RONDJI only opened mid 2013 but it has already undergone a major makeover and may yet become the surprise of 2014, not just for Ubud but maybe for Bali. Big things are happening and bigger things are planned.
An earlier visit just after opening left me unimpressed. In such a short time there have been many changes here and not all were for the good. Recent visits have left me pleasantly surprised as their new chef asserts his influence, all gained from his extensive International experience.
Whilst the intention is still to have two menu sections, Indonesian and Spanish, it is the local food that is having the current makeover to great effect, and that includes a few dishes International in type but with local flavour added. That is what I have concentrated on for this review.
Big things are happening at The Antonio Blanco Museum on the gastronomic front, and even more are planned for later in the year when a world player sets up shop in a new hillside restaurant, just below the car park.
Rondji always had the advantage of a sensational position with valley views over Tjampuhan, just west of Ubud. The majestic old trees were all left in place, for a change, and you can eat under them or on the terrace. The setting late afternoon as the sun sets is one of Bali's best, is a magical one.
There are different menus for lunch [simpler and cheaper] and dinner [more exotic], although most of the lunch items are also on the dinner menu. Your lunch can be simple Indonesian; start with a Snail Terrine, served with ginger and red bell pepper relish and their great homemade bread, Raw Tuna [sliced and marinated in chilli, Kaffir lime and coconut oil] served with a shallot and lemongrass relish, or a Duck Salad, the meat marinated, a thin pancaake on the side to which you can add some cucumber, leek, bean sprouts and red chilli to the duck flesh, Beijing with a Bali touch.
Vegetarians are catered for with a tasty Pear and Beet Salad, with mixed greens, toasted pine nuts, raisins, feta cheese and apple cider vinaigrette.
For mains Ayam Pedas is half a spring chicken that has been cooked in candle nuts, chillies and coconut milk, served with red rice. Iga Babi Metunu is Rondji's baby back ribs of porkl The Crispy Duck at Rondji has crisp skin but tender flesh unlike many other versions in Ubud. Braised Beef Short Ribs from NZ] are in a Rendang sauce, served with crispy rice. Seared Barramundi Fillet is done 'be Pasih Mengatnyat', with peanuts and sambal matah.
Dinner time ups the ante, and the menu becomes more exotic, although many dishes from the lunch menu also remain.
A Trilogy of Duck combines high class International fare with local spices. A slab of breast meat topped with crisp skin, tender meat from the de-boned leg and a round crumbed croquette that looks all potato but in fact the potato has been combined with duck jus, an unusual and satisfying combination and consistency. Served with the duck, a soy bean ragout and a sauce with a slight curry taste.
Short Beef Ribs are compressed and stripped from the rib bone, served in chilli oil, Kaffir lime and meat jus. Small squares of crisp layered potato are topped with a salad of shredded papaya. Strong flavours give this dish a distinctive taste
Simply titled Spicy Chicken, the name does not do it justice. In fact it is a ballotine of chicken [thin strips rolled around layers of forcemeat], topped with jejeruk goring, spicy balado and pandan rice. This is a simple but excellent dish.
The seafood special is a Fish Papalote, Bali style, the white fish is served on a banana leaf and topped with sambal matah, cleverly spicy enough for the local taste but not too much for the wary, although any excess can be easily reduced by removing. Pieces of stuffed baby squid, kangkung and coconut rice complement the fish as does the well spiced sauce drizzled over them.
Rondji has a most unusual dessert that appears to be everyone?s favourite, it is a Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse with salted caramel and popcorn ice cream.
A Tasting Platter so you can select 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 items to share is under construction as is the revamped Spanish menu.
This is very fine dining in a traditional Bali mountainside setting!
Enjoy an exotic evening in Ubud under the stars! A night at Rondji is a dining experience for which it is worth travelling far. It is good now and there is more to come. Top end dining in Ubud has progressed tremendously during the past decade, the early arrivals had it easy, now it is tough competition, and more are coming!