggesting that there is good reason for their “reliable” reputations.
Some useful tips:
A) Arrive by 5pm at the latest. The sun sets right around 6 and things get dark and smoky (the only lights are from restaurants and squid fishing boats), and a few bugs come out after the sun is set. A perfect stay is 5-630 and then you move on elsewhere.
B) Don’t wear nice shoes-you’re going on the sand directly. Also, because the winds die down at night and the fish get barbecued, the area gets a bit smelly and smoky after dark. Your nice summer dress is going to smell like barbecued fish, and your hands are going to get fishy/greasy as well, so don’t wear your finest clothes.
C) Taxi drivers get kick backs from certain establishments. Don’t get suckered into thinking they’re all the same. Lia, Menega, Sharkey’s have good reputations.
D) Don’t bother with the lobster-go for the giant prawns instead. The lobster served in Bali, like in most tropical destinations, is the rock lobster–definitely less flavorful than the North Atlantic homard type that you see in restaurants in the northern hemisphere. These lobsters cost a pretty penny here and will drive your bill up in a hurry. Costing about 1/3 of the price are giant prawns, which really are giant. They are quite delicious as well, definitely almost as delicious as the rock lobster. So here’s your value proposition. Opt for them instead of the lobster, we strongly believe that (and I love lobster, so I’m not just saying they’re the same thing).
4) Lunch or dinner at Warisan, Kerobokan
The restaurant where Chef Tourneville used to work before Metis is still something of a classic, and a top pick among visitors every year. The place is a little dated in terms of design, especially when contrasted with Metis, but is still a good spot, especially if a table at Metis is hard to come by.
5) Dinner with a view at La Lucciola, Seminyak (for sunset)
Reservations ahead of time are definitely required for the sunset seating for this institution. “La Looch” sits right on the beach and offers great views of the sunset. Italian fare is served here, and we’d be lying if we said it is at a world class level. It’s good, but never going to compare to what you can get in Tokyo, New York, London, Paris, etc.; however, that’s not what you go there for. It’s for the views, the setting, and the lovely atmosphere. Two tips in addition to booking in advance: Request a table near the front of the restaurant so that you can see the sunset from your table. The restaurant is a deep square so if you’re near the back, your view won’t be great. There are mosquitoes here thanks to a little creek that runs by in the parking lot next door, so wear a little spray and know that by sitting near the edges of the restaurant, you set yourself up to be the first line of defense against mosquitoes for other patrons. Also, if you’re afraid of bats, a few like to fly by here, sometimes even hanging out under the soaring thatched roof, so be warned. The Bali Bible has a nice write-up and photos of La Lucciola, as well as many other useful links here.
6) Lunch or Dinner at Made’s Warung, Kuta
Another longtime favorite for Bali, Warung has been around for 45 years! The menu here is very extensive and offers many Balinese and Indonesian dishes, as well as some Western style dishes (Italian and French fare). There is also an interesting vegetarian menu here that shows you how many “vegetarian” dishes are actually made with chicken stock, caveat emptor when you are having your “vegetarian” nasi goreng in other places as well.
7) Breakfast in your villa, Indonesian style, wherever you are staying (or from a street vendor, if that’s more your style)
There is nothing quite like waking up to a fresh nasi goreng (fried rice) or mee goreng (fried noodle) breakfast in your villa. Delivered to you, perhaps pool side, with a fresh watermelon or papaya juice, some fresh fruit, and a pot of hot coffee. Or walk out onto one of the streets and find a little wagon serving fried rice and do it the locals’ way. It’s the proper Balinese way to start your day.
8) Single Fin after a sunset session (best day Sunday), Uluwatu
We already mentioned the magic of Uluwatu to you in part two of our Bali series, featuring the Top 8 activities to do on the island, but here it is again. Whether you go to surf or go to just watch, stay for some Bintangs and some food at sunset.
The Sunday Session, as it’s called (for you non-surfers, session refers to a session of surfing), is the most famous day to go there. Enjoy live music or DJs. Just be prepared for a boisterous crowd–go on, you can handle it!
9) Romantic picnic in a bale in the jungles near Ubud
Bales are like Indonesian gazebos, set up in a day bed-style. Very few picnics in the world can rival these, in the right setting, for a romantic lunch for two. Your hotel or villa concierge can probably arrange one for you, especially if you are staying for a while up in the Ubud area.
Here is an example at Hanging Gardens Ubud, one of the most famous resorts in Ubud (to see why, check out their “hanging garden pools”–now that’s a pool!). Spend a few hours in privacy and listen to the birds singing and the splashing of the river running through the valley.
10) An over the top, world class tasting menu at experience at Mozaic, Ubud
Set in a garden in Ubud, from the outside, Mozaic looks like it could be any old restaurant. But set foot inside, and you can anticipate you’re in for a special treat. The bar and lounge area is modern and chic. You’d almost be forgiven for thinking this was the best part. But the garden in the back is where you want to be seated for this fantastic dining experience.
Mozaic, in my opinion, has some of the very best food in Bali. It’s course based and does cost an arm and a leg, especially relative to other places in Bali. However, if you were to splurge for one truly amazing meal while on the island, this is where we would send you.
Chef Chris Salans does a masterful job of blending European style with Balinese style, using fresh local ingredients and providing flair. If you’re the type that wants your food to look like what it looks like in its natural state, i.e., meat should look like a giant slab of meat, and a carrot should look like a whole carrot pulled out of the ground, this place is perhaps not for you. This is more the kind of fare you’ll find at Robuchon or Ducasse or Boulud restaurants around the world–not quite on that level, perhaps, but spectacular nonetheless, and on Bali–which is no easy feat. And if you’ve traveled a lot to resorts around the world, you’ll know how difficult it is to pull that off in a tropical, island setting where fresh ingredients are sometimes hard to come by.
And that’s a wrap on our Top 10 Bali dining experiences. There are many other fine options, of course, and again, this is not a list consisting merely of the best food in Bali, but is an attempt by us to suggest a variety of different dining experiences that will help to make your stay in Bali a wonderful memory.
Got some other suggestions? Please add them in the comment section below. We hope you enjoy our choices, and bon appetit!
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