I guess that there is a story behind most restaurant names in Bali. Whether they be true or false, who cares? The naming of Ubud's Bebek Bengil is stranger than most. Built 12 years ago, when the village of Tegal, at Ubud's southern end, was nothing more than rice paddi's, the restaurant was almost finished when it was invaded by a flock of ducks, bored with chasing worms in the water and mud of the adjoining paddies. The mess they made on that early morning invasion gave birth to the name, Bebek Bengil [Dirty Duck], and a restaurant that seems to have become an Ubud institution!
Bebek Bengil attracts an unusual mixture of tourists and affluent locals. Both seem to feel very comfortable in the relaxed garden setting. A recently opened new extension takes the restaurant even further out into the rice paddies. Popular local dishes, and reasonably priced international ones, are prepared in the spotlessly clean kitchen, and served with a pleasant smile. Throw in the reasonable prices, and perhaps you have the reason for the constant popularity that Bebek Bengil enjoys.
The menu is quite large, attempting to cater for all. A job they do quite well. A pleasant change is that the menu is not just a copy of all those others seen everywhere in Bali, but uniquely different.
A good range of appetizers, entrees and snack-anytime choices, exist. That Middle Eastern chick-pea puree, humus, is served with warm pita bread. As is a refreshing sandwich of peppercorn cream cheese, smoked ham, avocado and cucumber.
A quite spicy Guacamole dip comes with melinjo nut crackers. Snails can be ordered with miso-garlic bread or stuffed in mushrooms with a garlic chilli sauce. Chicken Wings are marinated, Thai-style, then grilled till crunchy. Simple Fish & Chips are breaded fingers or fish, good chips and the usual tartar sauce. Good finger food!
A spicy Thai Seafood Salad is a generous mix of seafood, tossed in a lemon chilli dressing. A little hot, a little sour, the classic Thai combination. The Papaya Shrimp Salad are those ingredients combined with avocado and roasted peppers and an orange dressing. A Grilled Tuna Salad is served with a lemon cumin vinaigrette and garlic toast.
Many soups, mainly hearty vegetarian ones, and pasta selections are on offer. The Bebek Special is a spicy one; spaghetti with tuna, sausages, mushroom and chilli. The Spinach Gnocchi is dumplings of spinach and parmesan, served with a saffron cream sauce and a tomato and basil salad.
Bali?s famous Crispy Duck features on this menu, as you may well have guessed. It is a most unusual dish, and available almost everywhere in Ubud. It is a dish which you will generally either love, or hate, according to your personal tastes! The duck has been steamed with a myriad of Balinese spices and it is then quickly deep-fried at a high temperature to produce a serving of very crunchy duck. At most other Ubud locations that I have tried this dish it has been not much more than crunchy bone. Here at Bebek Bengil, enough plump flesh has been left on the pieces to understand why it is a local favourite. Definitely to be eaten with the fingers, and worth the effort!
Talking of finger food, the Barbecued Pork Spare Ribs are amongst the best I have ever had in Bali. There are no similarities with the American original, as this one is nice and spicy as befits Asia. Well trimmed of surplus fat, they are nothing more than just long chunks of meat hanging off the rib bones. Wonderful!
Stuffed Chicken Breasts have been filled with shitake mushrooms, sprouts and spinach, and are served with a napa vegetable roll, and fried rice. The Fried Chicken is done the traditional Balinese way, and served with Balinese vegetables and yellow rice. Or you can have your chicken Japanese style, Teriyaki [wine and soy], or Thai style with basil.
A flattened breast becomes a Chicken Steak, with mushroom sauce and French fries. That old favourite Chicken Kiev is a roll of meat encasing a mixture of garlic butter and parsley, before being breaded and sautéed in butter. More Asian is the excellent Ginger Chicken, a stir-fried mixture of sliced chicken, mushrooms, cashews, green peppers, mint and chilli.
Drunken Chicken has been cooked in white wine, with capers, olives, cashews, ham and raisins. Another unusual dish is chicken that has been sautéed and served with a dill and mushroom sauce. Or you can have your chicken plain and tender, Lemon Chicken is boneless breasts gently sautéed in butter, with a tangy lemon sauce.
The Nasi Campur [mixed rice] offers the opportunity to taste the variety of Balinese specialities that surround the steamed rice. The Indonesian stalwart, Nasi Goreng, is fried rice with chicken, sate on the side, and a fried egg on top. A Seafood Fried Rice dish combines fried rice with prawn, squid and fish, a stick of fish sate and also topped with a fried egg.
Steaks are good value at Bebek Bengil! The beef is imported, the kitchen produces a tender result, but the price is not inflated! Both the T-Bone and the Sirloin are served with a mushroom sauce. Although you can have your sirloin sliced, and stir-fried with shitake mushrooms, asparagus and snowpeas in an orange sauce, and served on a base of crispy noodles.
You can order from a selection of fresh seafood [prawns, squid, snapper or tuna] that have been grilled then served with a garlic butter or chilli sauce. Prawn Bacon, prawns wrapped in bacon, are something different. Chilli Prawns have been sautéed then served with a chilli sauce. The Red Snapper is grilled, and comes with a lemon caper sauce and garlic potatoes.
Whilst I had usually visited Bebek Bengil for lunch, a recent evening visit surprised me with the rustic charm of the place, footpath lights along all the ponds and waterways, extending almost out into the paddies. The new extension is almost in the paddies themselves. This is a very charming location. Desserts are mostly the normal cakes, tarts and ice cream. Although the Black Russian Pie [a mixture of vodka and Kahlua, topped with chocolate] did tempt me!
The wine list is limited. Local wines, plus the excellent locally bottled Western Australia wine, Wine of the Gods [both their un-wooded Chardonnay and the new light peppery Shiraz]. As are the food prices, those for the wines are very reasonable. No wonder that everyone keeps coming back to Bebek!
Latest Visits: The menu is continually being extended and varied at Bebek with both local and International dishes being added, whilst others fall by the wayside. Bebek Bengil now offers quite a range of Duck dishes other than the famous two [Betutu and crispy], including a great Bebek Pelalah, not the original shredded version by chunks of chicken covered with that wonderful chilli, tomato and lime sauce, a special recipe from Ibu Agung Raka Sueni. Other duck specials include a Crispy Duck Salad, and Grilled Duck in a sweet chilli sauce and even a Nasi Goreng [fried rice] with duck.