Although Bali has been a popular international holiday destination for decades, its cuisine doesn't enjoy any particular fame. I suspect this is at least partly because food from all over the Indonesian archipelago is plentifully available. First-time visitors probably don't know whether a particular dish they're eating is native to Bali or not.
However, you can probably be sure of one thing: the fruit you find on your plate is locally sourced. On my first visit to Bali, back in 2013, I stayed at Green Paradise Villa in Seminyak, just behind Petitenget Temple. Every morning, an artful arrangement of cut fruit would appear on my breakfast tray. The arrangement of watermelon pictured below looks like a turkey, don't you think?
Incidentally, this was the first time I had ever put lime on watermelon, taking a hint from the presentation. Now I wouldn't eat it any other way.
Since Bali is an island, seafood unsurprisingly looms large on restaurant menus. Probably the most famous seafood restaurants are to be found at Jimbaran beach, not far from the airport. After trying a couple of different ones (there's a strip), Menega Café became my favourite. The locals must agree because they were there in force. There is a large à la carte menu, but the meal pictured below was the tourist-friendly grilled seafood platter. I wish I could remember exactly what the fish was. Red snapper, maybe? In fine weather, tables are set up on the sand.
On the whole, I'm skeptical of fusion cuisine. I find that so often it amounts to CONfusion. This dish of Bali duck and vegetables served with Italian pasta hit the spot, however.
The venue was a new-looking restaurant somewhere on the road between Tulamben and Amlapur in Karangasem regency.
Foolishly, I didn't note the name of this place. If you recognize it, please comment!
On my last trip to Bali, in 2015, my friends and I stayed in Tulamben on the east coast, where they wanted to dive. I'm not a diver, so I just hung out. To read my blog post about this experience, please click here: https://lotusandpersimmon.com/lpshop/blog/65_not-diving-in-tulamben.html.
From Tulamben, we hired a car and driver to take us to Sanur for the final 3 nights of our stay. This drive took us through some beautiful mountain scenery.
Somewhere along the way, we stopped for lunch at a roadside place. No English was spoken, so our driver ordered for us. What we got was assorted satay sticks, rice, condiments, and soup.
Though simple, it was very tasty. I considered ordering another round of satay, but then reflected that our dinner in Sanur was likely to be lavish and thought better of it!
Although Balinese and pan-Indonesian cuisine are the main fare in Bali, there is plenty of international cuisine available, as is always the case in tourist hotspots. One place on the island that the prevalence of European food and drink feels appropriate is Sanur. Why? Because the Dutch developed it into the first international tourist resort in Bali during their colonial tenure. Sanur (like Ubud) was already attracting well-heeled globetrotters in the 1930s, while Kuta and Seminyak, today's hotspots, had to wait for the jet age and mass tourism. Anywhere the Dutch have been you can expect to find good cake and coffee, and Sanur is no exception. My friends and I sampled 2 different cakes at a beach café.
One was chocolate:
And the other was lemon cheesecake:
They were scrumptious and went down well with the coffee made from local beans. It was of course the Dutch who introduced coffee cultivation, which is one colonial legacy we can be thankful for. Speaking of coffee, I should mention the infamous luwak coffee, which involves collecting coffee beans pooped out by a species of civet cat. My advice is not to bother. I didn't think it was anything special, and you'll pay 3 or 4 times the price of regular coffee.
So much for the food, now what about drinks? Apart from fruit juices, the only one I want to mention is wine. Yes, wine. There are actually wineries in Bali, of which Hatten produces the most readily available product. Their whites and rosés can be found in any supermarket on the island. Are they on a level to compare with the best French or Californian vintages? Of course not, but they pair well with the local food, and they're very affordable.
The white pictured above is just right for pairing with Indonesian dishes. I find that sparkling wines or light whites and rosés work best with Asian food.
I hope you've enjoyed this post about eating in Bali. Next up: Eating in Bangkok!