Ametis is different from the other villa complexes in Bali. Everything is different. The foyer looks more like a private lounge than a reception area, the villas are enormous and luxurious, and their restaurant, Eternal, does not have the usual International tourist menu but actually limits itself to Indonesian cuisine, both traditional and modern. Rather daring in this cut throat business of pool villa rentals. For this concept to work the food has to be quite exceptional, and it is.
Executive Chef Nyoman Maleachi previously spent many years at Four Seasons, Jimbaran, some of which were at the famous PJ's restaurant. At Eternal he proudly presents his own Indonesian cuisine.
The restaurant is road-side, with its own entrance, and as with the entire complex the design is modern and unusual. It is strangely formal yet relaxing at the same time. Bare wood and stone predominate, the green background of shrubs, vines and trees add to its charm.
Open early for breakfast there are a few unusual dishes available, including some modern twists to old standards. Their French Toast is made with macadamia nuts, banana and poppy seeds. It is served with icing sugar, nutmeg and cinnamon. The Poached Eggs have an Indonesian flavour, with pan fried fish, asparagus, capsicum and a covering of a spicy hollandaise sauce. Rice Porridge is with tofu and vegetables and a soy sesame sauce.
Entrees also double as anytime snacks, as entrees do not figure in any Asian cuisine, they are presented on menus for us westerners who order them by habit. They are in fact just snacks normally taken between meals, the origin of street food, a 'snack on the run'. The essential Lumpia are crisp and stuffed with crab, drizzled with mango coulis, a sweet and sour sauce on the side. The Prawns [3 plump juicy ones] are pre-marinated in turmeric and coriander then char-grilled and served with a fresh salad of green papaya. Balinese style Sate Lilit of minced fish and spices also include variations with beef and seafood, all with a cucumber salad and spicy peanut curry dip. The Cumi Goreng Teping, deep fried squid, is with cucumber pickles and a Balinese sweet chilli sauce. Tahu isi Sayur is blocks of tofu stuffed with vegetables and deep fried till crunchy, a light peanut sauce complements.
Head of the soup list is Buntot, of course. Far too often oxtail soup in Bali can be insipid. Not at Eternal, here the flavour is quite intense. There are two versions available, you can have it with deep-fried oxtail meat added. The alternative is grilled which makes this strongly flavoured meat a little crunchy, a result I quite like. The classic Soto Ayam is also available, chicken broth with glass noodles, turmeric and lemongrass. Other soups include a Sudanese of sour beef ribs, Balinese style seafood and Sop Udang Sereh, a very spicy Javanese soup of prawns, mushrooms and lemongrass.
The list of mains is long and varied, displaying the many talents of this kitchen. Highlight for me was their Opor Ayam Bakar. This dish is always special when the kitchen bothers to do all the steps correctly, as they have done here. The chicken meat is first braised in coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass and dried red chilli, then lightly grilled before serving, with the liquid from the marinade then used as a sauce, the resultant chicken flesh soft and tender, rich with flavours. Rendang is from Sumatra but this version is so different from what is served in the roadside Padang warungs, the beef has been braised in spicy candlenut and tamarind, served with small cubes of potato and red beans.
Ayam Bakar Rica-Rica is a toned down version of this fiery dish from Manado but loses none of its charm, the baby chicken has been grilled with the Manado paste, served with the quaintly named 'Morning Glory' [the water spinach having been picked at sunrise when the blossoms first bloom]. The Barbecued Pork Ribs are done Indonesian style without even a hint of Texas, a wild ginger dressing and on the side a salad of tomato and cucumber. Domba Bumbu Rujak is very different treatment for the universal Rack of Lamb, roasted with baby corn, spinach, red beans and a tangy sauce of tamarind and palm sugar.
Even their Steak is different, the tenderloin having been pre-marinated with coriander, and served with sweet corn fritters and a delicate sauce of cinnamon and soy. Udang Nenas are deep fried Prawn Tails, this time a little bit of fusion with Thai influenced crisp basil and a sauce that has a bit of a bite. Tuna is often served quite dry, and overcooked, in second rate Indonesian cuisine, so I had to try this offering. It was the same as all the other dishes, tender and tasty, it had been marinated in candlenut and ginger then served with threads of sweet potato, simple and perfect. The Red Snapper is lightly fried in the wok then simmered in a juice of ginger and turmeric.
The more basic fried rice and noodle dishes are also a world apart from your local warung. Nasi Goreng Bebek combines the standard with honey duck and soy-glazed satays. The Nasi Goreng Cabe Rawit is only for the brave; those small green chillis giving you a fiery welcome [the rice is topped with shredded chicken]. A selection of classic Indonesian curries and a standard dessert list complete the interesting offering at this unique restaurant.
Overall, Eternal presents a wonderful example of classic Indonesian The archipelago was not called the Spice Islands for nothing. The fare here is a perfect example of the correct use of spices, all dishes being well balanced without any one ingredient overpowering the rest.