I despair at the standard Bali International menu which I often refer to as a 'tourist' one, even though I know how necessary it is. Most tourists, whilst they may stray once or twice, prefer food just like home. Of course what is served in many local restaurants may sound like 'at home' but not resemble it in looks or taste, and that is the saddest part.
However the Watergarden Kafe at Candi Dasa has really gone International. Although when you consider that the owners are English, the General Manager is German and the Executive Chef, though a local from East Bali, has just returned home from a lifetime of working in the 5 star hotels of the world, the most recent being the Swiss-Belhotel Horizons in Hanoi, Vietnam, the fact that they now offer a real International array of dishes is not surprising.
What has happened to sleepy old Candi Dasa?
The menu at The Watergarden is large, frighteningly so. I would expect it be trimmed down a bit over time, but at least they offering locals and visiting tourists alike a choice that they have never had before. Candi Dasa used to be a Jaffles, Nasi Goreng and Gordon Blue kind of place!.
Appetisers include a Spanish Beef Salpicao, beef strips sauteed with garlic and shallots, a BBQ garlic dip and tomato salsa on the side. Soups can be Indonesian, Soto Madura, vermicelli noodles, hard-boiled egg, chilli and vegetables in a rich chicken soup, or Vietnamese, that classic Pha Bo, a rich beef broth with noodles, beef slices and those fragrant Vietnamese spices, what fragrance!. For a Salad with a difference try their Waldorf, diced apple and celery with walnuts and a yoghurt mayonnaise dressing.
I love snacking and there a few here which I will find it difficult not to re-try when passing to and from my beloved Amed. Bavarian Dumplings are not everyone's cup of tea, but I love them; potato dumplings with onions and herbs in a rich red wine and mushroom sauce. A Farmers Omelette, one of my favourite breakfasts, and almost healthy! Potatoes, noodles, onion, bacon, capsicum and mushroom, all wrapped in egg, with crisp garlic bread on the side. A touch of German shows itself with their Meatloaf Sandwich on Rye, lashings of mustard of course. For the Vegetarian [there are many options throughout the menu] a 3 decker Vegetarian Club Sandwich that includes vegetarian sausage.
Asian mains include a Vietnamese Dui Heo Kho Nio Dat, deep-fried pork that has previously been marinated and braised with spices, in small bite sized pieces. Chinese Noodles, Ifu Mie, are crisp and combined with chicken pieces in Chinese wine and freshly chopped vegetables. Another great tasting Chinese offering is their Chicken, braised with ginger and oyster sauce. From Japan the classic Teriyaki, chicken marinated in soy and sherry then roasted very quickly, and a Seafood Tempura, fish pieces and prawns in rice flour batter. A Thai Green Chicken Curry, and a Red Beef Curry, complete this set of Asian treats.
From Singapore a local version of Chilli Crab, flavoured with ginger, chilli and shallots, and their own way of preparing Baby Back Pork Ribs being marinated in red wine and soy. The Malay Gulat Gut is an intensely flavoured lamb curry, very different from the mild Indonesian coconut milk versions. Chicken Tikka is one of India's most famous dishes, and a Lamb Rhogan Josh Gosht is mild yet still intense.
Something very different for the Vegetarians are a Moroccan Tangine of steamed vegetable [potato] with dried fruits [apricots and prunes] served on couscous, and a 3 Bean Chilli dish for those who want a bit of spice with their veggies; black and kidney beans with chickpeas are served in a thick chilli tomato sauce.
European dishes include a Chicken Fricasse with an apple cider sauce. The Smoked Duck Breast is on a different level to the old Candi Dasa cuisine, the meat has been marinated in balsamic vinegar, honey and rosemary and is served with braised red cabbage. Sounds like Seminyak!
The German content covers all aspects from a traditional grilled Pork Meatloaf topped with fried egg and an onion sauce [so simple but I love it], the smoked pork loin, Kassler, comes with mashed potato and red cabbage, and the king of German cuisine; Schweinshaxe a Pork Leg Knuckle [enough for two persons] served with Bavarian dumplings. Rostbraten is a beef round with spinach croquettes and roasted onions
Originally from Hungary but now International is a Beef Goulash and one of The Watergarden's most popular dishes on their new menu, beef cubes slowly simmered in paprika. Similar is the world ownership of the Vienna Schnitzel, this one is a pork version the thin scallop breaded and pan fried, tender but crisp.
Being seaside, many seafood options are available. The fresh water fish coming from the live tank in the small grill area near the bar. The Fisherman's Basket of rock lobster, king prawn and red snapper is amazing value. Malaccan Black Pepper Turtle Crab is a local delicacy being soaked in a lemon-garlic mix before being grilled. Watergarden's most unique dish is their 'Lasagne' of Salmon; Norwegian Salmon coated with dill and layered between sheets of blanched fresh spinach and cooked in a tomato and white wine based sauce Viloute.
Allergy Sufferers please take note! This place cares about you. All menu items that are 'Nut Free' or 'Wheat Free' are clearly marked as such.
Candi Dasa is really growing up! To imagine this variety of cuisine at this standard and low price being available in Canda Dasa says it all.