The Alila Group of hotels is a vibrant newcomer to the scene of international hotel management. They have made their mark in a very short time, and are now going through a position change in the market, which will be soon be highlighted by the opening of the majestic Alila Villas on the cliffs of South Bali.
In recent years Alila have been of many different origins but most have arrived via Australia. The dynamic Penny Williams has been doing her thing promoting authentic East Bali cuisine with organic local produce for the past few years at Alila Manggis.
Now Alila Ubud has Shahram Decontades with his menu that combines the best of local cuisine with food of the world. Shahram was born in Persia [Tehran, Iran] of European parents, subsequently growing up in Australia. His cooking skills were gained at the top Paris cooking school, before working for a few years in leading restaurants before stints back in the Middle East.
Alila has a firm principle that all restaurants in Bali must feature the local cuisine, and in real traditional style rather than the insipid tourist form devoid of taste seen elsewhere. However the International content is not overlooked. At Alila Ubud that section has strong links to the cuisines of Asia and the Middle East.
Grilled Goat Cheese has a medium sized round wrapped in vine leaves, grilled, served with fresh herbs, chunks of roasted beetroot and a pistachio nut dressing. I love the robust taste of goat cheese and this dish provides all of that particularly when combined with the distinctive flavour of the vine leaf. Coincidently in Persia Pistachio Ice Cream is one of their major delicacies.
Quinoa Salad is health plus! Roasted wild mushrooms are combined with oven-dried cherry tomatoes and marinated heart of artichoke sitting on leaves of fresh baby spinach. This mixture is coated with the grains of quinoa, that amazing produce of South America. What a change to eat food that is not only doing you good [quinoa is a great attacker of cholesterol], but also tastes great! Tuna is pepper crusted before being just seared, served with fresh coriander and a chilli lime dressing. The Beef Salad is chunks of char grilled Australian beef tossed with ginger, cucumber, mint and green papaya. Very refreshing!
International mains at Plantation include a Whole Baby Chicken, what the French call Poussin, is rarely seen in on Bali menus, Shahram presents it Portuguese style with the rib cage removed and the bird flattened before being grilled. It is served with a black rice risotto, chilli jam and ginger bok choy.
The Australian Rack of Lamb is pink and perfect. It is with a polenta of soft goat cheese flavoured with rosemary. The accompanying vegetables are combined with black olives, capers and pine nuts. Fish can be done 4 different ways; Pan seared [red snapper with crushed new potatoes], Grilled [king fish with couscous], Baked [butterfish with mushrooms, semi dried tomato risotto and shaved fennel] or Steamed [the daily catch with soy, ginger and coriander].
The local menu is part Bali and part Indonesian, though some dishes have an added Asian touch from elsewhere. The Lumpia are stuffed with vegetables only, in crisp rice paper not that terrible thick casing so often encountered, the dip is sweet chilli and lime. Urab Campur combines young papaya, jack fruit, cassava leaves with grated coconut, served with crisp garlic chips. The Rujak consists of young mango with papaya, pineapple and tamarind, tossed with palm sugar and chilli dressing. Tuna is grilled and with that Bali favourite, Sambal Matah [shallots, lemongrass, chilli and lime].
In hotels, and many other western managed kitchens, the Bebek Betutu is far too often produced in their own kitchen. I believe that in that case it should be called ?betutu style? because it is not the real thing! At Plantation they do it different and better. They provide high quality imported ducks to the local ?betutu farm? who then processes them in the timeless tradition of marinating in spices, wrapping and cooking them slowly underground in embers.
Be Sampi Mekalas is beef [Oz not local] thinly sliced and braised in coconut milk, chilli and lemongrass. Iga Babi Bakar are pork ribs, the tender baby backs, glazed in local spices then barbecued. Cumi-Cumi Kemangi is young squid, the flesh cut and scored so it rolls into balls, not tough but nice and crunchy, tossed in a sauce of tomato and lemon basil, plenty of taste in this one! Ayam Bakar Sambal Matah again sees the use of baby chickens, this time deboned, marinated and sliced.
Healthy vegetarian dishes are sprinkled throughout this dinner menu. The Tahu Tempe Telor Santen is quite amazing. The flavour is very strong with turmeric in the ascendancy. Soft tofu and firm tempe cubes are cooked in a Balinese curry. An added bonus is the added quail eggs, soft boiled so that their liquid gold hits your taste buds as they split.
To finish why not stay with the local dishes; Black Rice & Palm Sugar Pudding, with poached pears. Gazing down the green misty valley to the Ayung you are once again reminded of the unique locations that occur with Bali?s world class dining, at prices that make your friends back home insanely jealous.
The wine lists at Alila are usually way above average. Theirs have lately been decimated as at every other quality dining establishment in Bali. What the powers to be in Jakarta are trying to do no one can understand. What a contrast with Thailand where their government [whoever is in power that week, it makes no difference] puts tourism on a high pedestal rather than Indonesia?s attitude to hit it with every hindrance possible. Visa on arrival, exorbitant taxes on imported spirits and wines, what will they think of next?