Bali Dining - a short review
We returned from Bali in late August, with time spent mostly in Seminyak. We had a terrific time. Below is a short summary of some restaurants we visited. In brief, we were very impressed with the food in Bali, way better than we had expected and better than many other vacation destinations we have been to elsewhere. We didn't have a single bad meal and -- no Bali Belly, something we are very grateful for.
Sarong, in Seminyak: this is a new spot and we went twice. It was great. Its in a redone villa, with couches, tables and comfy chairs. Very pretty. It was packed every night so you must make a reservation. Without one we were turned away one evening. Dean, the maitr'd, from Spore, is very nice and on the ball. The chef too is outgoing and very focused. The food is Thai/Indian which indeed is a bit of a weird combination, particularly since the flavors can be very different. Thus, I suggest you focus predominantly on one of the cuisines. Among other items, the samosas were excellent, the shredded fresh tuna with chili in bettel leaf (they are small bite size appeteizers and you order them by the piece) were absolutely superb, the Thai shrimp salad with cucumber and chili was appropriately incendiary when we asked for it very spicy, the Thai green curry with snapper was similarly terrific and the Indian curries we had were also great. Ditto the nan and the roti. Black sticky rice with lychee was also great. Price wise the restaurant is on par with others in Bali of the same caliber, though actually a bit cheaper on some items. Highly recommended.
Trattoria: in Seminyak, this was a terrific simple Italian spot with excellent thin crust pizzas and pastas. The linguini pesto was terrific, the wine list, though small, was reasonable for Bali and the red wine actually came out properly chilled. Trattoria gets packed so a reservation is also a good idea. The owners are Italian and the crowd was about 50% Italian the night we went. All in all, if the spot was here in NYC we would go regularly. Pastas were about $4-5 U.S. One day we also had pizzas at their other spot, a few doors down the street, called Trattoria Pizza, I think, and those too were great. Their special pasta that day, baked penne with meat sauce and melted mozzarella was also terrific.
Osteria Telese: this Italian spot is right across from the Legian in Seminyak. Owned by an older gentleman, Vittorio, who has been in Indonesia for nearly 30 yrs but still speaks with an incredibly heavy Italian accent, was also superb. Again, the crowd was heavily Italian here too. Great simple green salads, grilled octopus and potato salad, outstanding pastas and terrific milanesas. Their pesto linguini was again great and the pata with white clams was clean, tasty and as good as I've gotten here in NYC in many spots, in fact better in some ways. A special one night was linguini in a red sauce with fresh crab. Superb. The milanesas were well cooked, soft and delicious. Vittorio couldn't be nicer and will make anything you want. Again, highly recommened.
La Luciola: as others advised we went here only for lunch and had a great meal. The spot is very pretty, the menu is interesting and service was good. Their salads were pristine and excellent. Great fried calamari with a spicy dip, grilled tuna salad, and even their fish n chips were well fried. They have frozen fruit slushies that were also very good.
Sate Bali: located directly across the street from the Samaya (where we stayed, and which we loved, I will post on that too) is a simple Balinese spot. Also excellent and inexpensive. The chef worked with the Swiss chef from Bumbu Bali and essentially taught him the local dishes. The Swiss chef opened an upscale spot down the coast, which is supposedly great (we didn't go, we didn't want to spend the 30+ mins in a taxi) and the "teacher chef" has Sate Bali. The food was all well done and delicious. Indeed, sates are everywhere in Bali and we never had a bad one; many, many different kinds.
Breezes: We had a couple meals here and the food was well done and service couldn't have been more accomodating. The setting is beautiful. Yet, if pushed, we thought the food was better at Sarong.
Anantara: there is a brand new Thai spot at the Anantara hotel. It is set up by the pool and overlooks the beach. There are lit torches and it is a pretty spot. Perhaps I shouldn't be reviewing the place because we didn't eat there but, we chose not to eat there because it was practically empty and we found it to be very expensive once we saw the menu. A pad thai was about $14 U.S. and other dishes were similar (though they do have some set menu options). In comparison, a pad thai at Sarong was about $6 U.S., I believe. Also, when we spoke to the chef on the way in he told us he was from Java, not Thailand. Now, while that is fine, the Anantara is part of an upscale Thai hotel chain and the restaurant is a signature spot for them. They can't find a Thai chef?
We walked over to Ku De Ta for lunch one day and it looked very nice, as did the food. Yet, we weren't that hungry so can't opine on the food. Likewise, we peaked into Gado Gado at night, its right across from the Anantara, and while it was crowded, and the food looked good, it seemed to have a very eclectic menu - that's something we generally avoid. We also peaked into the Living Room one night and that too looked good but, again, it wasn't that crowded and the menu didn't hold out that much for us.
We also had a meal at Terazo in Ubud one evening and that was excellent. Simply outstanding gazpacho, thai beef salad and summer rolls. They had a Balinese chicken curry which was also superb, served with red rice. Yet, their Balinese lamb curry was not nearly as good. My son's pad thai there was Ok, but not terrific. Service was good and Terazo is pretty. Though we had intended at dining at Mozaic, we stopped by and looked at the menu and didn't think we would enjoy it that much. I am sure the food is great, as many have said, but it was not what we were looking for and many of the flavor combinations were a bit odd for us. We also figured we were better off trying items which we could not so easily find back here in NYC.
In sum, we had a great time, highly recommend Bali as a destination (in particular Seminyak if you want great restaurants and shops) and can't wait to go back.
Oh yes, one more thing, we brought back a number of small plastic bottles of commercial Sambal sauce. Its just great and found everywhere. We use it with eggs, frittatas and who knows what else.