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2013 End of Year Wrap | 2012 End of Year Wrap | 2011 End of Year Wrap
2010 End of Year Wrap| 2009 End of Year Wrap| 2008 End of Year Wrap | 2007 End of Year Wrap |
| 2006 End of Year Wrap | 2005 End of Year Wrap | 2004 End of Year Wrap | 2003 End of Year Wrap |

The 1970's must have been grim. Local warungs [cafes] that even made some minimal attempt of producing food that looked, or tasted, a little bit western when on the plate, became overnight sensations. Featured in many well-known, international, guide books, these establishments are today still, unfortunately, serving up the same poor imitations. Having been highlighted, on the world stage, by famous guide books [some with questionable taste], and having made much money as a result, who can really blame them?

Most of the early foreign restaurateurs did not help either, and served up some really bad examples of their supposed national cuisine, as most of them were not professionals of the hospitality trade. Some of these have since gone to the wall, as they deserved, but a few of them still exist today. Outside of the new five star hotels [some of which are also not known for their culinary delights], there was little else of quality.

But the revolution had to come!

It started in the late 1980's, and has been gathering steam ever since! It started quietly; a couple of good Cantonese restaurants, the two young Australians that built a beach house north of Seminyak at the Petitenget Temple, the French boys who looked after the catering at the wonderful Bali Bird Park then moved into their own restaurant.

In Bali today, you can eat extremely well, and choose from many different national cuisines. Furthermore, the cost is a fraction of what you would pay, for the same quality of food, in any of the world's major cities. When you add to this, for no extra charge, some of the most magnificent dining settings that you could ever imagine, then you know that you really are holidaying in the `land of the gods'.

One of the initial things a first-time visitor notices in Bali, is the almost total absence of Balinese restaurants. Most of the local eating-houses are either Chinese, Indonesian Chinese, Indonesian or the Halal [Muslim] Padang food of Sumatra. The Balinese must be one of the few world cultures for whom eating is not a social habit. At their many ceremonies everybody eats, more or less, together. And it is for such ceremonies that all of the great Balinese dishes are prepared. For any special ceremony, Babi Guling [Suckling Pig], and Sate Lilith are almost essential!

It is very rare for a family to eat a meal together, as is done in almost every other culture. Everybody eats, by themself, whenever hungry. This is often no more than a handful of cold, already cooked, rice. If a couple of people get hungry at the same time, then of course they may all go off to a local warung to eat. Only, however, because they all wanted to eat, and not for any social significance.

Now in Bali, we even have a fine dining Balinese restaurant. It is called Bumbu Bali, and has been very faithfully set up by the Hyatt's ex-chef, Heinz van Holzen. Others are quickly following, like the great little warung, Red Rice, up above Ubud at Sayan.

You can now enjoy better than average meals of many different cuisines. Chefs have come from all over the world. Some have married and stayed, whilst others have just passed on their skills to locals.

During your holiday in Bali, you will definitely not go hungry!


2013 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2013!

This is my annual summary of all the new restaurants that have opened in Bali. Every year I seem to begin the same way, expressing my amazement at the constant flow of new openings! Is there no ending to how much [often recklessly] is spent every year in this way. In 2013, unlike 2012, a big percentage of the newbies were of high quality, innovative and fairly priced, in fact it has been a vintage year, so much so that another 10 places also deserved to finish on our ?awards list?, unlike in 2012 when we struggled to select any at all.

However the inevitable result is, and has been, the closing of many others. Some lasted only months and a few almost reached one year but the failures have been many, including a couple of very good places such as Tulip. Many others, from fine dining [and a few previous high rollers] to simple restaurants, are running on empty and have a short future life to look forward to.

The buzz word for 2013 was ?tapas?. Last year it was organic [with most of them not], in previous years it was ?Mediterranean? with just a Greek Salad, some Pasta and a Chorizo! The honorable tapa is a Spanish invention, a small dish eaten with fingers or using a toothpick or small fork, whilst sitting at a bar sipping your drink. The only true Spanish tapas bar opened and closed within a year, a total failure, in Kuta Galleria many years ago. What all seem to call tapas these days are a selection of small plates [?entrée? size , but they do not seem to like the word ?entrée? any more] that can be shared by two persons. The concept is to enjoy a wide variety of different tastes. Mama San championed it a few years ago and now many follow, some doing it better than others, some copying in name only!

The surprises of 2013 began up on Bali?s north coast, in the past a gastronomical dessert, the usual tourist offerings normally being the same from restaurant to restaurant, as it once was in Ubud and Sanur. Spice Beach Club led the way. Very Mediterranean [real and with ?tapas?] in its beach front location in Lovina, its blue and white décor giving it a Greek feel which was only supported by the many good Greek dishes on the menu, Zuzukakia being one of their most popular dishes, minced beef combined with herbs and grilled in three small patties, served with onion rings and French fries.

The Lovina Bali [on the site of the old Mas Lovina] was an Australian project and is an impressive array of villas, suites and rooms. Needless to say a high quality good value restaurant was a necessity and Heliconia fills that bill perfectly! The mostly Australian clientele is catered for perfectly with a large pizza oven, many seafood dishes including a giant platter. Most popular is a dish called the Lovina Meat Tapas with three different grilled meats [beef, chicken and lamb].

Down the coast to Amed and the constant development continues. Highlight was the final opening of The Griya, the coast?s 1st pool villa complex. Its high quality restaurant Safka with Chef Pasi, from Finland via fine dining restaurants and embassy dining rooms, proving the perfect match. Classic European cuisine is carefully married with local spices with pleasing effect. Typical is the sensational dish of green tea noodles liberally studded with scallops in an urak sauce. This is a perfect example of taking a base Italian dish and improving it with the flavours of Indonesia!

One of the attractions of Amed is that most places [hotels, home-stays and restaurants/warungs] are small and very personal, normally with the owner managing and working there offering a level of personal service not found anywhere else on the island. Star newcomer in this group was the Hungarian restaurant, Gusto, with the Hungarian owner in the kitchen. That famous paprika infused Goulash leads the way closely followed by an Hungarian special of small pork and bacon strips pan fried in garlic and black pepper titled Roast a la Brason, served with very crunchy deep-fried potato rounds. Chicken Kiev and Wiener Schnitzels may be strange fare for Bali?s fishing village but it adds to the ever growing cuisine variety available along this strip of coast. Another newcomer, Harmony, is from the same management as OnlYou, and concentrates on local seafood and produce.

Ubud continued its attempt to balance fine dining restaurants with good value ones as their tourist market evolves. Top of the fine dining range was Wijaya Kusuma at the very impressive new hotel in Begawan, Ayung Resort. With majestic views back up to the source of the sacred Ayung River, the food matches the location. The menu combines international fare with Asian spices, delicate and tasty. Baby Chicken is served Chinese style dipped in soy and black vinegar, with straw mushrooms, tofu, mustard greens and XO. Pan Seared Foie Gras, sits on soft mushroom ravioli, with morel sauce and apple chutney whilst their Beef Carpaccio is flavoured with rendang spices.

Monkey Forest Road saw the usual number of openings and name changes. Lemonade [what a strange name?] replaced the temporary site for Bali Pesto and offers the weird mix of Thai and Mexican?

Jln. Goutomo continues to host many small, mostly budget, warungs, cafes and restaurants. The star new boy this year was Dolce Arancia [sweet orange] a true Italian eatery with some incredible pasta dishes such as their Spaghetti in orange, studded with plump prawns, a surprising dish!

At Tjampuhan, Rondji was an impressive outdoor site, under mature trees, with majestic views, in front of the Antonio Blanco Museum, Their menu a bit optimistic but now with a new chef trying the right the wrongs of a false start.

More large hotels began to appear on Ubud?s outskirts, the first of which was the Alaya in Padang Tegal. Its restaurant, Petani, was a pleasant surprise and became the first of a chain of new mid range hotels whose management opted for quality ethnic offerings rather than the usual moderate tourist menu. Petani?s chef hails from North Bali and many of his wonderful Balinese dishes originate there, some are original others are his creation, taste winning out every time! Udang Kelapa is a soup of coconut and lemongrass topped with a row of juicy prawns. Betutu Wonton has a wonderful base broth, filled with soft wontons stuffed with duck meat that has had the betutu treatment, quite sensational. The delicate Sapi Mangga is thinly sliced rare pepper tenderloin beef tossed with strips of young mango and a lime mayonnaise. Chef Made is a perfect example of the wave of great young local chefs currently appearing on the scene doing their thing after working and learning from international experts, the baton is being passed and handled well.

A couple places successful elsewhere in Bali have invaded the local scene. Café Marzano [Legian] increased the places offering Pizza in Pengosetan to five whilst Warung Bendega [Renon] brought its local offerings to a prime site opposite the Ubud Market. Anomali [Kerobokan], the Jakarta coffee house with wagyu burgers, tried to repeat their instant success in the south but struggled, however perseverance has paid off and it is now bubbling along on Jln. Raya Ubud and Sitara, long established Indian restaurant in Denpasar took over the temporary Ryoshi site whilst the popular Ryoshi group opened their grand new Ubud restaurant, in very Japanese style with air-con sushi room, and indoor and outdoor garden settings with their well-tried menu. Little Jln. Bisma, for many years the sole domain of the ever popular Café des Artistes, had many invaders; Umah Pizza, and Sushi at Rouge [the French jazz bar and lounge] as well as a few local warungs, all attempting to cash in on this popular street of home-stays, hotels and villas.

Sanur saw more of the same with many restaurants under different names but with the same menu, and even the same food pictures at front, the sad price of popular tourism. But amongst the gloom were few rays of light with celebrated chef Wayan Budiana moving in to Sand [ex Bonsai], Mahi?Mahi Fish in Curry Meuniere Sauce [pan?seared mahi?mahi fillet, confit of tomato & wilted green with curry garlic butter sauce & potato wedges] on the beach front at Sanur, what next?

A couple of invaders from elsewhere here as well, going a little up-market and trying to tempt the locals to spend a little more; Grocer & Grind [Kerobokan and Jimbaran], Three Monkeys [Ubud] and Bali Deli [Seminyak], will probably have a battle ahead. Man Frydays was the latest attempt to establish a successful Fish & Chips in Bali [many before have failed even though some had good product]. This one is by far the most professional yet but the jury is still out? They even offer a Chip Butty which will puzzle all but the northern English [white bread sandwich filled with a row of chips?what the Americans call French Fries] and a Battered Sausage [bringing back memories of a ?battered sav? on the way home from the football on a freezing night].

For some unknown reason The Bypass as it skirts Sanur has been a graveyard for many restaurants [the same as Sunset Road] even great ones such as EIGHT could not survive, although last year?s new addition Warung Kayu Api seems to have bucked that trend. This year it was the turn of Serenity a Spanish import from Singapore [why this location I will never understand?]. A large two storey operation that obviously expected the same numbers it gets in Vivo City in Singapore. The food is interesting; Cochinillo, Spanish Suckling Pig and Spanish ?Tapas?; Pulpo a la Gallega, grilled Spanish octopus garnished with paprika, flake salt and extra virgin olive oil on bed of potato, Huevos Estrellados con Jamon ibérico, smashed egg with ibérico, Pescado con Huevos, silver fish with egg and that humble but correctly prepared Spanish Omelette.

A similar story exists for neighbouring Renon but the Cheap Eats category of dining requires full houses every day to survive, although some quite good ones have been quickly opened and closed [even Profito which tried to offer a modern warung version, and did it quite well]. However the choice here for the budget diner is enormous, though mostly offering various regional Indonesian cuisines. In between Renon and Sanur little Warung K.K.N. [that quaintly Indonesian business method of corruption, collusion and nepotism] has expanded around the corner from its long time base on The ByPass into Jln. Danau Buyan, both restaurants now full every day for a lunch of Chinese seafood.

Further along this street towards Renon is the Cheap Eats find of the year! Rinjani is a Lombok warung, and better than anything similar that may be found in Lombok. A stylish eatery offering the choice of air-conditioned dining or garden courtyard, with tasty [sometimes spicy!] offerings none of which cost more than $4 and most much less. My favourite snack is a simple Telur Gulung, a paper thin square omelette sprinkled with finely diced red chilli and onion, rolled and cross-sliced, costing less than $1!

To the south and Canggu still awaits the opening of Sea Sentosa with many promised new taste sensations. Nearby is Echo Beach Café, an Australian operation with local [Opor Ayam, chicken breast in coconut milk], international, Thai [Kai Thot Takhrai, served in boneless strips, chicken marinated in lemongrass with an accompanying dip] and general Asian [Hainan Chicken Rice, a dish that is becoming almost international, the chicken steamed and simmered in a special broth and the same broth used to prepare the unique rice] amongst their offerings.

In between Canggu and the main strip of Petitenget is Jln. Betu Belig, a street of a few successes and many failures. 12 months full, ever day, is proven success for the talented management and crew at Watercress. Innovative breakfasts [Baked Beans with a difference; kidney and white beans are combined in a ceramic dish with a dash of spices, topped with two eggs then oven baked. On serving they have sour cream and a sprinkle of parmesan added, crusty cinnamon toast on the side, together with a small side salad of rocket and lime, add a sliced chorizo sausage if you will? My type of breakfast!] and tasty lunches [the most wonderful Mahi-Mahi Burger], which can be as organic as you want.

Further down Betu Belig and swing to the right towards Canggu and you find La Finca, outdoors but under cover, a Spanish restaurant with a Spanish chef, even Spanish style suckling pig on special some days, no wonder it is busy!

In Seminyak-Kerobokan was the usual frenzy of new openings, instant successes and imminent failures. Some presenting quality cuisines others just chasing the drinking dollar! Star of 2013 was Luke Mangan?s Salt Tapas at Sentosa Villas [which also won the tapas race with all combinations perfectly matched rather than just thrown together] A Roasted Jumbo Prawn is combined with garlic, chilli, herbs and lemon, the Tuna Tartare is with citrus and wasabi. Seared Scallops are with leek, lemon, crisp pancetta and horseradish. The Tagine of snapper, octopus, chickpeas, spinach, date, almond & lemon is another reason to visit Salt Tapas.

Eatoss combines local food [Ubud?s Crispy Duck and ribs galore] with late night parties and international DJ?s. Across the road is the L Hotel, their Lola restaurant on the mezzanine presenting excellent Asian cuisines [Szechuan Orange Chicken, consists of amazingly tender pieces of chicken that have been tossed in the wok with long beans, baby corn slices, mushrooms and red chillies. Big on flavour and big on heat!] at budget prices, whilst on their Roof Top Terrace 3 restaurants in one! More Tapas, and some very good ones, Indian Tandoor specials and a Teppanyaki room. Teatro Gastroteque, close to Seminyak Square, appears to be the latest rave restaurant in Bali. As they offer dishes such as Butter Poached Lobster with caramelized cauliflower, truffle pure, spiced brioche, avruga caviar sphere, champagne sabayon and vanilla butter, it is not difficult to see why?

Merah Putih amazed with their building design [trapping the rain water from the transparent roof that resembles a garden hot house! Tapas style with Indonesian flavours their Coral Trout is wow! Served in carpaccio style the paper thin trout slices are layered across the plate covered with similarly sized slices of pomelo and palm heart then drizzled with soy and ginger, it is one of those simple but great dishes that you tend to order on every visit. Another is their Bak Pao, which arrives on a small glazed slab of tree branch. It is a folded piece of steam bun [often referred to as an Asian sandwich] stuffed with rendang beef shin meat and shallots a small serve of sambal bajak which you add before devouring, very good!

Along the narrow Jln. Drupadi a few new ones try to make it without any passing foot traffic, always difficult. Kebun Zibiru has replaced the Austrian Café Vienna with Italian, pasta breads, pastries and jazz. Further around is one of the most fun places for a lunch [organic if you want], little Kreol Kitchen [Slow-Cooked Pork in black beans and chilli, perhaps more traditional than what is found on the menus of Bali?s supposed Cuban restaurants].

Out on Sunset Road is a very adventurous operation, Solata. Imported chef Ezzio Gritti from the famed Michelin starred L?Osteria di via Solata in Bergamo, Italy, in perhaps the most perfect fine dining setup in Bali. Set menus featuring very freshest ingredients, many specially produced for the restaurant. A sample of their attention to detail is one of their pre desserts, a slice of Burrata [an Italian hand-made cheese, the outer shell solid mozzarella and the inner a cream filling blended with mozzarella] served with a special marmalade jam.

Fontana Hotel on Jln. Dewi Sri, Legian, followed the new trend and opened their Portabella Italian restaurant with Chef Vittorio, a man with a passion for his pasta who also produces some excellent monthly specials such as his Lentil Soup from homeland Sicily a soup that was thick and rich with a liberal sprinkling of sliced sausage making it as hearty as any from Central Europe?wonderful!

Kuta, on Sunset Road, and another hotel is doing it differently. Swiss-bel brought famed Jakarta TV chef to Bali for The Oak restaurant with his unique dishes from Aceh. Amongst them a White Rendang [no chilli] and his Indonesian Platter, spicy crocket potato, minced chicken lemongrass, mango salsa, tamarind sauce, cucumber pickles, fish rolls, vegetables with spiced fresh coconut, spicy prawns, quite an amazing blend of different tastes.

Kuta South [I still call it Tuban and Jln. Kartika Plaza] is another Italian, but with a twist, this time street-front at The Bali Garden Hotel, Il Tempio, at the temple. Their Beef Carpaccio is uniquely different, the shaved prime beef having been marinated in hazelnut vinaigrette and served with arugula pesto, asparagus, lettuce and flaky Parmesan chips.

Jimbaran saw the arrival of Cucci offering tapas with a difference, BBQ Octopus with Asian gazpacho, fresh apple, caramelized cauliflower and coriander, or Marinated Pulled Pork with soft boiled egg, cinnamon raisin jam and charred spring onions. It is in a large building set in the gardens of the Kayumanis hotel, unusual with tables separated by hanging curtains. A café from Finland in central Jimbaran was Kafe Kahvila, small, clean and fresh with a Nordic pine wood fit out they offer fresh cakes, tarts and sandwiches every day as well as the unusual Italian coffee D?Angelo.

The outdoor courtyard suites al fresco diners, it is situated between the restaurant proper and the bar lounge. Wood-fired Split Prawns are an interesting starter as is Jamon Iberico, the Duck Liver Terrine. The cold Seafood Platter includes oysters, king prawns and half a lobster, enough for two. A Lobster Pizza [wood-fired of course] is scented with tarragon and garlic.

At Four Seasons on the bay, Sundara opened, top end stuff! The outdoor courtyard suits al fresco diners, it is situated between the restaurant proper and the bar lounge. Wood-fired Split Prawns are an interesting starter as is Jamon Iberico, and the Duck Liver Terrine. A cold Seafood Platter includes oysters, king prawns and half a lobster, enough for two. A Lobster Pizza [wood-fired of course] is scented with tarragon and garlic. Nusa Dua had nothing new worth talking about but that will all change on 2014 with a string of new super luxurious resorts opening along Bali?s southern shores.

So, what to expect in 2014? No doubt more of the same with so many new 5 star hotels about to open, each vying for that restaurant that stands out from the rest! The stand alone options are also exciting, many opened too late in 2013 to be reviewed as yet but with Bali tested chefs in place Uma Cuccina [Chef Nicolas ex Bridges] and Locavore [chef/owner ex SHY Jakarta, Ma Joly and Alila Ubud] opened in Ubud late 2013 to much acclaim. Also in Ubud from the Bali Pesto group, Balinese dining in the rice paddies near the Pelangi school in Lod Tundah. In Jimbaran the opening of Ayana sister hotel Rimba saw acclaimed young Singaporean chef Jusman So move from Chef de Cuisine at Dava [where he achieved what many before had failed to do] to be Executive Chef in charge of all the restaurants at Rimba, a tasting to look forward to

Best New Restaurants - 2013

Fine Dining
Solata, an ambitious project to offer world class fine dining, small and select with cuisine to match from one of Italy?s top chefs [Ezio Gritti] of the Michelin Guide 3 star L?Osteria di via Solata] in Bergamo, Italy.

Best Restaurant
Salt Tapas at Sentosa Villas, The magic of Luke Mangan with combinations that work easily wins the war between the many new tapas restaurants

Indonesian
The Oak at Swiss-bel Hotel Rainforest ? the delicate cuisine of Aceh such as the surprising White Rendang without chilli], well know Jakarta TV chef shows his skill.

Balinese
Petani at Alaya Resort, Ubud. Unusual combinations, some from North Bali others are the creations of the chef, whilst maintaining that style.

Café
Watercress ? a great example of what can be achieved with astute hands-on management. Offering innovative breakfasts and tasty lunches, as organic as you want.

North Bali
Spice Beach Club, Mediterranean style beachfront at Lovina, menu features many popular Greek dishes in lounge style restaurant.

East Bali
Safka at The Griya ? something completely different for Bali?s east coast. High class cuisine blending European standards with local spices.

Cheap Eat
Rinjani in Sanur, a Lombok warung, very cheap food with taste in a stylish setting [for a warung], a great place for those who like their food with a bit of a bite!


2012 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2012!

2012 was no different to those of recent years. An unbelievable number of new restaurants were opened all across Bali. 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 now by comparison with that era, in almost every area, covering so many different cuisines, and at all levels of the pricing yardstick. Without doubt Bali now offers the greatest range of ethnic cuisines in Asia, almost on a par with multi-cultural Sydney.

The north of Bali is fairly stagnant as it has been for many years although one major new beachfront restaurant is under construction in Kalibukbuk, Spice Beach Club. By the rumours circulating it sounds like a cross between a Johnny Rockets [table disc box selectors] and a small 'ku de ta'!

The pick of the north this year was Darcy's the new beachfront restaurant at The Dolphin Beach luxury apartments on Jln. Seririt, on the western outskirts of Lovina, in Bali's north. Simple basic food at budget prices. Appetiser, the ever popular Prawn and Avocado Cocktail. Pasta can be with meat, seafood or pure vegetarian. Mains can be Beef Steak or Chicken many different ways; Japanese teriyaki, Indian tandoori, Chinese lemon honey, Italian Valdostana [mozzarella and tomato salsa] or an International Chicken and Mushrooms.

Amed saw the usual crop of new small warungs, many connected to new hotels most the size of a Bali homestay. The Griya is finally about to open with its all day dining caf?, downstairs night club and upstairs a high quality restaurant [with views across to Gili Trawangan], providing quite an uplift for this area! The flow on effect has already been enormous with old places now being renovated, swimming pools installed in those that did not previously have them and new projects planned by other non-locals. As long as Amed never loses its 'local' individuality then they should all sit well together.

Candi Dasa followed the rush of new places in 2011 with a quiet year, Nau-Mai was star newbie, opened by Bendi who had set up and run Toke in the 90's, then Candi's most popular restaurant. Toke was Indian but Nau-Mai offers an International mix starting with a touch of Central Europe; German Prawn and Potato Timbale with chives and bacon pieces and a hearty Goulasch Soup. Mains include Chicken Parmigiana, Spare Ribs, Steaks and Lamb Chops, all those things the visiting tourist is looking for as well as a few local specials including Chilli Prawns and other local seafood dishes. Also new for Candi Dasa was the weirdly named Crazy Kangaroo, purely a tourist magnet. A large open space with many sections, and live music, it is Dutch owned and operated from the hotel across the road, Pondok Bambu.

Ubud consolidated with a few closures and openings but with much new hotel activity, two are soon due to open in Pengosekan and one day The Westin at Lod Tundah, as well as a host of new small villa complexes. 2012 once again proved what a difficult market Ubud is? Big Names Caf? Moka [now a keyhole operation at the Bintang supermarket complex] moved, floundered and moved again. The impressive Dijon arrived in Sanggingan but like all before it struggled to make its mark though offering high quality and good value, Kopi Bali House [packed every day in Sanur] tries to emulate that success at the quiet end of Monkey Forest. Almost opposite, Sarpino's from Legian opened, attempting to invade the ever-growing Ubud pizza market. Another entrant was Mama Mia in Pengosekan and early in its life played to packed houses. Go Fast came and went fast, replaced by Eve's giving us some ethnic dishes from Manado.

The former back street of Jln. Sukma in Tebasaya, suddenly entered the restaurant scene with the arrival of Lezat [a mix of Dutch and local budget dishes], Warung Little India moving from Hanoman and Indotopia with its initial small Vietnamese offering beginning with some great entrees; Goi Cuon [fresh rice paper spring rolls] stuffed with prawns and minced chicken, Bahn Cuon a mix of chicken, mint and mushrooms rolled in a glutinuous rice crepe, are both excellent. Also the Cha Gio, the traditional Vietnamese deep-fried spring rolls that you roll in lettuce and mint then dip in the sauce.

In central Ubud [Jln.Goutomo] The Melting Wok was the overnight sensation, with daily queues for the small table space, their daily menu wok-produced dishes of that days fresh produce with a blend of France and Laos. Not far away a new large Indonesian restaurant is soon to open [where the 3 Brothers workshop used to be], no parking but plenty of walking traffic. Up on the main road Jakarta style coffee shop Anomali [one of Kerobokan?s surprising success stories of 2012] found Ubud a tougher nut to crack, probably not quite ready for either that $20 Wagyu Burger or Foie Gras on Toast for breakfast. Bali Deli has been threatening to open on Raya Ubud for a year now, maybe one day?

The big moves were from Ryoshi who opened with very stylish Japanese design next to Bebek Bengil in Padang Tegal [fresh sushi and sashimi every day], and Queens of India opening their 3rd outlet [after Tuban and Tandjung Benoa] on Jln. Suweta [next to Ibu Oka], their star dish for me being their Chicken Tikka Makhanwala, tender chicken chunks in the most fragrant luscious curry sauce you can imagine, and one that is days in the preparation.

Up on the hill that is Penestenan, Caf? Mendez [with its goat specials] and Bayu have been joined by a few new places; Alchemy is all health and goodness with its colonic diets and 'treatments' and Warung Sharaswaty offers Vegetarian Indian cuisine at very budget oprices. The bread and pastry shop Kue opened a 2nd outlet after its long time presence in Taman. More places are about to open.

Il Pomodoro breaks the tradition and brings quality foreign cuisine to a non tourist part of Bali, for the first time. It offers Italian food in a large pleasant air-conditioned restaurant north-west of Denpasar on Gatot Subroto Barat. Plenty of off-street parking and pleasant young waitstaff add to the experience of good food at not much more than warung prices.

The Renon area of Denpasar continues to be the budget eating area of Bali. Whilst it is predominantly local food for locals the gradual move upscale, with both local and international offerings, is making it an area to take seriously. Now with about 100 restaurants and warungs spread around the loop there were many additions of note. Warung Tekko opened full after a major renovation at the site of the failed OZIGO, with their 'famous' Ribs claiming to offer 600gm of BBQ Back Ribs of imported US Angus beef [Konro Bakar Saus Madu] for Rp,49,000, which really made you wonder? Not long after the place was going through another renovation?

Warung Bendega has been a fixture on the corner of Cok Agung Tresna and Jayagiri in Renon for many years. It has recently been demolished and a whole new complex built in its place, a very modern and stylish structure with ample off street parking. At the front is a caf? and bakery offering a range of local pastries and breads, and coffee any way you want it. Behind, in three garden warisans, is the restaurant proper. It is an upmarket Indonesian warung offering all the usual things such as Fish Head Soup as well as the popular Oxtail [Sop Buntut]. Oxtail can also be ordered as a plate of small crispy deep-fried chunks or Bakar, simply grilled.

Sanur is, as always, a battle! The geographical shape of Sanur, a narrow band spread along the coast, creates many small local areas with no one centre of activity, so a place must be very special for people to travel. Yamayuri took over from what once was the Lotus Garden and tried to introduce Japanese fine dining, a series of small dishes of varied and sometimes very unusual ingredients.

The Three Monkeys made the trip from Ubud, housed in one of the most stylish restaurant designs of the area, their menu totally different to what is offered elsewhere in Sanur. Mezze with Fava, Skordalia, Houmus, Baba Ganoush and Roasted Beetroot dips. Lumpia Semarang [chicken and bamboo shoots], Salads are many [fried Halloumi cheese, asparagus and honeyed endive]. A refreshing Carpaccio of ginger-cured salmon. The Beef Sate is made using Wagyu, Mains include a slow cooked Lamb Curry, the meat cut from the shank. Lamb Kefte, middle-eastern style is with tomato/mint salad. From the wood-fired oven comes Rack of Lamb, basted with Dijon, honey, orange juice and thyme. Chicken Thighs are in grain mustard and Pork Belly in a pomegranate glaze.

The popular Kayumanis closed down, removed the home-stay at the rear and rebuilt a much larger restaurant to cater to their ever-growing customer base, with an air-con room at the rear. Kayumanis has long been one of Sanur's quiet achievers. At the southern end Bali Deli finally arrived with a coffee shop downstairs and its restaurant, Le Spot, on the roof. Next door is Crema [replacing Spike's] a small Italian coffee shop and unusual light meals; Unscrambled Eggs with pancakes and Italian sausage, a Muffuletta sandwich with mortadella, salami, mozzarella and provolone in Italian bread. Pasta can be pappardelle, penne, buccatinni or spaghetti.

On Danau Poso is another strange newcomer, Au Bon Marche has to be Bali's most unusual restaurant. Its d?cor is a vibrant white and blue, its menu minimal 'bought fresh from the market that morning'. Only two salads [maybe Pomelo & Papaya and a Feta Salad] and two mains [possibly Tuna a la Provence and Prawns in Mango Curry] finishing with just one dessert option [a chocolate mousse, 'fresh from the market'??].

Out on The Bypass Koki returned, still Korean but now with a smart renovation. The menu includes old standards such as Bulgogi, marinated beef cooked at your table. Start with Korean dumplings fried or boiled, stuffed with minced beef or a Pajeon Kimchi Jeon, what the Koreans call a Korean pancake but is really a Korean omelette, stuffed with chilli kim chi. Similar table cooking processes to the Bulgogi are used for the Samkypsal [sliced pork] and Kalbisalkui [thin oblong slices of rib eye beef]. Further along The ByPass is another Korean restaurant. Initially it was called Han Il [after a move from its long time base closer to Kuta also on The ByPass] but later changed its name to Arirang, a small front terrace with air-con room behind. Best dish is their Jok Bal, an incredibly large serve of de-boned pork hocks, cooked in soy and spices, amazingly tender chunks of meat.

Further still north along The ByPass is one of the finds of the year, the French caf? La Tartine offering tartines [open sandwiches] of which my favourite is Spicy Bread topped with shaved ham and ricotta, on the side a green salad with seed mustard dressing. On the other side of the road is the latest Caf? Moka, this time serving Illy, and the modern trend with special smoking area at the front.

Casablanca opened in a renovated house, supposedly Cuban, another 'theme' restaurant that appears to be chasing the late night live music and drinks crowd. Elsewhere in Sanur was a sea of new but stereotyped Bali International restaurants that all look the same and all have the same menus even with the same food pics out front.

On The ByPass, at the northern end where many, often good restaurants, have failed before them are two newcomers. The dual named Surya [traditional Balinese with on-premises prepared Babi Guling and Betutu, both Ayam and Bebek] and the upstairs dining for Warung Kayu Api that combines both the Balinese options and a range of International, with relaxing views across the greens of the Sanur golf course.

Soon will be the big test for the area a Singapore invasion with Serenity. The original restaurant is a 300 seater in Vivo City on Singapore's Harbourside. Spanish tapas are their specialty, and hopefully they will also serve that wonderful Spanish version of Suckling Pig in Bali as they do in Singapore.

Nothing much new in Nusa Dua apart from The Bay project [next to The Grand Hyatt] which houses a Bebek Bengil outlet, as well as Thai and Japanese options, but it is all about to happen in 2013 with so many new 4 and 5 star hotels opening. Tandjung Benoa continues to introduce many new 'International' restaurants under local management as all the new hotels open and house more and more tourists. Amongst them however were a few gems, Sate Bali brought true Balinese cuisine to the area and Queens of India did the same for Indian cuisine. Way down the end, past Ramada Benoa, was one of the finds of the year, Mead's. Think Bali and everyone thinks Seafood! Sadly much of the seafood served, from beachfront to 5 star hotel kitchens, is overcooked and dry or worse still soggy from the defrosting. Not at Mead's where owner Warren Mead does it the same way as he has for years in hometown Perth, Australia. Fresh fillets dipped in an egg wash and lightly pan-fried served with a dash of lemon...perfect!.

Jimbaran awaits the new fine dining Sundara restaurant at Four Seasons, replacing PJ's which in the 90's was considered by many to be Bali's top restaurant, Tuban was stagnant apart from an updated Ryoshi, now more open to the passing foot traffic, and across the road Bamboo, which was an instant success with its simple offerings that fitted perfectly with the appetites of the mainly Australian tourists of this area. Some never get it right, the major requirement in Bali is a consistent quality of recognizable dishes at reasonable prices, served with that Bali smile. Bamboo got it right!

Big news in the Kuta area was to finally have something worthwhile along Kuta beach. Now we have Beachwalk, a sprawling modern shopping centre housing up-market boutiques and a host of restaurants that include many franchises from the USA and a few local gems such as Sardinia Caf? [under same management as Cocoon] where the budget prices and good quality see it busy day and night...$5 for a decent Eggs Benedict overlooking Kuta beach, no wonder they flock here. Kitchenette, Johnny Rockets, Tony Roma Ribs and Nanny's are amongst the others on offer here.

Seminyak dining was highlighted by the move of the Swiss Lestari from Umulas to Drupadi, wonderful pasta and perfect Fondues where Sorriso once was. Mannekepis had a change of management from Belgian to Finnish combining the most popular dishes from the earlier Mannekepis and the now demolished Rio.

Kerobokan slowed down at last with most new places seemingly destined for a short life except for Petitenget [where Tebu once was], with chef Simon Blaby in the kitchen it soon became the perfect spot for an elegant breakfast or daytime coffee and snack. Anomali brought big city coffee house style to tourist Bali, an much to my surprise it worked!

Canggu is now becoming the go to area with many interesting new places. La Creperie moved from Batu Bulig, with its French savory galettes, across the road is a budget French restaurant Joli. The Plumber's Arms is a small English Pub with its Ploughman's Lunch and big breakfasts. In the middle of the rice paddies, on the way to Canggu beach, is Betelnut Caf?, once again proving that basic food of a consistent quality at budget prices is a winner...busy since opening day, great value! The strangest opening for 2012 was that of the Russian Oazia at Spavodka, a large complex hidden behind walls with no outside signage. With ceiling to floor glass as a kitchen wall its design was startling and for a short time became the weekend party venue. They wanted to keep it secret, and in that they succeeded. Now they want to be noticed and are about to move to Jln. Kerobokan, opening their Lobster Bar

What happens in 2013? There will be even more activity than 2012 if all the plans and rumours come about. Bali Deli still to open in Ubud, much delayed. That man Marinos will be back with his Mezze Greek Gourmet Caf?, just behind Ultimo in Kerobokan. He has always been a man with his finger on the pulse, each new business starting a craze followed by others [that little Mykonos Taverna 13 years ago started the rush to Laksmana and the creation of Eat Street]. This time it is an offering of 'small plates', entr?e size, a bit more than just tapas. Many different tastes, the way I like to eat.

With so many hotels and villa complexes under construction and due to open, all with one or more restaurants the problem of oversupply becomes a reality.

The Sea Sentosa project at Echo Beach is now scheduled for opening in 2013, supposedly will have 5 restaurants, some beachfront. The monster Mulia at Nusa Dua, also with 5 restaurants, a new Sheraton Hotel at Beachwalk Kuta, a new Intercontinental, the return of Ritz Carlton and more restaurants at the Double Six Apartment Complex on Legian beach. New hotels Marrriot, Regent, Shangri-La, Westin and many others both local and international as well as hundreds of new villa complexes are all due to open in 2013!

Even Australia, the origin of 40% of Bali's International traffic, finally gets into the act with major hotel management group Mantra opening their first Bali hotel, and the 1st outside of Australia and New Zealand, in Nusa Dua next month [and their Peppers chain in Kuta, Lombok later in 2013]. In a smart move the exec staff are Bali experienced being ex Conrad Bali, with the Conrad's opening exec chef Gary Rosen returning to Bali as General Manager of the new Mantra.

Bali can be a gastronomic holiday, every day of your visit.

Best New Restaurants - 2012

Best Restaurant - Mead's - Tandjung Benoa
Bali is famous for seafood but at Mead's you actually taste the fish, perfectly cooked, not covered with sauces that detract, overpowering the delicate natural taste.

Best Value - Bamboo - Tuban
Simple cuisine with consistent quality at the right price. Exactly want they want in this centre of Bali's tourism. Good value steaks and many seafood options.

Best Cafe - La Tartine - Sanur
a quaint caf?, very French with tartines [open sandwiches] cocottes [eggs steamed in a glass] and organic salads.

Best Balinese - Surya - Sanur
Balinese cuisine at its best! Babi Guling and Betutu [both ayam and bebek] processed on the premises via a hygienic kitchen, very professional.

Best Cheapie - Betelnut Cafe - Canggu
Located in the new restaurant area of Bali where there are still rice paddies between the villas. A funky simple design which suits both the food, and the clientele. Salads, big breakfasts, Mexican and local. The surfing chef catering for the surfers.


2011 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2011!

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 Americanised], 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 Caf? 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 Caf? 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 aand 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 Caf? 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 Caf? 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 Yogykarta 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 piping hot.

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 Caf?. 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 trend setters. 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 traditional.

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, chilli 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 and green 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 night spots, 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 Caf? 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 peninsular atTandjung 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, Caf? Moka to open on the Bypass in Sanur. That man Marinos will be back with his Mediterranean MY Caf? 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. Etc. etc.

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 Cafe - Sanur
dmall neat air-conditioned cafe offering a variety of local and International dishes, all with the subtle addition 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.


2010 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2010!

The Bali restaurant explosion continues. For every restaurant that closed down [for whatever reason] in 2010, another two opened! This has been the norm for the last decade, is there no end to it?

As in previous years many of the new restaurants did not stand a chance, they opened empty and have stayed that way all year. Yet how can you say that the market is saturated when other new places open and find an immediate customer base. Knowing what to do seems to be the answer?

Nusa Dua and Tandjung Benoa did not set the world alight, just the usual stream of tourist restaurants, with their ?International? menus duplicated in many different languages.

Up on the Bukit, we see the beginning of positive action on the restaurant scene although it is still a difficult market even with hundreds of private villas and massive new villa complexes [what they now build in Bali instead of hotels]. My Kitchen was the 2nd inhabitant of the site on the main road between Ungasan and Uluwatu. Nuoc Cham was its original name but that probably confused too many people. A simple Vietnamese caf? with very basic dishes it is great value for food with that refreshing taste of mint. Banh Xeo is the famous Vietnamese Savoury Crepe full of small juicy shrimps, bean sprouts, sliced mushrooms [surprisingly the Japanese Shiitake variety] and beef strips, all wrapped in a crepe made from rice flour and water with a touch of turmeric.

In Tuban/South Kuta area the biggest news and best kept secret was the establishment of a great value beach side restaurant, Boardwalk, at the Bali Garden Hotel. Budget priced but that has not diminished the menu quality, great value under the trees. Thin crisp Pizzas [spicy minced beef], tasty snacks [chicken strips] or full meals [lamb shanks], all served with a smile and at low cost.

Kuta saw the establishment of a better than average food centre in the Matahari Mall, behind the Duty Free Stores at Kuta Graha. Individual shops rather than open stalls result in far greater quality but still at a reasonable price. The Japanese Ryoshi chain was the star performer here but very soon a small warung version of a famous Ubud restaurant will offer quality cheap Indonesian dishes to add to the mix.

Outside on The Bypass was the latest import from Java, Celsius Caf? & grill, the menu is a mix of traditional Indonesian, a touch of Asian and quite a few International dishes. Fried Dumplings are Chinese style, stuffed with squid with a mayonnaise dip. Chicken in the Basket is slices of crumbed boneless meat. Grilled Duck, which includes a leg, is very good, covered with a sweet super spicy Rica-Rica sauce and jukut urap. Pad Thai, Thailand?s noodle dish, is surprisingly good and tasting very original. Instead of the normal dried shrimps this dish is studded with small juicy prawns, and served ?in a blanket?. Air-conditioned, clean and friendly, it is a class above the other imports.

Waroeng d?Topeng also opened in Kuta, on the old site that was once Le Bake [next door to Dijon]. They specialize in very cheap Indonesian food. Everything is pre-cooked and you select it from the front servery.

Legian has not done much to excite the taste buds in recent years. A few changes in management along the main road entrance to the beach which will always be called Jln. Double Six, although it never was. Adding to the legend was the opening of Caf? 66, on the adjacent corner to Caf? Marzano, a small area that provides quite a choice of great value cafes.

At the end of that road, beachfront, became Cocoon Beach Club and Restaurant. It was ?love at first sight?, a brilliant concept that works! Top management team of GM, Anthony Bevilacqua [Melbourne restaurateur who set up Ku de Ta years ago then oversaw the conversion of Gado-Gado from night club to classy restaurant] and Exec Chef, Stephen Moore [Sydney?s Rockpool and Icebergs to Amans of Asia] ensured an instant success. Mediterranean in style and cuisine, eat in a relaxed restaurant setting or poolside. Dishes such as Spanish Baked Eggs [slices of chorizo sausage topped with eggs and salsa, baked in the wood oven] for breakfast, assorted tapas for lunch [Roasted Beetroot Salad, the beet sliced thin topped with small dollops of Manchego cream, sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts or a sensational Tortellini, large rounds of pasta stuffed with a blend of roasted pumpkin and goats cheese, topped with burnt butter and sage, so simple, so good! An example of the high quality mains is their honey-roasted Lamb Loin. A perfect piece of meat, served pink, as it should be, the knife just slices through it without effort. Serving is just with sweet beetroot and plum jus.

Out on Jln. Legian old icon Glory became transformed into Layali, Bali?s first Lebanese restaurant in many years. All those great dips like Moutabal [[roasted eggplant with pomegranate juice, olive oil, sesame seed paste and lemon juice] warm unleavened bread straight from the open oven, Cheese and Spinach pies, and great kebabs particularly the Shish Kofta, minced spiced meat on a skewer. Now a selection of Arab dishes with spicy rice is also on offer, such as their Biryani, the rice being separate from the meat or fish, and having a consistency more like an Italian risotto but with a strong curry flavour.

Seminyak saw more small restaurants open along Dhyana Pura [opening a budget restaurant close to major hotels has always been a license for success in Bali]. Mix Espresso Bar was a strange name for a purely Indonesian restaurant but it has good cheap food. Same area is an Australian operation, Menu, their monster Burger one of their main attractions. The meat pattie is on lettuce and tomato, topped with cheese, bacon, gherkin and mustard, with a fried egg with mushroom sauce. Served on a sesame seed bun, of course! At the other end of the road amongst many closures and renovations was the upgrading of one of the few survivors, Antique.

Between Seminyak and Kerobokan, almost hidden in the garden, was Vienna Caf?. A house entrance opens out into a garden terrace. Austrian pastries and Sacher Torte, rye breads and hearty breakfasts [Eierspeis, eggs with diced onions, peppers and ham, scrambled in pumpkin seed oil] For a snack in the garden there is Farmers Toast, a slice of toasted rye bread topped with ham, cheese and tomato, and a fried egg on top of that! Finish with a real Austrian dessert, Kaiserschmarren [as originally created for the Emperor Franz Josef], sugared pancakes with apple puree.

The Kerobokan/Petitenget was its usual chaotic mess of traffic snarls, new buildings and renovations of the not so old. The Ultimo facelift worked so Rumours, from the same stable, had a complete makeover, air-conditioning and all. The almost new Junction followed suit with a total rebuilding, just the same busy before and after the result.

Nirvana opened on a site that had seen many previous failures, and succeeded immediately with that old trusted formula of simple quality recognizable food at affordable prices. Seminyak Square saw the eventual establishment of a number of chain restaurants; Black Canyon, Kaf? Betawi and Bali Bakery, with a few more just about to open.

On the other side old faithful Warung Eropa took over from its Indonesian brother, and doubled in size. Most of the action was on this Petitenget side, some opening and other already closing after just a few years or even months. Crispy Pata replaced the ill-fated Kembang Goela. Wonderful dishes from The Philippines including the great pork knuckle dish Crispy Pata, but many other great offerings too; Chicken Adobo, Beef Caldereta and finish with their classic Halo-Halo way better than Indonesia?s Es Campur.

Caf? Degan stole the show for value in this street for 2010. Chef Degan is Javanese but has spent his past 9 years working at Banyan Tree, Bangkok. He only knows two cuisines, Javanese and Thai, so that is what he cooks. No Fish & Chips, Hamburgers or Steaks on the menu, just specializing in tasty offerings 100% original. Star is their Thai Gai Hor Bai Toey, chicken pieces marinated and steamed in pandanus leaves then deep-fried prior to serving. The accompanying sauce says it all, tamarind, chilli paste, sesame oil and seeds, slowly simmered till a black paste, not the bottled alternatives served elsewhere. From the Javanese menu a perfect Sambal Goreng Udang, a bowl of prawns combined with potato and snow peas in a rich red coconut broth.

Warung Sobat tried to duplicate its long success on Jln. Batu Belig, where the house full sign is out every night, by opening a copy all new and clean, on Jln. Pengubangan Kauh, near Warung Gossip, but not so busy. Doing a reverse Ubud?s strangest success story, Naughty Nuri?s, also opened a nice clean copy down on Batu Belig. It has all the things that Ubud hasn?t, except the queues. Along Raya Petitenget Harry Juku [a fictitious man from Melbourne] opened and had to make early changes. Mojo?s Flying Burritos moved form a hidden spot down a gang to prime front location and Barcode replaced Venue at the Moon. Down behind Gourmet Caf? Warung Rakuen-Asia replaced an Indonesian warung with a mix of Thai and Vietnamese, but strangely in the style as served in Kyoto, Japan, in a sister restaurant.

Near the corner of Raya?s Kerobokan and Petitenget is now LIO BBQ, as the name says a haven for barbequed meats. Not far away the new Warisan opened, with a Belgian chef in an enormous space but neither this or the extravagant Metis can compare with that romantic small garden restaurant that was once Caf? Warisan, back in the 90?s way above the rest! The two stand-alone restaurants that have made the biggest statement in Bali were the original Caf? Warisan, proving that quality restaurants outside of the protection of a 5 star hotel environment could work, and the cheeky little Mykonos Taverna which started the stampede to Laksmana, and the pushing of ethnic cuisines.

I always liked Pili-Pili but now it has had a major makeover. Before it was just a small warung on Jln. Merthanadi [the road that connects Sunset Road with the side of the jail], it has always been immaculately clean and always friendly. This little Indonesian eatery specializes in the dishes from the owner?s Sulawesi as well as doing many Javanese standards. Now it has moved to a larger location, almost next door. It is in two halves, inside with air-con and the modern serving area, whilst the outside is al fresco on the covered terrace. That it has customers all day proves the formula is right!

At Canggu, overlooking the almost private beach, across the road from Tugu Hotel, is one of the finds of the year, OM Organic. A large bamboo structure houses one of Bali?s most attractive restaurants. A spacious dining area, tasty food and relaxed dining well away from the traffic and everyday hassles of Bali, is this small paradise. As the name suggests there are many organic options, and not only vegetarian. One of my favourite dishes here is their Chicken Steamed in Bamboo. Diced chicken, pumpkin and onions are simmered in coconut milk with ginger, Kaffir lime leaf, red chilli and turmeric, then steamed in a bamboo cylinder in which the dish is served.

Sanur keeps on amazing everyone with the continual opening of new small good value restaurants of just about every ethnic persuasion. French, Dutch, Japanese, Australian, Belgian, Thai, Chinese and American as well as the usual horde of International and local cuisines have all happened in 2010.

Maurel Dreams Bistrot is French and offers Salade de Foie de Volaille, pan-fried chicken livers [rarely found on Bali menus something that has always amazed me!] whilst Salade Alsacienne stars a Cervelas Pork Sausage topped with grated gruyere and onions, or that French standard, Croque Monsieur! Oranje, Terrassen Wok and a Double Dutch now with a full food menu lead the way for the Dutch but Rasa Senang was Dutch with a difference specializing in that now famous Rijsttafel, the way the Dutch serve Indonesian dishes at home. Kokoya led the way for the Japanese with their Robatayaki available from the front terrace cooking area at night. Many great starters including pickled Quail Eggs. Warung Mr. Ramen specializes in Ramen noodles but offers all the standard Japanese items as well. Flying the flag for Australia was The Glass House [peanut butter or vegemite on toast, salads with meat and cheese and even lamingtons]. Doner Kebabs are from Turkey via Belgium, offering Belgian style Shoarma, lamb or chicken on pide bread. Ulu is Thai and even though many of the standard dishes are done completely different to any other Thai restaurant, here or there, all are interesting and taste good, so who cares? Fortune Cookie moved to new larger premises with its Cantonese cuisine. The American standards are catered for in the Stadium Caf?/ Flapjacks combination building. Burgers, Pancakes and Sport!

The Renon area around the central park constantly sees new budget restaurants, all serving a selection of Indonesian regional cuisines. The full fours sides of the one way system boast new places, stars of which are Tangie with its range of dishes using small kampung chickens but the Nasi Bebek is far more palatable to the westerner. Oenpao has many dim sum varieties but usually without the right accompanying sauce. Daddy?s Kitchen, Sports Kopitiam and a small popular garden food court on Raya Puputan are among the many new faces in this area. In Denpasar itself Sitara offers very original Indian cuisine.

Ubud saw a spate of new restaurants after a couple of quiet years following the boom from earlier in the decade when new places opened every month [many of whom have since gone or are struggling]. The same ratio is about right for the new crop.

Established local Ubud establishments, Ibu Oka and Bali Pesto, both opened small off-shoots in Mas, amongst the wood carving galleries. Both have easy parking away from the crowds, Ibu Oka serving same menu as Ubud whilst Bali Pesto?s Warung Ika Bakar specializes in Ribs.

Renovations were also the order of the day in Ubud led by famous icon Bebek Bengil which now has a modern front foyer and lounge facing their new state-of-the-art open kitchen. Up in Penestenan both Bayu?s Kitchen and Warung Mendez rebuilt a bit and re-roofed! Lada?s Warung [one of our Cheapies of the year in an earlier Wrap] moved across the road to much improved premises without damaging their great value and now opens at night as well. The old Caf? Gayatri on Monkey Forest Road re-built in local style and Nuriani in Pengosekan rebuilt in an up-market Balinese style. New restaurants included Meme?s [where Wunderbar used to be] and The Pond, neither of which have made an impression yet, yet not far away is recent arrival Taco Casa, busy from day one.

New places to open, and not yet reviewed, include Bolero on Dewa Sita, with connections to the popular Ibu Rai, and Warung Wackel [where Warung Padang Tegal stood for many years] which offers German cuisine in Ubud, the first since Pumperknickel in Nagi closed down ten years ago.

Outside of Ubud, in the rice paddies of Mambal, there appeared another huge all-bamboo construction, this one housing a health retreat and Vegan restaurant where no expense has been spared to create perfection. A visit to the Sakti Dining Room at the Fivelements Puri Ahimsa retreat is one of those so peaceful dining experiences that you never want to end. Stuffed Zucchini Blossom is a great starter. Inside is a mix of cabbage, bok choy, shiitake mushroom, tofu, ginger root, green chilli paste and a yuzu-tamari sauce. Zucchini Manicotti, thin strips of zucchini wrapped around a ?ricotta? tasting lemon pine nut mousse and garlic tomato coulis with spinach, raisin and pistachio compote. Live Lasagna is layers of cashew nut ?cheese?, tomato marinara, basil pesto, baby spinach and marinated shiitake mushrooms with b?chamel herb sauce.

Candi Das did not change a lot but the happening is just around the corner led the way by the adventurous management at the Watergarden Hotel where they host a different feast almost every week including their now famous Octoberfest. Further up the coast at what is called Amed, new small warungs appear almost monthly. Old favourite Warung Brith has become Shanti, after an Italian makeover, and another smaller Warung Brith has emerged just north of Culik. North of Tulamben new dive hotels have arrived including the majestic Tantris restaurant at the Siddhartha Resort and a less pretentious one at Kubu Indah.

What will we see in 2011? More of the same, no doubt? Already we hear many rumours of what may be happening including a ?name from Ubud? opening up amongst the big boys in Seminyak! Definite new openings are many. Karma Jimbaran is about to announce a totally new dining concept for Bali, the long-awaited Modern Chinese Pub/Restaurant will open where Laksmana meets Petitenget [next to Loloan] and the building of numerous food outlets at Sea Sentosa, Echo Beach Canggu, is soon to commence. Another newbie is due for the middle of Laksmana from someone with a perfect track record that promises a new great value place, the sort that never fail! Another Italian restaurant for Sanur, out on The Bypass at the Blanjong end, and in Jln. Kunti, Semimnyak, the original site for the very successful Caf? Marzano, after two failed attempts at French reverts to type as Unicorn, Italian once more!

A new quality restaurant on Jln. Kartika Plaza [with parking] will be a boon for that area which is now so full of the tourist variety. Sands will soon open at Santika Beach Hotel with more than a few similarities to the beachfront Breeze at sister establishment The Samaya.

Ubud will see the opening of yet another tourist restaurant where the once-busy B.B.?s once stood, perfectly positioned opposite the main market, after a lengthy renovation. Bridges has also had a massive up-market recreation, with multi levels down towards the river, just across the gorge from Murni?s, in Campuhan. In the rice paddies, between Penestenan and Nyuh Kuning will be a two-level Indian restaurant, in yet another bamboo construction.

Candi Dasa is the latest area to be going through a revival. The Watergarden Hotel, a trail blazer and leader in the quality stakes, took over the contract of the long-failed Kedai [once part of Ubud?s Ary?s Warung], totally rebuilt it whilst retaining its open aspect and preserving it views to Nusa Lembongan. Only ?red tape? has so far prevented its re-opening but expect a place worth travelling to?Lunch in Candi!

As usual there were a few sad failures during 2010. Number One in this category was EIGHT in Sanur, maybe it was too far out of the tourist stream but more likely a bit too sophisticated for the taste of those who live in and visit this area of Bali. Young Singaporean Chef Abu Goh is far too talented to stay quiet for long so expect something new and exciting from him in 2011, this time in an area that appreciates quality cuisines with taste.

Best New Restaurants - 2010

Best Fine Dining - Cocoon Beach ? Legian
Relaxed Mediterranean dining, beachfront. The highest quality, the best taste, smiling young attentive staff, all so professional and with reasonable prices. The quality find of 2010! Fine Dining ? Bali style!

Best Restaurant - OM Organic ? Canggu
Eco-friendly bamboo construction that overlooks an un-spoilt beach, relaxing new restaurant serving local and international dishes all from organic ingredients.

Best Restaurant with Music - Caf? Havana ? Ubud
Eat to the beat of salsa, highly entertaining and never intrusive. Interesting menu offering Cuban-style dishes from breakfast to dinner time.

Best Value - Caf? Degan ? Kerobokan
The chef knows two cuisines, Thai and Javanese, and that is what he cooks, and very well! No giant International menu here just great food at budget prices.

Best Vegetarian - Sakti ? Mambal
Pure VEGAN! Set in idyllic rice paddy surroundings in the Fivelements Puri Ahimsa health retreat. Totally eco-friendly in an enormous bamboo construction shaped as a banana leaf. Food attention to detail is amazing!

Best Cheapie - The New Pilli-Pili ? Kerobokan
It used to be good but now it is great! Moved 20 metres to much larger premises with air-conditioned inside and an outside terrace. Enormous range of freshly prepared Indonesian dishes at budget prices!


2009 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2009!

Every year I begin by expressing my amazement at the continuing stream of new restaurants that have opened in the past year. 2009 was no exception. The Bali food scene just seems to keep on getting better, and better. And the promises for 2010 look just as mouth-watering!

Once again the pleasant surprises were not just limited to the new elite up-market restaurants, although there were some wonderful ones, it has rather been the constant stream of high quality, yet budget-priced, restaurants that excite most. It is a sure sign that Bali has ?grown-up?, as far as its restaurant scene goes. Anyone who complains about the cost of quality dining in Bali [apart from that of imported beverages] must lead a sheltered life in their home country.

Others fell by the wayside as always happens. Many that deserved it and others will be missed. However 2009, as in every recent year, saw a significant net increase in the number of restaurants. Some have spent a ?million dollars? and may fail, whilst others may only have spent $20,000 and may well succeed. That great cocktail of life; experience, work ethic and luck!

I sometimes walk into a new restaurant and look around in amazement at how anyone could spend so much money setting up a place that looks and feels to me as if it will never work. Whilst other new places give out the opposite feeling; one of somewhere with success just around the corner, although sadly that does not always come.

New restaurants in the Nusa Dua/Tanjung Benoa area were once again confined to inside the major 5 star hotels. The most important newbie was Rin at The Conrad. Australian chef Richard Miller, who had kicked off Dava at the old Ritz Carlton, returned to Bali to set up this Modern Japanese restaurant after having spent some time in Japan at Sheraton?s Grand Ocean Resort. Chicken and Wild Mushroom Ravioli [one large piece], baby lentils, wolfberry and chorizo was International, a Green Tea and Asparagus Risotto with baby barramundi and seaweed emulsion an experiment in Fusion, Shiitake and Cabbage Gyoza a vegetarian version of that Japanese classic adopted from the Chinese.

Nearby at Ungasan/Uluwatu it is all action and the development has only just begun. The eco-friendly Alila Villa, clifftop at Uluwatu leads the way. With the foresight to import brilliant Dutch chef Stefan Zijta it is no wonder that their frontline restaurant CIRE is one of Bali?s best, overnight. Stefan had led the team at Jakarta?s SHY restaurant that took that city by storm in recent years after coming from Amsterdam?s famous Michelin rated restaurant Vermeer.

Great chefs can produce dishes with often simple ingredients but marry them in such a way that your ?taste meter? goes through the roof! A large open soup plate arrives with a curled jumbo prawn topped with dried tomato sitting all alone on centre stage, poured in from a small old fashioned iron kettle is the chilled melon soup that you have ordered, sweet to the taste and so refreshing on a hot day. Follow that with a salad of baby Romaine lettuce leaves [called Cos lettuce outside of America] served in a crunchy bunch, scattered with slivers of smoked duck breast and tangy papaya chutney, sparsely sprinkled with orange vinaigrette. A grilled fillet of barramundi is perfect, the mild passion fruit vinaigrette does not overpower the fish, the potato croquettes a good example of simple things done well; the breaded shell remains firm and crunchy, the mashed potato contents never go mushy, even when cut through. To finish; the most perfect Raspberry Souflee! The souflee is soft and fluffy right to the bottom of the bowl with no sludge in sight. An accompanying spoon of intensely flavoured raspberry sorbet is studded with small chunks of frozen white chocolate. Definitely the best of 2009!

In Ungasan itself were a number of new small restaurants, as well as branches of others already established elsewhere in Bali. Most interesting is Kat?s Kitchen with its true to the original Thai cuisine, including a few dishes rarely seen in Bali, including one of my old favourites, Money Bags. All at budget prices, and air-conditioned!

The Holiday Inn re-opened in Tuban, after spells as The Bali Hai and ?closed for renovations?. The previous ?The Beach? was revamped and became Envy. Always a great beach spot, it now combines many fresh food choices with lounge drinking to go with the sunset viewing. Not far away Ma Joly changed chefs and styles, still one of Bali?s best beachfront restaurants. One of the more unusual newcomers to Bali was Bugils Bali, almost opposite the Harris Hotel. It is a Dutch Pub! Green Pea Soup [with smoked pork sausage and crisp bacon, Frikandel, an imported Dutch Sausage or Broodje Frikandel, on a bun, Broodje Gehaktbal [meatball on a bun], Krokets, Andijvie Stampot [mashed potato combined with strips of Endive with bits of fried bacon and a meat ball] or Hutspot. Plus Heineken beer on tap, of course. For the domestic market newcomers to Jln. Tuban included another Papa Ron?s [Indonesian pizza chain with local varieties] and Nasi HOT, great Rawon and Indo-Chinese ?fusion?; chicken feet in sweet soy.

Kuta has two halves the old established area close to the beach and the quickly developing North, out and around Sunset Road. Chinoiserie with its stylish interior and wonderful Singaporean cuisine was one of the year?s highlights. The basic Chinese dishes are sometime in original form, sometimes a variation thereof. The Chinese had been cooking pork ribs for centuries before that great American discovery. The most traditional follows a marination and subsequent basting with Chinese red wine. A modern version has them marinated and braised in a coffee sauce, like all the sauces here well balanced with just a hint of coffee flavour. Salt & Pepper is the ancient method. The ribs are large chunks of flesh and fat, with little bone. Tender and wonderful! Their star attraction is genuine Singaporean Chilli Crab. It is quite a process but one that they do properly, unlike other places that just promote the name.

In old Kuta Formosa was a newcomer with its Taiwanese cuisine, a mix of Chinese and Korean in taste and style. It replaced one of the many large restaurants that mainly serve bus loads of tourists but retains a similar trade.

The sole newcomer of any quality in Legian was a French restaurant almost hidden inside small hotel grounds. The Pearl is way above standard fare, its young French chef turning out great meals at reasonable prices. It has a mix of interesting vegetarian dishes [a pumpkin Veloute in a coconut milk curry, a Confit of Vegetables Terrine and a Ravioli stuffed with eggplant caviar and a basil veloute] and normal ones [chicken breast stuffed with mushrooms and herbs and a Lamb Shank in mustard with fried garlic eggplant and potato gratin. Sea Bass is with pesto and the Mahi-Mahi a ginger sauce].

Seminyak just stutters along these days with as many places closing as opening. Colonial Living on the north side presents quality and innovative Vegetarian, their Mushroom Loaf is wonderful. Finely diced mushrooms [normal, oyster and shiitake] have been combined with crushed cashew nuts and carrot. Two slices of the loaf sit on the plate like patties, surprisingly hot, accompanied by a pile of perfect greens that have been doused in a tangy dressing. The combination of fashion and food has now spread to this area, The Backyard Lounge and Word of Mouth are but two. It is a concept that only a handful of experienced restaurateurs can make work. In the same Jln. Kunti Atelier 13 replaced the always full Caf? Marzano [which moved to Legian and is still packed every day]. The new version is French and quiet.

Ryoshi also moved its premises, but only to the enormous next door premises that used to house Kura Kura. Care was taken to replicate the old Ryoshi as much as possible, in the downstairs air-conditioned section, but add outside garden seating and roof top with live Jazz. The result has been that the new Ryoshi is now one of Bali?s busiest restaurants. The legend continues.

Delicious Onion also moved, from a mini shop on the main road to a larger one in Drupadi almost next to the vibrant Sorriso, one of last year?s success stories. Chicken Rice still its mainstay. Cosa Nostra opened on Drink Street to feed the hungry late night drinkers with a common combination for that area of pre-cooked Italian dishes and pizzas. A little warung sized restaurant further down Dhyana Pura was one of 2009?s highlights. Passargad is a Persian Kebab House, producing steamed rice and marinated kebabs nothing like any other rice or meat on a stick you have had before. Not surprising as Persian cuisine is amongst the world?s oldest, they have had centuries to perfect the simple processes.

Kerobokan has seen a major change. The original Eat Street [Laksmana] has had a facial, now fashion and real estate have taken over. Perhaps they are the only ones now able to afford the escalating rents. The restaurant scene has moved around the corner to the other side of that triangle, Raya Petitenget, and is rapidly going up-market, although quality budget places still thrive. In the old street Gusto was new [Spanish] but soon changed its coat and became the street?s second Greek restaurant, Zorba. Seminyak Square opened though it is not even in Seminyak, on lower Laksmana, and contains another Bali Bakery as well as a close-to-original Black Canyon [one of Thailand?s best chain restaurants] with other restaurants also about to open.

One place that has successfully combined fashion and food [and champagne] has been Red Carpet. The major attraction being their fresh oysters and vintage champagne. Your oyster starter can be in the way of a shot [an oyster inside a shot glass of a Bloody Mary mix] or a plate of Natural, Kilpatrick or Rockefeller. The choice of Champagne is one of the most extensive I have ever seen, and some of the prices of the rarer vintages are scary. The more standard varieties are sold by the glass but the bottle range is world class. Even Rose Champagne, pink champers! And very busy, every day!

Another most unusual restaurant opened in the bottom loop of Laksmana, a gourmet hamburger palace called Wah Wah. The search for that elusive perfect hamburger has interesting results at Wah Wah, where the meat is cooked so as to remove all the fat. No Bali cow in your hamburger here, but imported chilled [not frozen] and hung prime Wagyu beef. They offer Gourmet Burgers with many combinations, even one topped with Foie Gras!

On the new Eat Street the building frenzy has been constant. The ex operators of Kafe Warisan opened Gourmet Cafe to go with the mini outlet at their Bali Catering Co. Snacks, light meals, a wide variety of sandwiches and chickens from the rotisserie a star attraction. Biku is a tea house. An incredible 150 year old Joglo house from East Java that was once an antique shop, that has now been transformed into one of the most relaxing environments for sipping your preferred cup of tea, checking your emails and nibbling Aussie Scones, noshing on Aussie style meat pies or enjoying any of the other light or full meals from their extensive menu. The range of teas is mind boggling, and takes up 9 pages of their menu.

Caf? Jemme was one of the finds of the year, alongside and apart of Jemme Jewelry, its cool clean feel is very welcomes on a hot Bali day. Simple food, extremely well prepared and served includes Duck Maryland [leg and thigh combined] served with a crisp skin. The flesh is so tender and the skin crisp, Asian style. Butterfish sits on a slab of roast pumpkin and shiitake mushroom noodle cake. On top a wasabi sauce, quite mild and not overpowering. The food is interesting, innovative and tasty. Budget priced as well!

Kembang Goela at SILQ is an up-market Indonesian restaurant, Rubicon Kitchen is Swedish and Neno is Japanese owned but with mostly International offerings and many vegetarian options but also many Udon dishes.

Sanur continues to re-invented with many new places still under development. Charming, an off-shoot of the long established Mings, steadily made its mark with International offering in very pleasant surroundings. At Sanur?s southern end there are now many small ethnic budget priced restaurants. Sale e Pepe is Italian, Fortune Cookie is Chinese, and Warung Bunaken offers the cuisine of Manado, from Indonesia?s north most point.

Ratatouille replaced Figaro at the northern end of Sanur. It is under Dutch management which is evident from the many Dutch options on the menu. At Sanur?s Paradise Plaza Hotel a marriage was performed between the old Sanur Harum and the Brasserie coffee shop. Now a new, strikingly modern, restaurant, still called Sanur Harum, offers a wide range of Asian cuisine as well as the original Cantonese, Szechuan and Beijing standards. The daily Free-Flow Dim Sum lunches continue to be as popular as ever.

Ubud went on another splurge of restaurant openings, the usual mix of budget and classy categories. Mojo?s Flying Burritos offers just that, burritos, from the ex-management of the now defunct Dragonfly. Siam Sally opened on the site of the old Barandi after a massive re-building project, offering their version of Thai cuisine. Bar Luna, an off-shoot of Casa Luna opened on a back street and remains undiscovered. The Pond is just across the lotus pond from the other Artini restaurant, Pundi-Pundi, but so far not as busy. Istanbul Restaurant was a late opener in the year, with its hot Turkish bread a necessary order with whatever else you have.

At city centre two new restaurants from a well-established chain from Nusa Dua that cater for the bulk tourist market, menus and food simple and the menus available in many different languages. Tropical opened to a permanent full house soon followed by Coco Bistro, their other brand name.

Up on the hill, just below Sayan is The Melting Pot, their Louisiana-style Cajun Gumbo [a spicy, thick, meat and vegetable stew containing celery, okra, scallions, green peppers, chicken and pork sausages as well as many secret ingredients] the main attraction. Down the hill is West End Caf?, a simple caf? with no pretensions. Their large salad selection includes the Classic Cob, a monster Chef?s Salad served in a large wooden bowl, a Grilled Chicken and Glass Noodle Salad with a bit of a chilli bite and a few pure vegetarian options. Sandwiches of Cajun Chicken, perfectly rare Roast Beef, and an old favourite that will take you back to your school days; Chopped Egg in Mayonnaise with shredded lettuce

At Sanggingan a classy small restaurant opened without any fuss. It soon became a popular haunt for those who appreciate high quality food, albeit from a vastly different cuisine. Minami is laid back and stylish, tables well spaced for privacy all facing a small garden. Japanese it is but unlike most others, Minami serves Osaka cuisine, rarely seen outside of Japan. An example is Dashimaki, an egg broth that has been folded and rolled finishing as a rectangular block topped with grated daikon radish It is the 1st of four appetizers that can be sampled in a special Tasting dish for 2 persons. 2nd is Shiro ae, organic vegetables in a tofu sauce served in a small ceramic bowl. 3rd is the very tasty Nasu ? Miso ae; minced beef and minute strips of eggplant combined in a sweet miso sauce and the 4th a wonderful miniature bowl of super soft baby chicken with gratings of carrot and radish in a miso broth. Refined Dining!

On Bali?s eastern coast Candi Dasa continues to come alive and Amed promises to be the success of the coming decade. New restaurants in Candi Dasa include Rendezvous at Alam Asmara Resort, beachfront and quite stylish offering a mix of European and local, Le 48 is a part of a refurbished boutique hotel under French management, of the same name. Vegetarian dishes predominate; Frozen Carrot Cappuccino with cumin flavoured Chantilly,

a Trilogy of Sweet Peppers with goat cheese foam and black olive tapenade and a Tart of Caramelized Sweet Peppers and blue cheese certainly changed the face of Candi?s main road, previously so staid for many years.

In Amed small places operated by local or local/foreign mixes are still the norm. Star of the year was Aquaterrace, with Japanese management and direction, with a mix of local and Asian dishes and views to Gili Trawangan, on a cool clean locale. Barong Caf? was another nice clean newcomer, with majestic views, trying to do something a little different from the normal Indo Chinese mix, although temporarily injured by the sudden closure of Dancing Dragon Cottages across the road. Not far away the OnlYou Villas also opened a small European restaurant featuring German sausages with mustard, sauerkraut and pretzels.

There were quite a number of potentially excellent restaurants that opened late in 2009, too late to be reviewed as I prefer to wait till a place has been operating for a few months and ironed out all the bugs, rather than to pre-judge, and therefore are not included in this Wrap. At the top of that list are the two French cousins on Raya Petitenget, Metis and Sardine both of which have been busy from inception. The Red Square at the new Novotel Legian maybe needs a little more time to settle down.

2010 is full of intrigue and promise, some official, some just rumour, whilst others are still a ?secret?. A Modern Chinese restaurant will be another for the new Eat Street, Raya Petitenget, and from proven operators so a sure-fire winner! On the same street will be a large restaurant/bar [Harry?s Bar?] with an Australian connection where Brown Sugar used to be. A high class restaurant is proposed for the Candi Dasa area from an exciting young chef already here, another certain success. The Banyan Tree project at Ungasan is finally about to open, the W Hotel at Kerobokan we are still not sure about. At Amed [actually Bunutan] The exciting Griyas Bali Pool Villa project is taking shape rapidly. Caf?, pub and fine dining restaurant will be a part of the final product. And old faithful Warung Brith is no more, now to have an Italian flavour.

Bali continues to be a paradise for gourmands, and at a price that anyone can afford.

Best New Restaurants - 2009

Best Fine Dining - CIRE - Uluwatu
Class on the clifftop at Uluwatu. Master chef Stefan Zijta turns simple food into masterpieces.

Best Restaurant - Minami - Ubud
Osaka cuisine! Rarely available outside of Japan, very refined dining. Even their Bento Box is a work of art.

Best Value - Caf? Jemme - Kerobokan
The Gem of 2009! White walls, chandeliers and flowers are the back ground to this wonderful simple restaurant, tasty food, organic produce and very modest prices!

Best Cafe - Biku - Kerobokan
A classic teahouse, their High Tea a daily specialty. The range of teas is amazing, and not just commercially flavoured ones.

Best Cheapie - Passargad - Seminyak
Ancient Persian cuisine. Meat Kebabs and steamed rice but like no other you have ever had before. A simple warung but food that you remember and talk about


2008 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2008!

Bali continues to go through an amazing culinary journey. Whenever I look back at the past year, the result appears to be the same. Whilst many places have fallen by the wayside, some deserving so to do, others sad victims of circumstance, the constant stream of new and sometimes exciting new restaurants continues to eventuate.

The Bali of today boasts of many top-flight chefs. Just as many as can often be found in cities four times its size. Most, of course, work in the ever-increasing number of 5 star and boutique hotels and luxury villa complexes that are forever opening, all over the island. Others are finding their own style of peace in Bali, opening restaurants of their own, at both ends of the scale, classic dining down to great value mid range dining. As important is the ever increasing number of experienced restaurateurs who are arriving, to drive the revolution!

Another milestone has been achieved in 2008 with many locals taking up the challenge, significantly upgrading their places or taking on new ventures. Of course, as anywhere else in the world, there are also the well-intentioned amateurs who think running a restaurant is a breeze, most open and then crash! It is a breeze, but only for those who know how.

The BaliEats web site [www.balieats.com] now lists 650 restaurants of some 54 different cuisines, the majority of which present high quality food at an amazingly low cost. During 2008, of the 200+ new restaurants that opened in Bali 134 were of sufficient interest to feature in my regular column in The Bali Advertiser. The following is a summary of the best of them.

Nusa Dua shows signs of coming back to life, even if it is still rather staid. Tourist menus abound, each with a host of different cuisines, even if few actually resemble the original. The old city is once again full of restaurant options even if many appear to have the same menu as that next door. Menus in Nusa Dua have always been in English, French, German and Japanese, now most are also in Russian.

At one of the more progressive 5 star hotels, the Nusa Dua Beach Resort, a complete revamp of their beachside bistro included a re branding, now the Maguro Asian Bistro. The Sushi Bar still exists but added to that are many Asian wonders and exotic variations of the norm; Crispy Prawn Dim Sum, Sushi with lobster, mango and spring onion topped with salmon caviar or Lamb and Goats Cheese Puffs with mint, coriander and garlic dressing.

Out on The Bypass opposite the now defunct Traggia shopping centre is Crab House; live Mud Crabs as well as King Crabs, Lobsters and King Prawns, all grilled to order. Along the strip that is Tanjung Benoa. Many hotels are being extended with more rooms and pool villas being added. There are also many new projects along this magic stretch of white sand beach. In front of the Club Bali Mirage has appeared a Chinese restaurant. Chopsticks is its name and Cantonese seafood its specialty with live tanks around the walls. At the Aston Bali Resort is Giorgio, an Italian restaurant with terrace and inside air-con seating. Unusual offerings include a Goats Cheese Pasta with pine nuts and raisons and a risotto that is basil flavoured and comes with scallops, parmesan and truffles.

Along the southern tip of Bali, west of Nusa Dua, is where the most amazing developments are taking place. Following on from the Bvlgari opening last year has been the new Karma Resort, at Ungasan. It sits breathtakingly high on the cliff tops, their private beach a very steep funicular ride away. Signature restaurant di Mare has been transferred from the original Jimbaran Resort and upgraded into a fine Mediterranean experience, and offers possibly the best site in Bali for that perfect lunch, although preferably on a fine day as it is very open to the weather.

The words ?fine dining? evoke memories of chandeliers, crystal glasses and waiters as stiff as their apron fronts. That is not my idea of fine dining in Bali. Sure, I still want the very best top quality food, and with taste not that 5 star hotel special that is bland, even insipid, neither upsetting guests nor exciting them. It should be presented with style but preferably not a flash one, and a Bali smile! I do not want stern-faced European style service or glib robot style American service [when I hear ?I am your server? or ?have a nice day? I tend to want to throw up]. Karma Kandara?s new di Mare does it all for me. Nothing could be simpler than their Trio of Prawns, big and plump; Tempura, Grilled and Chilled with matching sauces, ponzu, remoulade and horseradish-tomato, or the Seven Herb Salad with a gorgonzola souffl?, pears, walnuts and cider vinaigrette. The seafood is perfect, never overcooked and dry; Alaskan Scallops with crisp prosciutto, truffle and herb risotto. Pan-roasted Black Grouper or Moroccan spiced Ahi Tuna are other examples.

Up on the hill at Uluwatu, PEPeNERO, copying the ?Trattoria? style, but now with no connection to that group, has commanded an immediate local market for those wanting mid-range Italian style eating. Down in Jimbaran proper Bloems offers something very different, food according to your blood type! Did you know that if you are Type AB then Lamb Salads and Rabbit Stew are what you should be eating? Me, I?d rather order food according to my taste! DeLicious opened next door to family member DeLighting. A few teething troubles have caused a stuttering start, but their innovative menu includes a perfect Pork Rib Adobo, a Phillipines specialty and some great Japanese starters. Crispy Chicken Rolls are in the Japanese Uramaki style [maki rolls but made inside out with the sushi rice on the outside of the nori seaweed which encases the filling]. Very tasty indeed, but menu changes are predicted.

On the bay at the old Karma Resort di Mare was replaced by the Karma Steak House, Bali?s first specialty steak house, this one specializes in Wagyu beef, using a variety of different grades, each to suit the dish in question. Just do not forget the Maryland style Crab Cakes to start, they are amazing! Dining at the two Karma restaurants only confirms the obvious talents of their Exec Chef, Raymond Saja. Not self-promoting as are others on the island, he just does it with food on the table rather than with a constant barrage of PR releases.

Tuban saw the arrival of Queen?s of India. Sited at the entrance to the old popular Dynasty Hotel, it is an offshoot of the highly successful Queen?s Tandoor in Seminyak. They offer many of the same dry [from the tandoor] and wet curries plus an interesting attempt at Fusion. Their Sizzlers start with a mini preparation in the tandoor after which the meat is sliced and added to mushrooms and other vegetables in the wok, Chinese style. The Chicken Sizzler is one of those dishes you just cannot stop eating. Out on The Bypass is the quaintly named Red Soup, and that is all they serve, Sup Merah. Evidently a Javanese specialty it is made with of a base of tomatoes with sliced vegetables, chicken, beef sausage and shrimps added. A basket of large croutons can be thrown in as well.

Kuta did not do much other than add a new live music venue and restaurant at Eikon. In central Kuta a small Belgian caf? opened offering many cuisine specials, Caf? Local. All the other activity of note was out on Sunset Road, where the failures still seem to exceed the successes. Sushi Tei is yet another big budget Java enterprise. They have seating for hundreds and a sushi train inside that parades all the cheaper simple Sushi examples, but those on the menu are more exotic than traditional. Not a cheap visit for pre-made Sushi.

Legian saw the Caf? Marzano from Seminyak quickly move into the well situated terrace caf? that was Cosy Corner. An instant success from day of opening and though smaller will probably even surpass their Jln. Kunti numbers. Also in Legian was Nine, apparently one of Bali?s most jinxed sites as it has housed a steady stream of failures for almost 10 years, RHUM and Barcelona were just two of them.

The Seminyak-Kerobokan area had its usual rush of new restaurants, some totally new but most replacing previously failed ones. Mannekepis took the early honours with many well prepared Belgian and Dutch dishes on a very popular menu. Wild Orchid [Paon by day] offers Thai cuisine at the new highly controversial Anantara Resort. Sip Wine Bar took over the Spaghetti Jazz site and presents top end wine by the glass accompanied by food from French master chef Patrick Chauchereau [ex Lola], just a shame he has to work in a kitchen smaller than most bathrooms. He deserves better.

Ryoshi moved next door from their home of many years, into a completely rebuilt Kura Kura. Now with twice the size and parking at the rear, it has proved to be a very seamless move. Twas always full, still is! This Ryoshi has the best value fresh sushi in Bali. At the Kerobokan end, just off Sunset Road is an enterprising newcomer, Barocco. It is a pasticceria with sensational pastries that are almost an art form. Great coffee too, and from the real machine, hand pumped by the barista.

Sorriso was one of the year?s big surprises. It is Baby?s baby! Well known hospitality personality ex Gado-Gado, Baby now has her own Italian restaurant [with a bit of influence from her husband]. Good Italian food served in a simple style. Not fine dining just great value and taste. Their Scalloppine is local beef but as good as many imported versions and at a fraction of the price. A very lively bar and happy young service staff make Sorriso a good night out, anytime!

Kerobokan hosted its usual rash of new restaurants, many of which have already closed. Those remaining include Chandi with an innovative menu that struggled with supply for a time, a problem that now appears to have been overcome. Famed Eat Street is virtually no more. Escalating rents [affordable by fashion houses alone] and a total lack of parking has seen a constant move around the corner to Raya Petitenget. Others who braved the conditions to open up included K2, next door to big brother Kaizan, it offers Izakaya style eating, many small plates almost Japanese Tapas, it is packed every day as value wins out one more time in this area. Carliz Art & Caf? is Asian, mostly Chinese, and has Hainan Chicken Rice on its menu. Not far away is the Wah Wah Burger & Wine Bar. What a combination: a Japanese version of a burger bar. Out on Raya Kerobokan, behind the Rich Villas is a Thai restaurant with a very complete menu that includes some dishes rarely seen in Bali such as Poo Jaa, a deep-fried crab shell stuffed with a mix of minced pork, crab and spices.

On the Petitenget side was the short lived DayDream and the popular Pizza Telese a late night hangout for that last minute snack. Star performer for this area, and for that matter Bali as well, was the long awaited opening of Sarong. Will Meyrick had already earned his reputation opening both Husk and Blossom, and the foodies of Bali could not wait filling the restaurant from first night onwards. A tantalizing mix of his well-known Thai [crisp pieces of Pork Hock in tamarind and tamarillo] with spicy Indian [Vindaloo of Pork Belly], a little Vietnamese and Indonesian and even a couple of Szechuan creations [the spiced Tuna is very special]. Some of the exotic Dim Sums are worth a visit alone

Across from the Kerobokan Jail is the wonderful La Cantina with dishes from North Vietnam and other Asian specials in a totally relaxing atmosphere. Behind this area is the French owned Vivalavi Villas, their pleasant poolside restaurant is due for an imminent lift with a French chef on the way. Sundays has already become a real family day here for the locals expats. Further west towards Canggu is the Umalas Riding School. Their pleasant garden restaurant at the rear of the property has been in many different management hands over the years but at last one has found success. Lestari Grill & Pasta offers some wonderful pasta dishes including a Ravioli stuffed with Roquefort cheese and crushed walnuts. Their Slow Cooking Gourmet nights are eagerly awaited every month. The man behind Un?s, one of Bali?s original success stories, has done it again.

In the Canggu area a steady stream of new ventures as the local population continues to increase with new villas sprouting up everywhere. Almost beside the very popular The Beach House on Echo Beach is Sol, but instead of copying the International menu of its neighbour Sol offers a variety of Balinese dishes such as Pepes Ikan and Tum Ayam. On the main road to Canggu and Tanah Lot is Snapper Corner, an offshoot of the very popular Wrap a Snapper [ex Eat Street] which moved to Gili Trawangan. Not only fresh deep-fried fish with crunchy chips but also those great Aussie Potato Scallops [sliced potato dipped in a light batter then deep-fried].

Renon, Denpasar, saw the opening of many small eateries and one big one, Bumbu Desa with a monster selection of pre-cooked food. However they lost the great Feyloon with its very genuine Cantonese food, specializing in seafood from the many live tanks around the walls. It re-opens on Raya Kuta early in 2009.

Sanur continued its revival, but in many cases in the hands of locals. Old warungs and homestay dining areas are being renovated and not just the buildings, the menus as well. Little India was a new Indian restaurant [previously around the corner as Maharani] with great Martabaks. Street Caf? is under the same management as last year?s Beach Caf?. Simple menus with a buffet Salad Bar included, inside air-conditioning and outside garden terrace, set 3 course lunches at $5 and free wi-fi, it is no wonder that it has been very busy since opening. Occasional live music in the evenings packs them in as well. Now open for breakfast with Eggs poached in a chilli salsa the star performer.

Triana is a classy Spanish restaurant that presents free tapas at the bar to all drinkers. Their Garlic Chicken is sensational, the meat so tender and juicy, the Tortilla is a real Spanish Omelette and the White Sangria is a blend of white wine, champagne and sugar studded with small diced fruits and ice cubes, this is the way they make it in Andalucia. A couple of secret spices give it a final finish, so refreshing!

D?Topeng opened after a very lengthy fit out from the old Istana Gardens, as there were no buyers it re-opened under the same old management. At the other end of Sanur was Spike?s Downtown Caf?, very American, as well as the mandatory burgers and hot dogs they have Popcorn Shrimp, Gumbo and Steak Stuffers. Charming is a garden restaurant with French cuisine under the same management as Ming Le Resto, a long time Sanur tradition.

The revolution in Ubud virtually stopped. No wonder with so many new places having opened during the past 5 years. Indochine opened at the very grand The Mansion, you feel as if you are dining with royalty. Their cuisine is Vietnamese with a French touch. The Quails Eggs [avec Cacachuette] are sensational. The slow cooked beef has a refreshing taste of cinnamon. In Penestenan Bayu?s Kitchen offers local cuisine from a hygienic kitchen, even a modern BBQ, the seating area way upmarket for this style, great value!

Pignou di Penyu offers French at warung prices, snacks and mains. Asian Prophecy serves tasty snacks [shiitake mushroom rolls] and now has a Japanese Bakery as well. Tropical Seafood & Grill opened at the top of Monkey Forest Road, and was immediately packed, day and night. Part of a Nusa Dua chain it has the usual multi-paged multi-language menu. Black Beach opened [no beach in sight, only rice paddies], a Spaghetteria with 16 different styles.

Amed continued its opening and re-opening of small locally operated warungs. Warung Bobo II is at Jemuluk, at the edge of the waves, popular at sunset. Warung Kadek, opened in central Lipah, a mix of local fare and International snacks. Maharasta 2 has closed for a major refit [the old TPC], their first main season a success so re-investing for 2009.

High up in the cool mountains of Bedugul is Seoul Garden, a Korean restaurant that really is in a garden, in fact little air con rooms that used to be hothouses for a market garden. Warming food such as Bulgogi and Grilled Pork Belly [quaintly called ?pork with fat?].

Lovina only saw minimal change. The opening of Le Gong in the well hidden Bali Paradise Hotel was kept a secret. As the small hotel is always full they have not gone out seeking much publicity. Barclona is owned by a Babi Guling family and they have developed a special Pepesan Babi Guling wrapping the soft pork meat with spices [tomato, ginger, candlenut, turmeric, onions and garlic] in banana leaves. Le Madre is a small Italian warung that offers incredibly cheap breakfasts, $2 for eggs, bacon and hash browns.

Once again, 2009 promises much. Down south will open the mammoth Banyan Tree Resort and Alila Villas. Zingara in Petitenget from the long time operators of Kafe Warisan plus whatever the old Kafe Warisan becomes. Not far away will be the W Hotel, a brand which specializes in fine cuisines. There are rumours of a Vietnamese Caf? up in Uluwatu. Ubud sees a major Thai restaurant [on the site of the old Barandi], a possible Turkish restaurant, and maybe a very traditional Korean, as well as the re-opened enlarged Flava Lounge near the Arma entrance.

Bali just keeps on getting better, and the great value remains the same!

Best New Restaurants - 2008

Best Fine Dining Di Mare - Ungasan
- Sensational location and food at the new Karma Kandara. Mediterranean style and setting featuring the classic cuisine of Raymond Saja.

Best Restaurant Sarong - Kerobokan
- Everyone was waiting for it, and they got what they had been waiting for. A blend of Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Chinese but all done with flair, passion and feeling. The real taste of Asia! Will Meyrick at his best!

Best Value Sorriso - Seminyak
- Its fun, its stylish and its great value. Simple Italian food done well. Pasta with sauces you can taste, Scalloppine that is tender. A fun place to visit.

Best Cafe Street Caf? - Sanur
- A lounge bar and a cool, clean caf?, all with free internet access. Snacks, meals and drinks all very cheap! Freshly baked Turkish bread. Live music some evenings. Now breakfast as well.

Best Cheapie Pregina - Sanur
- Local and sensational. Very traditional Balinese [chicken is Siap not Ayam], always tasty and at an average of $3 for mains. This is more than just a warung, the stylish but simple fit out says it all. Someone knows what they are doing.


2007 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2007!

Bali is going through an amazing culinary journey. Not that many years ago the food offerings in Bali were mostly devoid of taste and value, both locals and foreigners operating ?restaurants? that they believed presented cuisines of the world. Only one thing was missing, and that was the professional knowledge that can only come by experience, having been trained at the highest level.

The Bali of today boasts of many top-flight chefs. As many as can often be found in cities four times its size. Most, of course, work in the ever-increasing number of 5 star and boutique hotels and luxury villa complexes that seem to be opening almost monthly, all over the island. Others are finding their own style of peace in Bali, opening restaurants of their own, at both ends of the scale, classic dining down to great value mid range dining. As important is the ever increasing number of experienced restaurateurs who are arriving, to drive the revolution!

The BaliEats web site [www.balieats.com] now lists restaurants of some 54 different cuisines, the majority of which present high quality food at an amazingly low cost. During 2007 another 85 new restaurants opened in Bali that were of sufficient interest and quality to feature in my regular column in The Bali Advertiser. The following is a summary of the best of them.

Because of the high concentration of large 5 star hotels in the Nusa Dua and Tandjung Benoa area there has always been a lack of outside credible options. Needless to say many of the hotels have 5 or 6 outlets offering a variety of cuisines in order to keep their guests on the premises. The old city used to offer a range of moderately priced options, to tempt guests outside of the comfort of their hotels. This area suffered most from the Bali calamities, earlier in the decade, and only now shows signs of new life, but their entrance from the Nusa Dua hotel complex had currently been sealed off.

The Bali Collection replaced the Nusa Dua Gallery but has not been over-endowed with custom. One of its better restaurants, Tepi Laut, has moved recently to a more prominent position close to the main entrance, changed its name to Gedong Cafe and presents great value high quality cuisine. Their Giant Seafood Grill is one of their most popular offerings. In the old village the new Laguna Garden is typical of most, offering many different cuisines, what we call a tourist menu. Originally all menus in this area were in 3-4 languages, now almost without exception a Russian translation has been added.

At one of the newest hotels, Nusa Dua Novotel, which borders the golf course, is The Square, which considering the name is a strangely oval space with quite a range of modern and innovative cuisine at very reasonable prices for a hotel, Pomegranate-glazed Quail an example. Down in Tandjung Benoa is Lucky Duck, which not surprisingly features duck on the menu, done many different ways. Whilst the Duck Burger and the Duck Pizza are most unusual, Roast Duck, Confit of Duck and a Grilled Duck with an orange glaze are far more traditional. There is also their version of Ubud?s Crispy Duck.

Tuban saw the arrival of old Kuta stalwart, Mini. Almost as big as the still functioning original but modern, clean and sparkling. This Mini has the same menu mix of live seafood, grilled or pan-fried, a myriad of accompanying dipping sauces, and a full menu of Indonesian Chinese favourites, all at reasonable prices. Their Mixed Seafood Special of Prawns, Fish, Crab, Squid, Clams and Lobster meat at Rp. 94,000++ is a showstopper!

Ifiori opened on the site of the ill-fated Wet, in Jln. Kartika Plaza, in front of Waterbom Park. It is a two level restaurant offering good value Italian food, and under the same management as Pappa?s in Legian. Further along at the Ramayana complex is Gabah, which was initially under the direction of Patrick Chauchereau [ex Lola].

At Kuta all of the restaurants that opened were out on the new Bypass, Sunset Road, although many of those who originally opened there have already closed. The later ones are more grand and with more experience behind them. Sushi Tei is a branch of Japan?s largest Sushi franchise which includes the first sushi train in Bali. The a la carte selection is enormous, some traditional others modern and with unusual combinations. The Grill House is Korean and features Bulgogi, marinated beef that you cook at the table, or you can grill Modemgui [Japanese style Shasliks], Sweet Beef or Pork Ribs [Doeji Galbi] on the grill in the centre of your table.

Harmony looks like a Chinese restaurant and it is except that all the meat [beef, pork, duck and chicken] and seafood [fish, prawns and squid] dishes are vegetarian versions thereof. They are all made from soya bean but presented as the real thing, and in many cases with the authentic sauces and flavouring they almost deceive. There is Beijing Smoked Duck, Babi Panggang [roasted pork], Cumi Tong Yam [squid with a tangy Cantonese sauce], and even imitation sardines, Ikan Sardencis with chilli and tomato, which happens to be just about their most popular dish.

The Seminyak-Kerobokan area had its usual rush of new restaurants, some totally new but most replacing previously failed ones. The Chat Caf?, under the guiding hands of Marinos [ex Mykonos Tavernas] led the way with a caf?/lounge bar that worked from the first week. Apart from cheap tasty food they also offer free internet, as do an ever-increasing number of cafes and small restaurants in Bali, though so far mostly in the Seminyak and Ubud areas. Just down the road is Caf? Marzano, totally Italian, featuring wood-fired pizzas, pastas galore and many Italians.

Nirvana opened on the site of the old Spy Bar, a stylish bar at the front and French restaurant in the rear garden courtyard. Across the road was the immediately successful San Marco Osteria, which closed prematurely due the tragic sudden death of Mr. Sin.

On the main road the old Afghan restaurant re-opened as Kholifar with similar offerings of Middle Eastern cuisine such as entrees of Lahem Bilajeen [three crisp fried pastry shells stuffed with a spicy lamb mince], mains of Chicken or Mutton Vegetable Korma [with onions, potatoes, green chillies, garlic and ginger, all slowly cooked] or a high fibre vegetarian dish, Chole Maslah [chickpeas, tomato, onion and garlic]. All to be enjoyed whilst seated amongst Arabian and Persian carpets. The Swedish Veranda became the Brazilian Rio [under Finnish management] offering a full Brazilian Churrasco [5 salad starters followed by 7 different meats all cut from the giant skewer, after being cooked in the flames. Includes a Pork in Marsala and a perfect Australian tenderloin, as well as an interesting selection of a la carte items.

Kerobokan hosted its usual rash of new restaurants, many of which have already closed. Those remaining include Med with a Pecan-crusted Chicken with a honey orange cream sauce or Moroccan Prawns with a tabouleh cous-cous and a spicy harisa, and Sasa offering entrees such as Sepplioline alla Griglia con Patate e Insalata [grilled baby squids served with a warm potato salad] or a home-made pasta such as Fettuccine con Gamberi [with king prawns with wine and herbs]. Caf? Bali opened in colonial style premises next to big brother, Khaima, offering entrees from around the world.

Others on Eat Street included Fresh, a sushi bar operated by the ex-manager of the very popular trendy Wasabi of a few years back [extraordinary California Rolls wrapped around Foie Gras, duck liver and mango with hazelnuts, as well as other options including Spicy Butterfish or Salmon, Scallop and Cream Cheese]. Mezzo became only the 2nd on the street to offer cool air-conditioned premises as well as the first with a rear garden courtyard. It has simple food well presented, including very cheap full breakfasts, and special coffee blends, including Ethiopian, making it a place to constantly return to.

Grocer & Grind provided something very different with its very Australian bistro style and accompanying deli. Normal egg breakfasts; Benedict, Florentine or just Eggs with choice of bacon, lamb sausage, mushrooms or rosti. For lunch; snacks, salads or a perfect Panini on Ciabattini. Dinner is all change with casual bistro dining such as their Prawn Cherviche, juicy prawns tossed with sliced mango in coriander, meaty Lamb Sausages or large very tender Lamb Shanks.

In the Sentosa Villas was Blossom, something so new for Bali! From the designers of Australia?s trendy Longrain restaurants there are similarities but this one has style and class! It began with wonderful Thai food from Will Meyrick and quickly established itself as one of Asia?s finest! Within a few short months Blossom achieved what many others fail to do at all, yet a management decision saw the departure of their chef. A ready replacement was fortunately available; Chris Patzold, well known to Bali?s diners after being the original chef at Ku de Ta [back when the food was both great and cheap] and subsequently at Axiom. The most popular Thai offerings have been retained but now with the addition of the Patzold signature dishes. Best of both worlds!

On the Petitenget side was Eropa Warung with French food at warung prices and Da Margherita with classical Italian dishes, also very reasonably priced. Dahana, still a secret to most in Bali, was the surprise of this area. It is a private house and gallery that hosts a family-style Japanese restaurant in a garden setting. Almost hidden behind a white wall and private entrance.

Around the back of the Kerobokan Jail a totally authentic Hungarian restaurant to be found, Bistro Budapest, featuring Gulyasleves [Goulash] in every form. The famous soup combines beef, carrots and potato in a rich paprika broth, but there are also many forms with stewed meat; Sertesporkoct [pork], Paprikascsirke [chicken], Marhaporkoct [beef], and for the vegetarians, Gombaporkoct with mushrooms.

Renon, Denpasar, saw the opening of Kowloon, quickly changing its name to Feyloon. Genuine Cantonese food, specializing in seafood from the many live tanks around the walls.

Sanur continued its revival. New restaurants such as the Russian Slavyanka offer a new variety in fine dining [Shaved Frozen Venison with a pinch of salt, Caviar of every type, Chicken Livers with apple and onion and the Ukranian Borsh [a hearty soup of pork, potatoes cabbage, onion, carrot and beetroot]. SixPoint opened with a very International menu [they are an offshoot of Papa?s] that included Grilled Turkey Breast. Coriander has a range of Thai cuisine, Red and Green Curries, Tod Mun Pla [fish cakes], Yum Neau [seared marinated beef strips with cooling cucumber], among its International offerings. Piccadilly replaced the long gone Mykonos, more of a pub than restaurant. The Porch Caf? offers wonderful sandwiches, salads and small daily specials.

The revolution in Ubud slowed to a walk. No wonder with so many new places opening over the past 5 years. In Sanggingan is Man Maru opened, mainly Japanese [wonderful terryaki] with a few spicy Korean offerings [sliced lotus bulb]. Up on the hill at Penestanan was one of the finds of the year. Mendez, longtime personal chef for Warwick Purser, opened his own small warung offering Goat Legs and Beef Ribs, using old Yogya recipes, simmering for hours then marinating in Javanese spice pastes. Sweet tender meat, wonderful value in simple surroundings. $10 for two, what value!

Candi Dasa continued to slowly get its act together. The revamped Rama CandiDasa opened Garpu, under the direction of Patrick Chauchereau [ex Lola]. At that stage the food presented was quite exceptional, wonderful breads baked on the premises, pates en croute, etc. Now we wait with baited breath for the opening of Patrick?s new bistro restaurant in Seminyak, Feb 2008! A quiet achiever in the northern part of Candi Dasa was Aquaria, a New Zealand operation with just a choice of two dishes, entr?e, main and dessert, for lunch and dinner [one always a vegetarian option] at their pleasant small boutique hotel. Simple food and great value in a pleasant relaxed location.

Amed continued its opening and re-opening of small locally operated warungs. The successful Wayan?s Warung opened a 2nd, Caf? C?est Bon, opposite Santai, TPC became Maharasti II, the rebuilt Vienna Beach now offers a smart restaurant with new immaculately clean kitchen, and some of the best beach views in the area. For something completely different another New Zealand operation began at Sails [eventually to be a part of the Horizon Resort], on the headland between Lipah Beach and Lean. It has sensational ocean views. Some Western [Steaks and Ribs], some Indo Chinese [Chicken Mandarin] but all cooked a little different from other local places, a cut above the rest!

Lovina saw the demise of a few and the arrival of a whole host of newbies; Amadeus has an Austrian influence, Wiener Schnitchels and Goulash on certain days. Down at the beach is a mall place with value, Tropis Bistro, with the chef and menu from the old Kwizien [Pate des Ardennes, Steak Rocquefort, etc.]. Surprising newcomer is Chonos, a BBQ restaurant with a difference! A tray of lava stones are inlaid into the top of smart wooden tables, seated above a gas ring. Order your meats and show what you can do. This place is going to become very popular! Congrats to people who dare to be different!

Once again, 2008 promises much. A new Thai restaurant, opposite Gado-Gado, and a French Bistro with one of Bali?s greatest chefs, both in Seminyak. To cap it all off the return of the prodigal one more time, small select Thai, Vietnamese and Malay Indian menus at Will Meyricks new venture [site of the old Esmerada] in Jln Petitenget, Kerobokan.

Bali just keeps on getting better, and the great value remains the same!

Gerry Williams
gerry@balieats.com

Best New Restaurants of 2007

Best Fine Dining Blossom - Kerobokan
Sensational setting and food. Cuisine is a blend of Thai and Contemporary Australian [Mod OZ].

Best Restaurant Grocer & Grind - Kerobokan
A Bistro & Deli, all the way from Australia. Breakfasts and snacks during the day, great dining at night!

Best Value Rio - Seminyak
Brazilian Churrasco, large slabs of marinated meat speared on a sword and cooked in the flames, all for $15.

Best North Bali Chonos - Lovina
Innovative Table BBQ upstairs in main restaurant, Many Dutch treats downstairs in garden pool-side caf?.

Best Cafe Chat Caf? - Seminyak
A lounge bar and a cool, clean caf?, all with free internet access. Snacks, meals and drinks all very cheap!

Best Cheapie Warung Mendez - Ubud
A chef from Solo, with recipes from Jogykarta. Goat meat [and local beef] specially prepared?.. so tender, so tasty, so cheap!

2006 End of Year Wrap

The Wrap of 2006!

My first thoughts, when I recalled the happenings of 2006 was that for the first time in recent years the numbers of restaurant closures may have exceeded new openings. How wrong I was! 65 new restaurants alone have been mentioned in my column during the year, although some of those have already gone and others are close to following.

Nusa Dua is coming back, Sanur is waking up and there is even a shock or two in sleepy Lovina! The Seminyak/Kerobokan and Ubud areas are now proving to be very difficult new markets for the inexperienced with many new/old places struggling to survive.

Nusa Dua has seen a plethora of new/upgraded restaurants inside the 5 star hotel strip ever since those fateful events of 2001/2. No doubt the concept was to increase in-house spending but it also makes it more difficult for outside restaurants to become established.

The best of two worlds was Tao in Tanjung Benoa [a part of Ramada Benoa but separate location, beachside]. Tao is Asian, with the main accent on Thai cuisine. From China is Hoi Co, chicken, crab meat and vegetables wrapped in fried bean curd like a string of mini sausages. From neighbouring Vietnam comes their wonderful version of the humble spring roll, Goi Cuon.

Star performer of Nusa Dua was the revamped Italian Restaurant at Amanusa. Such a classical room, combined with its magic poolside setting, just has to operate as a fine dining restaurant. Now it does, once again. Amongst the seafood masterpieces is Acqua Pazza, a combination of lobster, prawns, clams, cuttlefish and reef fish in a tomato saffron sauce. It is cooked in a 'paper bag', and arrives at your table that way. As soon as you open the bag you are hit with a blast of that unique saffron aroma, which persists as you devour each piece of perfect seafood. Their sensational Pork Belly dish has been slowly braised for three hours, and is served with cavolo nero [black cabbage]. It is one of those dishes that you eat very slowly, savouring every mouthful.

The Bali Collection replaced what was the Galleria Nusa Dua. It is a collection of many things including restaurants; Coco Bistro and Paon are International, Musashi is Japanese and Uno is Italian, but the most attractive newcomer in this area is Tepi Laut, small with a tree shaded courtyard it is opposite the entrance to the SOGO department store at the top end of the estate [accessed from a small parking area nearby]. They specialize in seafood with their Giant Seafood Grill outstanding. In the old city section of Nusa Dua there used to be many restaurants, most closed after the disasters. Old ones are now being renovated and new ones getting ready to open. Dewi Shri is one of them. Modern and clean it offers great value. Their cuisine is a mix of Balinese and International with menu descriptions in German as well as English. Up on the mountain at the new Swiss-Bel Bayview Hotel is The Sky Terrace with views all along the Bali coast. Enjoy modern International cuisine on the roof of the highest building in Bali.

Jimbaran and Tuban saw little new action with more than a few closures. Whereas Kuta was a mix of closures and openings, some of them strange. Star Anise joined the bakery/caf? corner but did not make an impression, maybe too much Jakarta style. Fuel [without food] became Hook [without food] which is now Hook, with food! Confused? Just for the night owls anyway. In the back streets of Kuta, yet another Stiff Chilli Caf? opened with pizzas and pasta for the backpackers and visiting rugby players. Two new Chinese restaurants happened upon the scene. The Palace specializing in Dim Sum [queues on Sundays] and Ban Dar, specializing in live seafood. Urban Food Station opened with its all night New-York/Indonesian fare at Jakarta prices.

Best new action in Kuta was the opening of a 2nd Ketupat, an impressive building, a modern copy of their original restaurant in Kuta [swimming pool lined with private bales, with a terrace overlooking all] offering great Indonesian food at value prices. The menu covers the entire archipelago of Indonesia with Ayam Limao [from Kalimantan], Kare Kambing Palembang [real goat curry from Sumatra], Udang Mabok [stir-fried prawns in chilli, basil and arak] and our long time favourite; Quail Eggs Sambal Karido [in chilli and lime from Irian Jaya].

Legian was a mixed bag with some new restaurants not even seeing the year out. Best newcomer was The Flying Piano with its Fondue specials [beef and Swiss cheese both available]. It is Bali's most unusual restaurant with its owner, Pedro, entertaining every evening with his incredible classic improvisations on the grand piano. Rituals also opened on Jln. Legian, offering a mix of modern international dishes.

Seminyak became home to a real Spanish restaurant, La Sal. Tapas that are really large entrees [Tempura Sardines, baby ones that are crumbed and fried served with a shot glass of warm aioli foam or Crunchy Mushrooms, soft and juicy inside their crunchy exterior, served with a shot glass of red capsicum aioli]. The Crisp Pork Belly with casseroled lentils and mango is great but the Twice Cooked Lamb with tarragon juice is worth the visit to La Sal alone! And then there are the four different Paellas.

Rush Bamboo opened poolside at the boutique villa complex, The Elysian, with its classy Asian Fusion. Joulla's is German [Rouladen, Schweinebraten, etc.] and D'Java has quickly become one of the all night place of choice in Drink Street for Indonesian meals.

Many closed in Kerobokan and more opened. Hombres quickly replaced Favela Chic with Spanish/Mediterranean, and yet two more Italian restaurants, Osteria Telese [home-cooking style] and Pandora with a range of exotic pizzas, and things. The little Tuckshop on the corner offers breakfasts, healthy and normal, as well as savoury muffins, sandwiches, baguettes and bagels.

The sensation of the area was the upgrading of Alang-Alang at The Samaya to an ultra-modern bistro on the beach, called Breeze. Sensational food such as an entr?e of Pan Seared Foie Gras and Sweetbread-Asparagus Ravioli in a morel cream sauce and a 'Duck Tasting', duck done three different ways; two generous slices of pink U.S. Duck Breast sitting on small pumpkin gnocchis, in a cola-soda-chilli sauce, Stuffed Duck Neck on a perfect mound of vegetable tabbouleh salad with red onion jam, and finally a Smoked Duck and Mushroom Ragout in an open crisp basket sitting on a base of corn and roasted pepper relish.

In Denpasar not a lot changed other than for the local market. In the Renon area Ikan Bakar Cianjur opened, with a car park that is almost always full. This slick Java chain offshoot offers many variations with Nila or Gurame fish. Other new restaurants soon opened nearby, but their car parks remain mostly empty.

Sanur continued its wake up from the dead with a steady stream of new professionally managed options. From the ruins of the trashed Semawang Beach, Caf? Bombay was transformed into two restaurants on the main street; Seahorse [general international specializing in seafood and offering great value] and the wonderful Clay Oven, presenting perfect Indian food from the Tandoors of a master chef. The Chicken Roll is a breast of chicken stuffed with minced chicken and prawns before being roasted in the tandoor, a masterpiece! Top of the range is definitely their Raan Bahar. It is cut from a leg of lamb that has been marinated overnight, partly cooked in the tandoor, before finishing off by being simmered in onion gravy.

The new Pregina made a change from the usual warungs of the area, clean and friendly it offers a few things a little different, such as Vietnamese Prawn Meat on Sugarcane. Batu Jimbar moved from its original location to new modern premises with a tree-lined front courtyard. Koki's returned to its roots and became Korean, Bulgogi, Kim-chi and all. La BaR'racca replaced Mama Lucia's, but retained virtually the same pasta menu. Caf? Amsterdam moved down the road to become Double Dutch [croquettes, bitterballen, etc] and The Sanur Beach Hotel opened up its attractive seafront area with their Tirta Seafood Grill [Jimbaran style] and at the other end of the beach, Sindhu, was the simply named Beach Caf?. It has great breakfasts, sandwiches, snacks and meals, to be taken either on the sand under the trees, or inside on the terrace.

La Pau finally found a home. Originally it was just a weekend late night warung in front of Natribu, then followed a stint in the unsuccessful food court at Discovery. Now it is open lunch and dinner, with extended late nights on the weekend, even live jazz played under the trees. Good Padang food at very cheap prices, their Beef Rendang a specialty. Late at night play 'spot the celebrity!'.

Ubud saw the usual number of new openings. The year started with Casa Pasta on the site of the old Bebel Bengill II, but still under the same management. The restaurant is Italian and the accompanying late night bar/disco, very international. Dragonfly opened in Coffee Street offering a mix of Asian Fusion at value prices with the Juice Ja Caf? [wheatgrass juice their specialty] next door. Aashiana is across the football field from Monkey Forest Rd., offering two menus, Chinese and Indian. A host of new cafes; Rendezvousdoux combines books, coffee and snacks whilst Caf? Moka does the usual pastries, cakes and light meals. Up in Pengosekan is Flava Lounge, combining great snacks [pizzas and things] with a nice drinking ambience.

Barberkyu replaced the original Bali Pesto [which moved 50 metres down the road to enlarged premises] offering their trademark good value food, and Yamato became another Japanese option for Ubud, small but very busy.

In Amed two new attractive cafes, Blue Star and Coral Caf? on the southern end of Jemeluk beach, but unfortunately not offering any great improvement in food. However we look forward to a few new restaurants that are about to open in the Lipah area, as well as the 2007 re-opening of the all-new Vienna Beach.

Finally, even sleepy old Lovina, on Bali's northern coast, appears to be waking from the dead! Before there were many warungs/cafes offering general tourist-style menus, and the upmarket hotels, with nothing in between. Kwizien stepped into the breach with a modern European bistro cuisine, and even a comprehensive wine list. Needless to say, it immediately developed its band of followers. Now the new Lovina Bakery has also continued the same professional surge with German breads baked daily and a range of European sausages and meats for local consumption or to take away.

2006 presented us with yet another crop of sensational new restaurants. Can anywhere else in Asia offer such a range of ethnic choices, at these incredible good value prices? And then there are the unique locations of Bali, whether they are by the beach, or overlooking oceans, rivers or mountains, to say nothing of that Balinese friendliness that welcomes everyone, without question.

What will 2007 bring? It looks like being more of the same. The very upmarket Bulgari has already opened, and their restaurants will be reviewed early in the year. Karma opens up in Uluwatu, with the relocation of their di Mare restaurant. At Sentosa Villas in Kerobokan, an enormous fine dining restaurant is to be presided over by Will Merryck, making a welcome return to Bali.

Gerry Williams
gerry@balieats.com

Best New Restaurants of 2006

Best Fine Dining The Italian Restaurant - Nusa Dua
Elegant room fronted by a magic poolside terrace offering the very best of Italian cuisine.

Best Restaurant Breeze - Kerobokan
New beachside restaurant with some of the best food in Bali. A chef with imagination!

Best Value Clay Oven - Sanur
Sensational food from the Tandoors of a master chef. Wonderful value!

Best North Bali Kwizien - Lovina
Modern European bistro, professional service, nice bar, a full wine list and a comfortable ambience.

Best Cafe Beach Caf? - Sanur
On the beach at Sindhu, great breakfasts, sandwiches, snacks and meals.

Best Cheapie La Pau - Sanur
Now in a home of its own, Padang food at all hours of the night. At weekends also jazz in the garden. Cheap!

2005 End of Year Wrap

Bali...Great Food...Great Value!

At this time, every year, when I look back over the list of new restaurants that have opened, I am amazed at the ever-increasing number of quality options that Bali has to offer. These days professionally run operations abound, the ethnic choices continue to grow and the settings in which some of these new restaurants are located are incredible. The horrible 1980?s and 90?s are almost a memory, albeit a bad one, although there are still a couple of survivors from that era still offering the same rubbish, their customers either nostalgia freaks and/or totally lacking in taste.

Nusa Dua did not do much this year. Their turn comes in 2006 with the opening of the Bali Connection on the site of the old decrepit Nusa Dua Galleria. It will be an upmarket boutique retail complex, in the same open air style, containing many leading restaurants that are yet to be explored.

Tuban got itself a Ryoshi, [fresh sushi and sashimi plus the standard Ryoshi menu] and a Batan Waru [Ayam Rica-Rica a special]. Both are located, one above the other, in the grounds of the Bali Gardens Hotel, so no parking problems here. Discovery Plaza opened with a mammoth food court that did not work and has been since drastically down-sized. That popular franchise from Thailand, Black Canyon [Golden Purse and Fermented Chicken followed by an Iced Mocha], is the star performer, now having added a small caf? at the beach end of the ground floor.

Most of the action in Kuta was in the back streets rather than among the tourist throngs. Buddha?s Belly was a big surprise on Sunset Road, successfully combining billiards and quality Thai and Vietnamese food [Vietnamese Hanoi Duck is basted with honey, balsamic and oyster sauce]. Middle Eastern food makes a comeback to Bali at Pelangi, and with the chef from Jordan the food is completely authentic. In the Kuta Galeria, the Pica Tapas Bar serves real Spanish tapas and other delights, even the occasional Suckling Pig.

Legian saw most of Jln. Padma rebuilt [and still more about to happen], and amongst the new small hotels an excellent value spot called Drops [at Casa Padma Suites]. The ever-popular Legian Beach saw the old Kafe Warna transformed into SeaSide [Baked Half Chicken, stuffed with smoked bacon and mushrooms], and the popular Benny?s rebuilt as Lanai [everything from simple salads and sandwiches to full meals].

The back lane that links the now one-way system from Jln. Double Six and Padma Utara, also uncovered the value find of the year, Waroeng Asia. It is so small that if you blink you miss it as you go past, but go at the wrong time and you will have to queue for a table. It is great to be able to enjoy that Thai noodle staple, Pad Thai, tasting and costing the same as in Bangkok [Rp.20,000 and 85 Baht]. Their curries and salads are also totally authentic and similarly priced.

Seminyak had more closures than openings, as the bar war continues to attract and destroy newcomers. The Japanese-managed hotel Imperial used to be one of my favourite haunts but it became a Sofitel. The Thai restaurant at the Sofitel Seminyak as it is now called, Husk [Phanaeng curry of Beef Cheeks with chilli and Thai basil and Crispy Duck with ginger mandarin and yellow bean sauce], proved to be one of the finds of the year. At the top end of this street little Baku Dapa serves Sop Bontot to the local bar-hopping all-night crowd [Indonesian OxTail], the ?Best in Bali?!

Queens Tandoor opened with a full complement of Indian chefs. Their chillis and other spices are imported from India. Some of the dishes here are quite spectacular, totally authentic not just adapted. The Chicken Tikka Makhanwala can only be described as luscious, the ever-so-tender chicken pieces [a 2 hour cooking process] are covered with a butter sauce, rich in the flavour of Indian chillies and spices.

Kerobokan, as usual, headed the list of greatest numbers of new restaurants, some of which have been successful whilst others have already fallen by the wayside. That great loop of road I christened Eat Street, that links Jln. Laksmana and Petitenget, once edged by rice paddies [only four years ago when Mykonos and Chitralada took the risk of opening in the middle of nowhere] is now almost an endless chain of eating houses, and more are on the way.

Warung Joglo is Javanese, open at back to the rice paddies [Ayam Pedas Manis is chicken pieces coated in a sauce that is both hot and sweet, very spicy]. Sweet Basil joined the throng of new Thai restaurants in Bali, next door to owner Nyoman?s famous Sate Bali [still the best Balinese food in town]. Sequenza opened as Taste Restaurant but still has the same French menu as Taste Warung? Ray?s came and went as it appears that Favela Chic has followed suit.

The attractive Kaizan is a plush Ryoshi downstairs with a Korean rooftop restaurant above. Wild Ginger was to be Thai but then became Asian [Beef Roll is stuffed with red peppers, button mushrooms, cucumber, chives and Wakame seaweed and served with a sauce of mustard and wasabi]. The Metro took over the next door failed nightclub Taj Mahal [Goa 2001] and turned it into a 24 hour sports bar and restaurant. Lotus joined the street by redeveloping Misha?s and presenting fresh grilled seafood [and wood-fired pizzas] as Lotus Grill.

SoHo took the plunge and opened as a 24 hour caf? [even all day breakfasts] and has been busy from the beginning. Their Reuben Sandwich is very New York Deli! Hot Pastrami with Swiss cheese, sauerkraut and a Russian dressing between toasted slabs of rye bread, very good!.

In Sanur the Emerald Garden Bistro became The Aviary and added some birds in cages and a few Thai dishes to its menu. Figaro [5 Spiced Tenderloin of Pork is with hoisin sauce] emerged on the site of the original Village, whilst a New Village appeared in front of the Santrian Hotel. Caf? Amsterdam serves Uitmisjter, Bitterballen; crocquetten and Frikadel Schotel. Cactus is a small dinner restaurant in clean air-conditioned premises [English items such as Gammon Steak and a Trio of Homemade Sausages on Mash]. The impressive Mezzanine finally got an identity with the addition of a young Thai chef presenting an extensive menu [larbs, salads, soups and a variety of curries; green, red, massaman and panaeng].

Ubud was where most of the new top quality establishments were to be found. The great thing about the new Bali is that not all are at the top end of the price range; quality is coming through at every level. Red Rice became Olive Oil [every dish prepared using virgin olive oil in some way, even the Carrot Cake], and the impressive Tropical Bakery and Cafe opened opposite the gates of the Uma Hotel.

Balispirit the yoga house, opened a caf?, it is called Kafe. Busy all day [breakfasts, snacks and light meals] from the very beginning it is already the haunt of regulars. Coffee & Silver moved from the back streets of Tebesaya to a prime location near the Monkey Forest and was also an instant success although going through a few problems at the moment. Further up the road is the Greenhouse at Pertiwi [Poached Hainan Chicken], offering something different to the discerning tourist.

In Penestenan, Sek Wai Tin brought us real Cantonese & Szechuan Chinese to increase our choices. A hidden location has not helped its cause. A better location is the offshoot of Naughty Nuri?s [an ex-pat icon], Nuri?s Nacho Mama, but American Mexican does not seem to be proving overly popular.

At the other end of Ubud, in Pengosekan, is Indian Delites, with some connection to and using a similar menu to Gateway of India. Those old favourites; Kathirolls, Aloo Mattar and the creamy Malai Kofta. At Peliatan [down the road towards Maya Ubud] is another little gem, Mangga Madu! Simple Indonesian cuisine in immaculate surroundings at bargain basement prices [our 2nd best Cheapie of the year]. Order a Nasi Pecel ?Madu? [like Gado Gado but with rice, chicken, shrimp, fried soya-bean and peanut crackers] as a centrepiece with Tuna Bakar and Ayam Base Kalas, less than Rp.20,000 p.p!

The outskirts of Ubud saw two luxury hotels spawned, both in majestic locations on the river banks of lush valleys. Above Payangan, and on the western bank of the sacred Ayung, is Hanging Gardens. The buildings almost hang as well and each level is reached by a very French Funicular. Serving French food, of course, although more modern than classic; Foie-Gras Terrines, Dill and Mustard marinated Salmon.

In the Nagi village on Ubud?s north-eastern corner is The Viceroy. Its very fine dining French restaurant, CasCades sits atop the hill, the luxury villas below. Classic French, under the talented direction of David Sosson, in a setting so magnificent that it is pure Bali! Friday evening Chef?s Gourmet Dinners, a great value degustation every night and an a la carte to keep the gourmands ecstatic.

Nothing new in Lovina although I discovered a few for the first time; excellent Thai at Jasmine Kitchen, beachside dining at Villa Agung and sensational value International at Kubu Lalang.

Amed saw two more boutique hotels with modern western restaurants, Life in Amed [Salad of Goat?s Cheese is with figs and toasted pine nuts] and Anda Amed [Pork braised in Cider with Star Anise], another beachside mini restaurant, Sunrise [freshly caught pan-fried fish fillets, in a light batter, cooked in garlic butter] and the German-managed Puri Wirata [Bratkartoffeln for breakfast, pan-fried sliced potato with onions and bacon topped with eggs].

What will happen in 2006? All the indications are that this constant thrust of new operations will continue and our ethnic options will just keep on increasing. Whilst value-for-money remains the main indicator, we will all win!

Gerry Williams
gerry@balieats.com


Best New Restaurants of 2005

Best Cheapie ? Waroeng Asia
A little gem! A perfect Pad Thai [noodles with chicken and shrimps], excellent salads and curries and all at incredibly low prices, as long as you can get a table?

Best Cafe ? SoHo
All day breakfasts and all those things you expect to see in an American caf?; Reuben Sandwiches, Spare Ribs, Steaks and Burgers galore.

Best Value ? Queens Tandoor
Serves sensational Indian cuisine; with the aid of imported chefs, chillies and spices. The exotic flavours far more complex than usual whether from the tandoor or pan.

Best Sports Restaurant ? Buddha?s Belly
Unusual combination of Billiards and Food [a fusion of Thai, Vietnamese and International]. The billiard areas are glassed-in, air-conditioned and sound proofed, dining is down the centre of the long building.

Best Restaurant ? Husk
Presents top level Thai cuisine in Bali. Menu is similar to Sydney?s famous Longrain restaurant, but the place is not as frantic, real quality. Relaxed open setting surrounded by water.

Best Fine Dining ? CasCades
A revelation! A more magnificent setting would be impossible to imagine. Combine that with real haute cuisine, French fine dining at its best. CasCades is destined to become one of Asia?s greatest restaurants.

2004 End of Year Wrap

Bali, Food Capital of Asia!

There is definitely better Cantonese food in Hong Kong, Thai food in Thailand and Vietnamese food in Vietnam, etc. However, the current BaliEats web site list 43 different cuisines as now being available in Bali. Whilst many are at the top of the cost spectrum [but still vastly cheaper than almost anywhere else] the amazing thing about Bali is the spread down through medium and cheap eating locations as well. Unlike a few years back most are now also in the hands of industry professionals and it shows!

Last year most of the action was in the newer restaurant areas, amazingly this year even some of those tired old tourist areas received welcome shots in the arm. The only exception was the township of Nusa Dua which outside of the hotels still looks like a ghost village. Lotus Gardens has cashed in on this by becoming a true Mediterranean restaurant presenting food from all the areas surrounding that great sea, such as their Spanish Cochinello Asado [pork chops marinated with cumin, garlic and herbs], a Lamb Couscous from Tunisia.

Nearby, the old fishing village of Tanjung Benoa has provided most of the local action for that area. The arrival of The Conrad had an immediate impact on this stretch of road to the old fishing port, not only with their wonderful Spice [the Sauteed Pepper Lobster combines black and Sichuan pepper with fresh green peppercorns, contrasting with the delicate Lamb Chops from the Tandoor], Suku [a marvellous Spiced Braised Duck Confit] and the seaside 8 Degrees South [a Caribbean style Pork Tenderloin with warm onion and jalapeno salsa and sweet potato mash or a honey & soy glazed Salmon Steak] restaurants. They also inspired many dead old sites to become transformed in the hope of catching some of the hotel overflow. In this area new colourful arrivals have appeared regularly. Santorini is Greek although an obvious copy of somewhere else. The new Casa Luna [as with the one in Sanur] have no connection whatsoever with the original in Ubud. Zero points for originality! But at least the degree of choice has been greatly increased.

Even Jimbaran is getting a makeover, although slower than elsewhere. The normally very expensive Ritz-Carlton shocked us all by installing quality Thai cuisine [although sadly watered down in taste for their hotel clientele] into their Padi restaurant and charging very regular prices. It is in one of the most magic of settings, amongst fountains and ponds, with excellent service but at reasonable prices.It became an immediate hit with the local ex-pats, and no wonder. Also recently opened has been di Mare at Royal Jimbaran Bay starring New York's Raymond Saja with some unusual offerings [Caramelized Foie Gras, Cumin-braised Grouper and Tarragon Panna Cotta].

Tuban is the big shock, now with places well above the tourist norm. Bluefin led the charge with great fusion food combining traditional Japanese with western cuisine touches [The Bluefin Chilli Ayo combines baked scallops, octopus, squid and shrimps, and is then topped with a chilli mayonnaise and flying fish roe]. Ma Joly closely followed with quality French cuisine in a wonderful beachside setting. Bubba Gump arrived in Bali, and SE Asia. It does not matter whether you call them prawns or shrimps. Large serves of them are combined with a variety of great tastes in a fun environment. They also play that memory-jogging soundtrack. Even Waterbom Park got a facelift, an innovative multi cultural food court inside and a similar treatment for its outside diner, Wet.

We all thought Kuta was finished for exciting new developments other than simple drinking houses. Naturally many new alcohol palaces appeared to sake the thirst of the hungry hoards, but we got some quality as well. Fuel serves modern International cuisine with strong Asian overtones [a wonderful Braised Pork Belly is an example, a generous slab of ever-so-tender pork belly is covered with a soy-honey glaze and sits on a mix of sweet red cabbage and white beans]. Fuel is a real class act for Kuta! On the eastern side, from the giant bus park, rose Kuta Galleria. Aji-Sai [Japanese] was the first to open, soon followed by Gekko Blue and many others. Not far away, behind Bali Bakery, is the impressive DongDong with its modern Japanese cuisine

Newcomers in Legian were restricted to the budget department, La 'n Mai and Posers Pub in Jln. Padma and the very popular re-vamped Indo-National nearby. The long standing Teras got a facelift and continues to pack them in.

Costa Smeralda opened in Seminyak with specialties from Sardinia [Gnochetti Sardi is shell pasta with slices of fresh sausage and salami in a tomato base] and the massive Brazilian Churrasco. The latest transformation at The Villas was the opening of their Prana restaurant at The Spa, featuring healthy options [Burmese Tofu Curry and Cajun Pumpkin Jambalaya amongst them] as well as more normal cuisine. In the drinking street, Tu Viet arrived to start filling the void of Vietnamese cuisines in Bali [Stuffed Chicken Wings and Sugarcane Prawns] and then C'bo opened on the corner to feed the hungry drinkers with pizzas and things, Namaste to do the same thing with Indian offerings, and Warung Mimpi with Indonesian.

Shooters became Club Inc., then Sugar and now seems to be about to change once more. Close by is Ja'an, an enormous late night drinking lounge with food [Szechuan 5 spiced Pork Fillet with noodles] but now also open from lunchtime.

Kerobokan, as usual, had its share of openings [and closings], with the promise of more to come of both in 2005! The Metro offers Australian specials [giant-sized T-Bone Steaks, Kangaroo and Crocodile Fillets as well as that other Aussie special, Hamburgers with Beetroot!]. Sate Bali offers quality Balinese food from a professional kitchen [a sensational Tum Bebek, minced duck in coconut milk and spices, cooked in a banana leaf]. Wrap a Snapper keeps the fish and chips brigade happy.

Loloan was the upmarket entry to Kerobokan [Rendang Kambing is a Lamb Shank cooked padang style in a Sumtran curry. Kway Teow Moo are pork back ribs baked in hoisin and dark beer]. Gran Caf? gives us specials from Singapore, Laksa and much more. Shanghai Breeze became Ginger but still offering tasty tapas and drink combinations galore.

The star of Sanur was the move, from The Village to his own restaurant, of Massimo. All the dishes you would expect from a great Italian restaurant plus some unusual ones from his home region of Lecce [Sagne Ncannulate a super thin fettuccine and Risotto Salsiccia e Funghi the best risotto I have ever had]. What was the highly successful Mykonos Taverna changed its stripes and became the Jazzy Caf? with new menus. It is now selling Greek cuisine once again [perhaps regretting the previous change] but no longer connected with the Mykonos management.

In Ubud the changes just keep on coming. Wunderbar became the first fully air-conditioned restaurant in Ubud with a mix of European cuisines, Barandi a courtyard restaurant with Mediterranean, French and Indonesian dishes well above the average [including a sensational Prawn and Mushroom Ravioli], and CiSa brought quality Indonesian Chinese food at budget prices.

A big surprise, for Ubud, was the emergence of two exceptional cheap eateries, strangely both in the same street, Jln. Hanoman, but at either end of it. Baliku, at the Padang Tegal end, is small but all quality. Dishes such as their Stir-fried Chicken in oyster sauce with tomato and onion are simple but amazing. The Poached Fish Fillet in a Manado stock on rice vermicelli is a perfect match and both dishes cost less than Rp.20,000 each!

At the top end of the street is the very small Lada Warung, but be prepared to wait for a table. A vast selection confronts you that includes; tasty sates, spicy bergedels, stuffed eggplant, crispy tempe, an array of vegetable dishes well spiced and much more. Take a large plate with one serve of everything available and you will have a feast for two that will cost you less than RP.50,000 for two, including drinks!

However, the highlight for Ubud was the very recently opened Warung Enak. At Ubud's southern end at Pengosekan this unique building stands out from all else. It serves very traditional Indonesian food from many different regions, with nothing toned down, just the real thing! An example is their Ayam Taliwang [from Lombok], grilled chicken that has been marinated in a paste made from pounding candlenut, chilli, lemongrass, Kaffir lime and shrimp. Or the Kalio Cumi-Cumi [from Sumatra], stuffed squid simmered in coconut milk.

On Bali's north eastern coast the developments also continued with Life in Amed in the fishing village of Lian offering local food in a classic setting. The Sunset opened to great acclaim but soon closed to be greatly enlarged so as to cater for its immediate demand.

What will happen in 2005? All the indications are that this constant thrust of new operations will continue and our ethnic options will just keep on increasing. Whilst value-for-money remains the main indicator, we will all win!

Gerry Williams
gerry@balieats.com


Best New Restaurants of 2004

Best Cheapie - Lada Warung
Enough food for two at a cost of much less than Rp.50,000. Simple Inodnesian dishes, naturally all of them pre-cooked, but still an amazing array of tasty food in modern stylish, though very small, premises.

Best Value - Warung Enak
Two years in a row for Ubud [last year Caf? des Artistes]. What a turnaround for an area that used to in general present food that was overpriced and boring! This long awaited Made Wijaya designed 'space' produces food to match its exotic premises. The big shock is the prices, so reasonable for very traditional Indonesian food produced in a professional kitchen. This is not a warung, this is a class restaurant!

Best Restaurant - Massimo il Ristorante
Best new restaurant is in Sanur, again reflecting Bali's overall changing food scene. Sanur used to be the only area that was worse than Ubud! In the past too many restaurants with same menu, often boring and usually overpriced. Massimo presents wonderful Italian food specialising in some of the delicacies of the Lecce region of Italy.

Best Nightspot Restaurant - Fuel
A new nightspot in Kuta, nothing new there! But combined with top quality, even adventurous, food now that is something! Whilst the food is similar to what has been presented at their TeraZo restaurant in Ubud for a number of years, to have this option in Kuta is something else! Open from lunchtime, with lighter music, in cool air-con premises, until very late morning!

Best Fine Dining - Spice
Creative dishes using so many different spices of the world, and producing taste sensations that linger in the memory long after the visit. The Conrad has hit the jackpot with all their food outlets but Spice represents fine dining at its best! If you appreciate your food with uninhibited flavours, then Spice is a must! One of the new great restaurants of Bali.



2003 End of Year Wrap

A Vintage Year!

The disasters that beset Bali's tourist industry during the year 2003 are well known. Just recovering from the New York Disaster of 2001 and the Kuta Tragedi of 2002, SARS knocked the stuffing out of any hopes of a major revival. As a result you would have expected many restaurants to close during the year and very few new ones to have taken the gamble to open.

The closures have been many, some of which may have been overdue, but there were other unfortunate closures that saddened us. Some closed permanently, others re-opened with either the same or different management. Many remain closed, waiting for someone with money and dreams, and hopefully the knowledge to make them work. However, amazingly, 2003 has also been a vintage year for the opening of new, and often classy, restaurants. As has been the case during recent years, these new arrivals on Bali's culinary scene have seen an ever-increasing number of ethnic cuisines become available to the discerning diner, and across almost all of the different price categories.

The number of new restaurants that have been opened by industry professionals, rather than enthusiastic amateurs has also seen the standards continue to steadily increase.

Hardest hit in the tourist slump has been the Nusa Dua district. So much downsizing and restaurant closures that at times it represents a ghost town. The only significant new openings have been at some of the forward thinking major hotels. Most significant of which has been the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel. The Maguro is one of the islands most attractive sushi bars, although it also offers many other luncheon options. What a great spot to relax for an hour or two. Raja's has always been an excellent restaurant. Now it is a fine dining experience not to be missed. The very authentic Balinese cuisine offerings at Raja's are quite sensational.

Many other hotels are still in the process of upgrading their food outlets.

Along the beach at Kuta, a new disco opened, with Indian cuisine. Kama Sutra was its name. Jln. Legian, in Kuta, recovered from its dramas of the previous years and played host to a classy version of the Dome and Ryoshi franchises. But it was as we begin to get away from the old traditional tourist areas of Bali that the restaurant activity begins to hot up!

On the eastern side of Kuta, Aji-Sai was the first [of the projected many] to set up in the restaurant area of the new Kuta Galleria Complex. Good Japanese at very reasonable prices. Another new Japanese restaurant is now to be found in the extension of the Bali Bakery complex on Jln. Raya Kuta. Dong Dong is its name and it has had a very stylish fit out over two levels [an open mezzanine].

Legian hosted a new, and quite upmarket, version of that Bali icon, Mama's. All your German favourites and still open 24 hours a day, serving locals, expats and tourists alike. At the Legian Beach Hotel an unusual restaurant, Lais. Two narrow adjacent Bales give uninterrupted views of the Bali sunset, whilst providing excellent Indonesian cuisine.

In Seminyak we saw Puri Duyung shed its old shell and offer very good and budget priced Cantonese cuisine. Just love those chicken and prawn meat rolls, wrapped in tofu skin that becomes very crispy in the deep-frying process. Cross-sliced and served with a sweet and sour sauce, my ideal lunchtime snack. An excellent vegetarian hangout, Zula, is a small air-conditioned hideaway for that anytime healthy snack. They have an unusual Lentil Pate and a great Apple Crisp [baked apples with cinnamon and raisins, toped with a walnut granola and honey]. On the corner of Jln. Dyana Pura is Nazaro, a Turkish late night eatery that is drawing varying comments.

In Jln. Kunti, long established The Villas has had a major facelift and has been renamed as the Prana Health & Spa Resort. Their vegetarian restaurant produces exotic meals that are still good for you. Across the road is the French restaurant attached to Bali Deli, but unfortunately it is outdoors.

Axiom is another great new restaurant on Jln. Legian. Chris Patzold, of ku de Ta fame, produces some of the best food in town. The degustation menu is quite superb! The Afghan Restaurant is the latest newcomer to this stretch of road, kebabs reign supreme but other dishes are to come in the near future.

Kerobokan has seen so many new restaurants at all levels open. Most of them have been in Jln. Laksmana. An unbelievable number of new restaurants, some of which have already failed, and others that will no doubt follow suit. But the ethnic choice available in this street is amazing!

East West quickly became BarBQ. Meat and seafood dishes simply barbecued, but featuring a Sunday Evening Roast Night [Lamb, Beef, etc.] Paul's Place opened with Pan Asian cuisine. A Thai kitchen was soon added. Dining on the roof is the main evening attraction. Not content with that, a small, great value, Chinese restaurant, Shanghai Breeze, has also been added a few metres away. Warung Taste is a warung with French food, and virtually at warung prices [Duck Confit and Tarragon Chicken amongst their offerings]. A few strange management decisions, particularly with their wine list, has marred their early high performance. The Tuesday Night Pizza Club seems to be developing a following very quickly [Pepperoni, Ham, Goat's Cheese and Red Onions is my favourite]. Another eat-in or take-away is the Fish 'n' Chips.

Trattoria Cucina Italiana was the first cheapie to fill up on this street since the Greek Mykonos Taverna made Jln. Laksmana famous. Their pasta dishes are their main attraction [a great gnocchi]. Almost next-door is the very upmarket and wonderful Toscana for those who can afford it [Beef with Goose Liver and Black Truffles, for dessert a Terrine of wild Berries]. Not far away from the Trattoria is new opposition, Rumours, following the same budget priced philosophy.

Punto & Basta is a stylish Italian restaurant more in the mid range price bracket, interesting food [Salmon & Lime Cakes, with a touch of Wasabi, or a Crispy Chilli Salmon], it is opposite the street's Japanese entry, the relaxing Kuni's.

But the most successful new opening on this street this year is undoubtedly Khaima. They serve excellent food from Morocco, in totally traditional surroundings. Their Tangines are quite sensational, and for me the Lamb and Vegetable Tangine is one dish I could have again and again.

Out on Jln. Raya Kerobokan, is Lola. It is a fine upmarket French restaurant in smart modern air-conditioned premises, open for lunch and dinner. Out amongst the rice paddies, a few kilometres from the famous Kerobokan Prison, is the find of 2003 [or any other year for that matter]! Warung Gossip! Great Indonesian food, served fresh from the kitchen at an average of Rp.20,000 per person. Around Rp.25,000 including the drink of your choice, unless you want to splurge on a modestly priced bottle of Wine of the Gods.

Sanur saw many openings and many closures. Pala arrived on the Bypass and immediately built up a lunch trade. Almost next door is the Bali Kopi Shop with a variety of snacks and light meals, and their trademark Butterfly brand Coffee. 2003 also saw the arrival of a Mykonos Taverna [with the 1st Studio Gelato Italian ice cream stand out front]. Everyone must love Greek food as it was busy from the first week. The beach of Sanur also became the latest location for a Stiff Chilli [another Studio Gelato in front of that as well]. Those great thin wood-fired pizzas, laden with toppings!

Indian was the flavour of the year in Sanur with no less than three restaurants opening. A local branch of the famous Gateway of India was the first with their sensational Kathirolls, followed by Savitri Caf? [excellent vegetarian curries] and Maharani [a great Martabak].

Nouveau closed down for renovations and extensions and then re-opened with the same high quality but low-priced cuisine [Chicken Livers and Normandy Meat Balls, my favourites]. Across the road the imposing Mezzanine had a menu facelift from their new International Executive Chef, and now the food matches the grand setting.

Ubud continues to come out of its shell. For many years, like Sanur, all restaurants seemed to have the same menu. Now new places are opening and more are planned. Puri Garden got new management, an interesting menu, and even at attractive prices. Across the football field is the quaint Deli Cat [sausages and cheese dishes their strange specialty]. Pizza Bagus went from a small, but popular takeaway to a full scale restaurant. Lele Mas has magnificient rice paddy views, their signature dish is catfish, or 'fish with whiskers' as the staff say. New kids on the block, up here in Pengosekan, are the psychedelic Wunderbar and the very chic laid-back Barandi. Both are seemingly chasing that day and night caf?/restaurant/bar market.

Coming down from Sayan is the Fly Caf? at Lungsiakan, offering a myriad of choices for snacks or meals, in a pleasant open setting. Mozaic started opening for lunch and operates an extensive deli as well. The latest Mykonos Taverna transformed the old and tatty Beggars Bush into a blue and white Greek food emporium.

Above Ubud, in Jln Bisma, near the famous Honeymoon Bakery, is one of the value finds of the year, Caf? des Artistes. Simple International [Toast aux Champignons, sliced mushrooms and onions on crispy toast. Salisbury Steak, minced beef in a red wine and onion sauce] and Indonesian [an above average Nasi Goreng, served with two sate sticks] cuisines at budget prices in a great setting [you can sit inside and admire the displayed art collection of the month, or out in the garden].

The Pavillion opened in Amed, with grand views across to Lombok, just in front of the Japanese shipwreck. Part of the future Baliku Resort it offers something quite different for this area [herbed Greek cheeses in filo pastry and Kefta Kebabs]. Double One also opened, with grand sea views, next door to Karen Kingston's Dancing Dragon and the almost completed Conference and Seminar Centre. It has budget prices as have most of the eateries in this area.

Best New Restaurants of 2003

Best Cheapie - Warung Gossip
How can you complain when your food and drink only costs you Rp.25,000. Eat in an idyll rustic setting under the trees. Great, but simple, Indonesian food that is full of taste, with an amazing range of dishes. This place is no secret, as it is packed from 12.00 midday onwards, every day.

Best Value - Caf? des Artistes
Nice setting under very professional management. Small but well represented menu of International favourites, and a few Indonesian special dishes. It is in a definite comfort zone, ideal for that regular place to dine.

Best Restaurant - Khaima
When everything is considered; d?cor, food quality, originality, price and service [that rare combination of professional service that is still friendly and natural] Khaima was the best of 2003 for me. A great asset for the Bali dining scene!

Best Fine Dining - Raja's
How pleasing it is to be able to say that one of Bali's finest restaurants serves traditional Balinese cuisine. This is a world-class restaurant! Raja's does all of the little things right, and presents as fine an evening of dining as you could find anywhere. It is located in the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel.

What will 2004 produce? Whatever happens, there is no doubt in my mind that 2003 will have been Bali's Vintage Year for New Restaurants!


Gerry Williams
gerry@balieats.com

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