You see them in period movies. You read about them in books. Grand old homes that have foyers larger than a normal house, twin staircases spiraling upwards around a chandelier that hangs from the ceiling. A grand piano sits on the side of the room. They are old fashioned mansions.
A new version of same is The Mansion, in Sayan, just outside of Ubud. It is a grand home set in magic landscaped grounds. At their restaurant off to the left of the foyer, Indochine, you are in the stately dining room, the well spaced tables offering both privacy and garden views. You can pretend that you are dining with friends in your own grand mansion! Although just outside is a pleasant terrace beside an ornamental swimming pool, which is where I prefer to dine.
Vietnamese is the main cuisine, although there are French and general International offerings as well.
Goi Cuon has become very popular in Bali with many cafes and restaurants doing their own particular versions. They are normally just referred to as Vietnamese Spring Rolls, and are fresh rice paper wrapped around an assortment of fillings. Some even have the correct nuoc nam [Vietnamese fish sauce] dipping accompaniment. At Indochine they are presented very differently; the roll is laid out across the plate and stuffed with a combination of chicken, prawn, lettuce, bean shoots and herbs, covered with nuoc nam and sprinkled with crushed peanuts. Unlike the café versions this one requires a knife and fork, rather than being finger food.
Yes, like most Asian cuisines there are Spring Rolls [Cha Gio] but the Vietnamese variety are quite different from the rest, small crisp thin rice paper casings are stuffed with minced chicken and mushroom, bite off the end and fill them with the traditional nuoc nam sauce. So different to the thick case tasteless lumpia served at local warungs even though both are referred to as ?spring rolls?.
Bahn Cuon is a similar roll that has been steamed, and is closer to what is generally seen around Bali cafes that have a few Viet offerings on their menu. The filling is ground pork, ear mushrooms, carrot and coriander. Goi Cuon Nem is similar but accompanied by a spicy peanut sauce.
Banh Xeo [pictured] is on the mains menu but we often order as one of our entrees and share it, it is called a Vietnamese Pancake but is in fact nothing like that, rather similar to an oversize taco. The super thin crisp shell is packed with pieces of chicken and vegetables, refreshingly different!
Bho Ko is the traditional Vietnamese beef stew, here served on puff pastry with crisp glass noodles, the meat pieces have an intense flavour with a pleasant lingering aftertaste of cinnamon. The Bo Luc Lac is chunks of prime beef that has been glazed with a black pepper crust.
Moving to the International menu there are many choices. Pan seared Foie Gras sits on caramelized pineapple, on the side a red currant coulis. Escargot are served very traditionally in garlic butter. Simpler fare is Pan-seared Scallops or Thai Prawn Toast, with sweet chilli sauce.
A hearty Seafood Chowder combines prawn, scallop and salmon with potato, leek and the aromatic flavour of fresh tarragon. The many other soup options include an Indochine special, Lemongrass with mushrooms and vegetables in coconut milk.
Salad can be a Duck [with egg wedges and a tangy dressing] and an Indochine special of thin crisp pastry topped with chicken, bean sprouts, long bean, bean curd and tofu. Naturally that Vietnamese classic, Pho Noodle [normally with beef but can be served here with chicken as an option] is on the menu, with the condiments served alongside so you can control the intensity of taste.
For seafood options, the Tiger Prawns are grilled, the Dory Fillet served in a green curry whilst the Tasmanian Salmon is with crispy butter rice and hollandaise sauce.
The Rack of Lamb has been roasted in the oven. The Pork Chops are first marinated in honey and garlic before grilling, then served Vietnamese style, sauce and rice. Honey is also used to glaze the Ribs [pork, baby back] before being barbecued. Steaks can be Fillet Mignon or Sirloin, although beef is also served as Bourguignon, a slow-cooked beef casserole using tenderloin. The same cut is used, in strips, combined with mushrooms, for their Beef Stroganoff.
Duck is presented Ubud style. Cooking is a two stage process, first steamed with spices under pressure, then fried till crisp. Chicken is offered many ways; with Kashmiri butter sauce cooked Biryani style with rice, Roasted with 5 spices, Caramelised with lemongrass [Vietnamese], in Red Curry on the Indonesian section of the menu but sounding more Thai] or Cajun, with linguini or in a Vol-au-Vent with basil cream.
A variety of desserts finish off this dining experience. It can be that Asian special of Fried Ice Cream, International offerings of Creme Brulee, Crème Caramel or a local Pandan Crepe stiffed with shredded coconut and palm sugar,
Very refined dining!