What is so unusual about that? Almost every home has one! Yet they are still, today, rare to find in leading restaurants and top level hotels in Bali.
Ubud Hanging Gardens has always previously had an Executive Chef from France and, of course, a man filling that role. Now they have broken completely with tradition, theirs and that of Bali and Indonesia in general, by presenting Bansani Nawisamphan [Bann], not only a lady but a Thai national as well. The reaction by the guests at Ubud Hanging Gardens has been of enthusiastic acceptance, the range of Asian dishes adds a further dimension whilst traditional European fare is still well represented.
We begin with the traditional, although with modern touches and sometimes with a little dab of Asia thrown in. The Amuse Bouche was indeed very amusing, a long crisp paper-thin cone stuffed with tuna tartar and topped with salmon roe.
Pan Seared Foie Gras heads this menu as it does on many others in Bali, but at Beduur it is with a herb salad that includes the international green apple and the very local salak fruit, a palm sugar reduction, tamarillo confit and a touch of balsamico.
A Salad of Grilled River Prawns is served with avocado, papaya, mango and watermelon and a passion fruit tapioca. The Tartar of Tasmanian Salmon is with mango flavoured with Madras curry, poppy seeds and lemon cream served with salmon caviar and lemongrass prawns. A Carpaccio of smoked duck breast has goat cheese, Nashi pear and crushed pistachio nuts.
The Wagyu Beef Cheeks have been marinated and cooked in black beer, a 12 hour process to produce the final tender chunks of meat that are served with long macaroni in truffle butter with asparagus, king oyster mushrooms and Asian pear. An amazing dish, in fact this may be the 'dish of the year'! Rarely have I eaten meat so tender, yet with so much flavour, after the first small slice it became addictive!
An Australian Rack of Lamb is given new flavours being marinated in Asian spices, and crushed Szechuan peppers then served with a maki roll made from the lamb neck, an anchovy samosa with a tomato-ginger fondue.
Butterfish is steamed after being marinated and wrapped in banana leaf. Whole Red Snapper is marinated with Balinese spices, the grilled and served with a green papaya salad and Chinese style fried rice with prawns and pork pieces.
With such an Executive Chef there just had to be a Thai section in this menu but it is well hidden under the simple title of 'Asian'. Chicken Pandan is that wonderful Gai Hor Bai Toey, chicken breast pieces wrapped in pandanus leaf, marinated and steamed then deep fried just before serving to brown and heat the already cooked meat. The accompanying dipping sauce is that sticky, gooey, black mass of reduced tamarind and sesame oil. Absolutely perfect! Their Phad Thai Goong is the Thai standard stir-fried noodle dish with prawns added, an everyday dish in Thailand.
The Grilled Tiger Prawns have a Thai touch with a pesto sauce of Thai sweet basil. The Yam Pad Kood uses Balinese fiddlehead fern with sweet soy, amazingly refreshing, with grilled tiger king prawn, coriander and chilli jam.
A stronger Asian touch begins with a Tempura of Soft Shell Crab, red onion, chilli, coriander and crushed cashews with a tamarind, palm sugar and sweet and sour aioli added. A Maki Roll of rock lobster and shimenji mushrooms, a kitchen marinated Salmon Salad is with lettuce, avocado, papaya and mango, soya bean, Wakame seaweed and radish then drizzled with a honey and ginger dressing.
Every day there is a small list of specials, the Chef's Inspiration. A regular feature is the Pork Duo, Crisp Pork Belly in Babi Guling spices and Glazed Baby Back Ribs that really do have that Asian touch, marinated in a sauce with a punch! Well spiced!
From Bali Roasted Suckling Pig previously marinated in Babi Guling spices, served with pork sausage and pig trotter dumpling Peking Duck with a twist is honey glazed and comes with a sweet potato gnocchi and a spring roll of duck confit.
The local menu includes Sate of Suckling Pig [with lawar] or Kambing [with peanut sauce, ketupat and kecap manis. Lumpia is a spring roll stuffed with seafood and vegetables with a pineapple sambal. Sambal Udang is grilled tiger king prawns, lemongrass sticks and sambal Pak Ku
Dessert goes back to basics. No old traditionalist will be able to resist the Crepes Suzette, flamed with Grand Marnier and served with vanilla ice cream. The Trio is a wow of a dessert! Three separate parts; A Salad of Berries with basil jelly and crème fraiche with lime sorbet, Warm Valrhona Chocolate Fondant with vanilla ice cream and Lemon Verbena Cream Brulee with pineapple vanilla chutney.
The evening setting at Beduur, looking out over the misty valley, with the floodlit temple on the opposing bank, is both spectacular and amazingly relaxing. The constant flow of quality food does nothing to spoil the moment. A very special place!