At The Oak you are almost dining in a rain forest, surrounded as you are with trees and running water, even though you are inside the Swiss-Belhotel on Sunset Road.
Very different, but then so are many things when dining here. Both the bar [on the side] and the restaurant area [at the end] face an area of trees amongst water ponds and misting rain, cool and relaxing. In the middle of, but a million miles from, Kuta!
The menu at The Oak offers the usual range of International dishes as required for any hotel restaurant but also offers a quite unique selection of classic regional Indonesian dishes. Then there are the usual cross-over dishes, something that sounds familiar but has had a little re-engineering with the addition of a spice or two. Many of these tempt the taste buds, and send you back for more.
A very international range of entrees include Shrimp Spring Rolla with coriander added, deep-fried spring rolls filled with shrimp meat & vegetables & served with a piquant tamarind sauce, Grilled Red Bean Quesadillas which are lightly grilled flour tortillas stuffed with red beans and cheese, served with guacamole and tomato salsa, Salmon with Baby Potato and Lime Mustard Sauce is sliced, smoked salmon with baby potatoes, capers & onion salad.
And then there is the 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, a great way to explore the variations of Indonesian cuisine?.no wonder they were called the 'spice islands'.
There are three great local soups; Sup Buntut, the very popular Indonesian oxtail & shank soup with tomatoes, celery, leek, diced potatoes, fried shallot & lime served with steamed rice & crackers, Balinese Soto with Salmon, a chicken broth with Balinese spices, lemongrass flavour, salmon, mushroom, rice cake, quail egg, served with lime & crackers and there is a tomato soup with a difference?a dish that is on hundreds of Bali menus but sadly most often served out of a can?at The Oak their Lemongrass Scented Tomato Soup, is a hearty full-bodied tomato soup, something though basically simple still demonstrates perfectly how this chef is so different from the rest.
Mains from Indonesia include Gule Ikan, Snapper stew with selected spices and coconut milk reduction, served with steamed rice & cucumber salad. Crispy Duck immediately conjures images of the Ubud special but once again this version is so different that it deserves a different name! Bebek Goreng Bali [pictured]. It starts as an imported boneless duck breast, first marinated with Balinese herbs & spices whilst wrapped in pandan leaf, later grilled to create the crisp finish, quite amazing!
Then there is their Kalio Daging Masak Putih, beef stew in coconut flavor of cardamom, pandan leaf, cloves, cumin and lemongrass served with pineapple pickles and steam rice. This is what former Jakarta TV Chef Kelana calls 'white rendang', a favourite dish from his native Aceh, a beef rendang prepared without any chillies, just that aromatic selection of other spices.
Dishes stolen from neighbouring SE Asian countries include that ever popular Thai soup, the hot and sour Tom Yum, with shrimp, mushroom, lemongrass, coriander leaf & fish cake, served with steamed rice & crackers and that Singapore standard [itself stolen from the Chinese province] of Hainan Chicken Rice. Steamed chicken served with chicken broth, ginger paste, chilli & soya sauces, served with steamed Hainan- style rice, so popular in Singapore that they just refer to it as Chicken Rice, at The Oak another example of this kitchen's attention to detail? Perfect!
Noodle dishes are found in every Asian menu, a selection here from China with local touches, Kwetiaw Medan, stir fried rice noodle Medan style, with chives, crispy nuts, lime, sesame oil, soy sauce, shrimp crackers & pickles. Purely Indonesian is Mie Goreng, fried noodle with shredded steamed chicken, soya sauce, leek, fried shallot served with chili sauce, pickles & crackers. Also available is that classic from Vietnam, Beef Pho Noodle, Vietnam's noodle soup and almost a signature dish for the country; with sliced beef, chili, bean sprouts & coriander.
The International menu includes many grills; ribs, chops, steak and fish, and a selection of pizzas and pastas. Desserts include local [Steamed Sticky Rice with Banana, Coconut Custard & Vanilla Ice Cream, and Crepes Stuffed with Coconut Palm Sugar, Jack Fruit and Coconut Sauce served with Caramel Ice], as well as the International [Warm Chocolate Pie with Creme Fraiche and a Cheese Pie served with Berries Compote].
The Oak is very unusual and with a very different style for a hotel restaurant?..as an extra bonus the Indonesian menu is at amazing budget prices for the quality presented.
The new restaurants of 2013 continue to surprise with both their quality and their affordability. This is one of the best!