Every 5 star hotel in Bali, plus many from lower categories, has an Indonesian restaurant amongst their food outlets. Rarely would anyone other than a guest of that hotel have any reason to frequent same.
I have found an exception to that rule and it must be one of Bali's hidden secrets. Mayang Sari is at the new-styled Laguna Resort in Nusa Dua [the old Sheraton]. It serves a modern style of Indonesian. Many standard dishes but with the addition of a few spices and touches more common in other cuisines. There are even a few International classics touched up with local spices. Basic high quality ingredients, with just a dash of taste added.
The cuisine here is the brainchild of the young and very talented Balinese chef Made Putra, who has spent his working life at Laguna, from trainee upwards. In the old Sheraton days he worked with then executive chef, Roland Lickert who now manages Lamak in Ubud. Made Putra was the first Balinese to make full Exec. Chef at a five star hotel, others have since followed. He is well recognized by his peers and is Vice President of The Bali Culinary Professionals, the Bali chefs' club that does so much to help young Balinese chefs develop their skills alongside International professionals on the world stage.
The room at Mayang Sari is spacious, outside the large windows are endless lakes, ponds and swimming pools, all lit for effect. In the corner is a grand piano just inside the entrance, only the melody is played and softly [no vocals], almost every tune recognizable if you are from the right era.
The atmosphere generates a feeling of style and class, not unlike those fine dining experiences of the 60's and 70's, yet all is strangely modern and low key, very relaxed. You just know that you are going to enjoy the night that follows.
Tiger Prawns are simply poached in local palm wine, their flesh soft and juicy, a sprinkling of a tangy sauce of peanut and honey, is around the plate. Large plump Scallops, like you have never had before, are infused with ginger and spices [one dish you do not share], a Foie Gras Terrine that has been marinated in tamarillo essence. A Hibiscus Flower that has been stuffed with a sautéed mix of tofu, young ginger and show mushrooms. The Oxtail Soup has been enriched with nutmeg, chilli, shallot flakes and a dusting of lime. As you meander through an array of courses you are always wondering what will come next? With all the starting dishes at Mayang Sari the taste is soft and subtle.
The mains are much more aggressive.
Lombok Reef Lobster leads the way with a challenging curried version, pineapple and chilli added, or a Nasi Goreng topped with a lobster satay that has been brushed with a tomato chilli sambal whilst being slowly grilled. The Fillet of Sweet Lips Emperor is done 'pepes' style, minced with citrus and basil flavours then baked whilst wrapped in a banana leaf, such a fragrant taste, Sumbanese corn rice the perfect accompaniment. Baby Back Ribletsof Pork are marinated in peppers, ginger and papaya and the Indonesian style Osso Bucco has been braised in tamarind, lemongrass and a little soy. A Duck Breast is grilled then topped with chicken livers that have been sautéed with coriander and lime.
A Mi Goreng like no other is Mayang Sari's Oyster and Pearl Scallop Noodles. The noodles have been cooked with wok-fried pacific oysters, pearl scallops, mustard leaves and mung bean sprouts, chilli and soy added.
As befits a restaurant of this class and style there are a couple of special dishes that can also be ordered, in the case of the Bebek Betutu in advance [for obvious reasons]. The others are prepared a la minute. Lombok's famous Ayam Taliwang is in traditional style with that piquant sambal ulek on grilled spring chicken; the island's other specialty, Pelecing Kangkung on the side. Prawns can be had flambéed with a tamarillo sambal. However the chef's specialty amongst all these wild flavoured dishes is his Ikan Bakar. A 5kg Padi Padi fish is marinated in a mix of spices before being wrapped in foil and baked in the oven. It is served at the table from a carving trolley with a selection of different rice and sambals.
What a wonderful restaurant for that special dinner with friends, a perfect introduction to a cuisine that has been created in the Spice Islands, by a master chef. How refreshing to dine in style without having to 'overhear' those grating accents from nearby tables. You do not even have to whisper when you speak, and the soft background music covers those conversation gaps nicely.