Habitat is its name, and it is the latest sensation in Ubud! A café with a difference operated by young up and coming Balinese restaurateur Ben Karmadi. The cuisine is in two parts, International with a twist for breakfast and Asian, with many twists, for the all day menu. The restaurant is also in two parts; you can sit inside in comfortable air-conditioning or outside on the covered terrace watching the world go by.
Over the years I have visited many hundreds of restaurants in Bali, often not much more than a glance at the menu of a new place often tells me everything, everything bad! Same dishes as everywhere else, they may do it better but with so little menu imagination it is very unlikely. I was thinking about this when I first visited Habitat, maybe I would be there for less than 5 minutes?.I stayed for an hour!
What a refreshing change, interesting dishes, from everywhere. Not only that but obviously with carefully thought add-ons, tweaks and twists.
The breakfasts are the most standard items on the menu [served all day as they should be], with just a few changes from the norm. Eggs Florentine on spinach, covered with hollandaise sauce but they sit on a slab of German Rye, on the side crisp hash browns. The Benedict uses Cured Salmon instead of leg ham, but you can ask for bacon instead.
No matter how many exotic breakfasts are offered on the menu, and I love them, it is the simple dish of Bacon & Eggs that remain the world?s favourite breakfast. Yes, you can also have it here. Perhaps you want something different for a change? The Lorenzo Breakfast Burrito is just that! A mix of scrambled egg, German bratwurst sausage, bacon, spinach, sweet chilli jam, coriander and cheddar cheese, all wrapped in a toasted tortilla. Mexico never had it so good!
Even more different is the Savoury Waffle. The waffle has been made using coconut milk to give it more body, and is topped with shredded crisp bacon and grated cheddar cheese. Dessert at breakfast? Try their Pac-Man Waffle; also made with coconut milk but topped with gelato [vanilla, chocolate and green tea] caramelized banana, strawberries and chocolate sauce.
The Omelette is soft and rolled, the original French way, stuffed with cured salmon. Vegetarians, and Vegans, are catered for with a selection of Bowls that contain all those healthy things such as dragon fruit, granola, shaved coconut, chia seeds and strawberries.
The accompanying breakfast drink is also a long list. A Balinese Jamu of Turmeric & Tamarind, a healthy Smoothie of banana, dragon fruit, strawberry and honey, a slow-pressed orange juice, simple coconut water or Kambucha, by glass or bottle, of Hibiscus Flower & Ginger or Pineapple, Peppermint, Lemon & Basil.
Coffees can be any want you want it but the stand-out is their Vietnamese Drip Coffee. It shows the French influence on Vietnam?s culinary history, a stainless steel cylinder containing ground Papuan coffee beans, sits on the glass, boiling water is added and it slowly drips through the filter into the glass.
The all day menu kicks in at 11.30 a.m. The star of the menu is their Vietnamese Banh Mi. During the owner?s training at the Melbourne Sofitel, years ago, he discovered a small Vietnamese cafe nearby where he ate regularly. At Habitat he has faithfully reproduced the Banh Mi from there, once his regular lunch. A sandwich served in a baguette, what is so special you ask?
The baguette has been specially baked, a super crunchy crust, soft inside. The large chunk has a liver pate spread, crisp lettuce, tomato and pickles plus your selection of filling; Grilled Chicken with back pepper, Roasted Pork Belly honey glazed, or a Meat Ball combo which I thought was almost in the sensational class but then I am a sandwich freak! All have a unique sauce added, the basic hoisin blended with peanut butter. With the beef meat balls I thought it was a perfect combination. Other Banh Mi include one with Cured Salmon plus either that same sauce or hollandaise, or a Vegetarian [or it can be Vegan] option of Tofu and Eggplant, the tofu marinated with ginger, garlic and lemongrass, the eggplant grilled.
More Vietnamese offerings are the Cold Spring Rolls. Once again the roasted honey glazed pork belly, cured salmon or black pepper chicken provide the base ingredient, which alone makes an unusual twist. To this is added; vermicelli noodles, cucumber, carrot, spring onion, mint, red cabbage and turnip, all rolled in rice paper. Served with a large pot of that special hoisin-peanut sauce, dip them in or spoon it? There are four large rolls split in half! As with most dishes here a very large serve, and definitely big enough for sharing.
To finish the Viet offerings there is their famous Pho. Sliced rare beef strips with noodles, cilantro, lime, mint and soy in a rich beef broth. Also on offer is Pho Ga, a chicken version with coconut milk, lemongrass, ginger and noodles added to the chicken breast strips.
From Thailand a version of Pad Thai, traditional flat noodles with tamarind, tofu, onion, cilantro, bean sprouts and crushed peanuts but with egg added. You can add to this noodle dish the beef meatballs, honey-glazed pork belly or black pepper chicken.
From Mexico Quesadilla, a large tortilla stuffed with chicken, pineapple, capsicum, cabbage, melted cheese, sour cream and tomato salsa. Finger-licking good! The Nachos are coffee-wood smoked bacon and spring onions covered with melted cheese, sour cream and tomato salsa tossed with tortilla chips.
In 2016 almost every restaurant in Bali offers a variety of Hamburger! At Habitat it is a giant! The patty is beef, and not over-cooked. Crisp lettuce, bacon, caramelized onion, tomato slices, cheese and pickles, topped with a tangy mayonnaise. Make it even bigger by adding an egg or extra bacon.
Desserts can be waffles, pancakes, fruit salad or a range of gelato. On my two recent late afternoon visits they have had to extend their normal 6.00 p.m. closing time as the restaurant at that time was still full, every table. So relaxing no one wants to go home! They are likely to soon extend their hours to mid evening.
Habitat is a great value new addition to the Ubud dining scene. Full from day one and it will no doubt stay that way. Great value, great taste!