In my early visits to Bali, as a tourist, I was always fascinated by one dish that was invariably on most restaurant menus, but never available, Bebek Betutu. Being a great lover of almost any dish featuring duck, the description of a smoked duck that had been stuffed with a variety of Balinese herbs, wrapped in banana leaves, and then slowly cooked in coconut shell embers, deep in the earth, for 24 hours, really fuelled my imagination!
Having to order it at least 24 hours beforehand somewhat dampened my enthusiasm, particularly so when attempting to do so on a couple of occasions we were told??better after tomorrow?. I now realize that the restaurant probably had to go and buy it from somewhere else, and to be sure of doing that in only one day was too scary! Very Bali!
Then to my surprise, on my first visit to Candi Dasa many years ago, I discovered a restaurant that served Bebek Betutu, to order! Naturally I had to try it. I loved it! And have been calling in there for it, ever since.
The restaurant was, and is, the Lotus Seaview. Situated almost at the very entrance to Candi Dasa, if you are coming from the south, this charming restaurant is at the very edge of the sea. The waves crashing on the rocks outside create their own atmosphere. That zesty smell of salt in the air, most refreshing!
The Lotus chain of restaurants in Bali, have been part and parcel of the local scene for many years. The original, Café Lotus, resplendent around the lotus ponds, has been visited by just about everyone who has included Ubud on their Bali itinerary. The Lotus restaurants, unashamedly, cater for tourists, and try to present something for everyone, at good value prices. I believe that they succeed in this quite difficult objective.
At Lotus Seaview, you can commence with a variety of fresh salads, from a simple Tomato and Basil to the more substantial Chef?s [lettuce, tomato, cheese, ham and eggs], Greek [lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, olives, cucumber, onion, feta cheese] or an Italian Insalata di Mare [mixed seafood that has been marinated in olive oil, lemon, garlic, chilli and parsley].
A Mousse of Smoked Balinese Salmon is served with toast, onion rings and capers in traditional style. Their special Spring Rolls are stuffed with a mixture of vegetables and shrimps, and served with a tangy peanut sauce. For a touch of Indian, there are Samosas. That thick crunchy Indian pastry is filled with either cheese or curried vegetables [we always ask for both], and served with chutney, on the side.
For soups you travel around the world! Those international favourites, Chicken Noodle and Cream of Tomato head the list. The Cream of Mushroom is Japanese style, whilst that Chinese classic Corn and Crabmeat can also be had with Asparagus if you prefer. The Seafood is very Italian, with garlic croutons and parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Then there is that Indonesian stalwart, Soto Ayam, a chicken soup with rice noodles, eggs, tomato, potato, bean sprouts and spices.
Freshly made pasta is a feature of all of the Lotus restaurants, thanks to their Italian management! At Lotus Seaview there is an interesting choice of Fettuccine. It is made from spinach, egg or red peppers. The Green Spinach Fettuccine can be had Napoletana [with basil in a tomato-based sauce], or combined with an egg fettuccine in Paglia & Fieno alla Papalina [with strips of ham and mushroom in a cream sauce]. Red Fettuccine Tonno & Olive has been made from red peppers, then combined with tomato, tuna chunks, black olives, garlic and parsley. An unusual Carbonara is also available, smoked marlin, eggs, cream, herbs and nutmeg tossed in olive oil.
For mains you have choice of three categories, all quite substantial. Indonesian, Seafood or International. My highlight is the Bebek Betutu, as I previously described. There is also a chicken version of the same dish, Ayam Betutu, which some people may prefer as the taste is not quite so strong. The Nasi Campur at Lotus is always good value, as is that Indonesian favourite, Babi Kecap, pieces of pork stir-fried with Balinese spices and sweet soy sauce.
The BBQ pork Spare Ribs always seem to be one of the most popular dishes here. Large ribs, covered with tender flesh, all coated with that tangy BBQ sauce. Messy, but nice! A Cantonese Sweet & Sour Pork, an Italian Chicken casserole, Chicken Cacciatora [with tomatoes, rosemary and garlic, served with sautéed potatoes], and the French Steak Bourguignonne make this menu very International!
The seafood selection is headed by Fresh Whole Fish. You can order it Grilled, with just simple olive oil, garlic and parsley, Fried, with a chilli or sweet & sour sauce on the side, or Steamed with herbs and a ginger sauce.
Fresh prawns are usually available in Bali?s North-East. You can have them Grilled [king prawns with a garlic butter sauce], Deep Fried, nice and crispy, or Stir-Fried with either an onion or a chilli sauce.
The Indonesian menu also has many seafood selections including a Be Pasih Sambal Matah that I quite like. A grilled fillet of fish with shallots and a Balinese style chilli sauce. The Pesan be Pasih is also very Balinese, steamed fish with tomato and spices, wrapped in banana leaves and roasted over embers.
A short but sensible wine list is in existence, but wine is also available by the carafe or glass. The Lotus restaurants have also joined that smart new wave of restaurateurs who allow you to BYO bottles of wine. The corkage charged is very reasonable, so you can bring that favourite bottle of wine with you, if you prefer!
All in all, lunch at Lotus Seaview is a refreshing interlude by the sea. It is excellent value, and very relaxing.