Sunday, June 6, 2010

Healthful and Organic Dining

I'm going to state the obvious.  It's very hot and humid on Bali.  Extremely hot and humid at times...the type of weather that makes you thank the gods for the existence of ice, cold water, and air conditioners.  Sometimes, it's so hot, you (even you, guy who thinks only long-haired hippies eat organic/healthful) will want to eat a light, healthful meal instead of warm rice and grilled meat.  When you find yourself in such a spot, walk yourself to any of the following restaurants:
  • The Kafe--Run by the folks who brought you the Yoga Barn.  The Kafe has great salads, drinks, dessert, and light meals.  Yes, the new-age hippies are too much at times, but it's great people-watching.  Has wi-fi.  Jl. Hanoman
  • Sari Organik--Walk through the rice fields at the end of Jl Kajeng and you arrive at this sustainable restaurant.  I haven't tried too many dishes, but can tell you their babaganoush is the delicious and their mango brem wine is pretty good too. No wi-fi.
  • Clear Cafe--Not many tourists know about this place yet, so it's mostly full of expats.  They serve very well-priced organic fare ranging to raw pizza to the fish dishes. The interior design is also spectacular and the manager-woman is very nice--I forgot her name :(.  There isn't a sign out front, but look for the tall bamboo fence at the top of Jl. Hanoman. Has wi-fi.
  • Bali Buddha--Big salads, vegetarian nasi campur, and really delicious rice and nut milks.  I think some of their food is overpriced, but still not expensive. They also have a mini market downstairs where you can buy cold-pressed coconut oil, veggies, and their famous honey-oat cookies by the bag.  Jl Jembawan #1 (across from the Ubud Post Office).  No wi-fi.
  • Juice Ja Cafe-- This place is on one of my favorite streets in Ubud: Jl. Dewi Sita.  Juice Ja has great juices (surprise!) and tempting sandwiches (I recommend their chicken breast sandwich).  Their fruit salads always include an interesting mix of fruits-it's one of the few places that use pink dragon fruit as opposed to the much blander white dragon fruit.  They also carry a variety of homemade goods, like granola, passion fruit cordial, and other treats.  Jl. Dewi Sita (close to the football pitch on Monkey Forest).  Has wi-fi.

                                                                    View from Juice Ja Cafe

And....we're back!

It's been over a month since my last post and I have to apologize.  We've been traveling through Tana Toraja and The Kei Islands in the Malukus--Torajan food wasn't the best, but we did eat amazing food at Savana Cottages on Kei Kecil.   While making our way through Sulawesi and the Malukus, I came to really appreciate the variety of Indonesian and non-Indonesian food Ubud has to offer, although I must admit that since moving to Indonesia, I've been pretty disappointed with Indonesian food.  Balinese, Javan, Sumatran, etc. food doesn't compare to the tantalizing flavors Thai food can offer, the depth of flavors found in Mexican food, the balanced notes throughout Korean food, the utterly delicious combinations found in Italian food...I can go on and on.  Indonesian food can be very good at times, but Indonesians don't necessarily live to eat (try Singapore for this trait), but rather eat to live.  The fact that the most famous Indonesian dish is nasi goreng (fried rice) should tell you everything.

But this doesn't mean you should stay away from Indonesian food while visiting the country, I would just caution you  to temper your expectations.  I will also say that there are pockets of amazing food--unlike Thailand where amazing food is ubiquitous.  In any case, sorry for the pseudo-downer message about Indonesian food, I didn't mean it to be as such...

Back to eating in Ubud...if you find yourself in Ubud, you must get eat at Naughty Nuri's.  It's been written up in the NYT, reviewed by Anthony Bourdain, and patronized by countless celebrities.  But the best part is, Naughty Nuri's remains a local's place  (well, if you stop by after the groups of Singaporean, Chinese, and Euro tourists have left).  The grill's out front, there's bench seating, and the owner (Brian--he's married to Nuri) will inevitably stop by your table to regale you with stories, and try as you will, but he'll never reveal the secret to his famous martinis.

What to eat at Nuri's?
  • You must have the pork ribs--they fall off the bone as soon as you sink your teeth into them. 
  • Please order the grilled sausages--you'll be reminded of a light, creamy brat. 
  • Ask for a cold Coke to wash it all down.
  • Then order a hamburger (medium rare) and a plate of fries. THE BEST BURGER ON BALI--Brian's from NY/NJ, so knows his burgers and sausages.
  • Order a gin martini while waiting for your burger to arrive.
  • Order another gin martini when your burger arrives.
  • Hang out with Brian for a while. 
The last time we ate at Nuri's, we took a friend who was visiting from the States...we ended up closing the restaurant (even Brian left before us) and ended up at Ozigo (the only "bar/club" in Ubud).  That's what 2 martinis from Nuri's will do to you.  Eat at Nuri's--you won't be disappointed. If you can't make it all the way to Ubud, they're opening a Canggu branch in the coming months.

                                                                    Ribs! Ribs! Ribs!

                                           Expert at the grill...

                               Best burger on Bali (maybe in all of Indonesia)

Naughty Nuri's
Jl. Raya Sanginggan, Across the road from the Neka Art Museum
Open 7 days a week

Monday, April 19, 2010

Padang, Padang, Padang!

We can thank the Minangkabau people of Sumatra for Padang cuisine (Padang is the capital and largest city in West Sumatra).  As a testament to the cuisines exquisite combination of flavors and textures, Padang restaurants can be found throughout Indonesia.  Padang food is usually cooked once per day, and customers choose from those dishes, which are left out on display until no food is left.  You build your meal with little bit of rendang, vegetables, some spicy sambal (red or green), tofu, etc. drenched in a rich curry sauce.  Eat it with a scoop of rice and wash it down with some es teh tawar.

Westerners (esp. Americans) are usually afraid of Padang food. Afterall, we use all sorts of gadgets to test the doneness of meat, throw out food that's been out of the fridge for more than a millisecond, and in general, freak out over anything food-safety related.   Europeans who are used to tapas from bar counters, fully-bloomed cheese and whatever else are generally more open to Padang food.

But I have to tell must try Padang food. Build your plate carefully, making sure to balance the textures, flavors, and spice. You'll leave happy and wonder why you only paid 15,000Rp for the entire meal.

The best Padang food in Ubud can be found at Masakan Padang Puteri Minang on the Ubud Main Road.  The restaurant is on the right hand side as you drive out of town--just look for the huge picture of Puteri Minang (Minang's Daughter) right before the post office road.   Puteri Minang has a wide selection of dishes and some of the best Padang food I've had on Bali.

Masakan Padang Puteri Minang
Jl. Raya Ubud
Open 7 days a week

Monday, April 12, 2010

Quick Reviews

If you're in town and have a random urge to eat Indian or Cajun (!) food, head to Warung India or Devilicious:

Warung India:  On Jl. Hanoman near Jl. Gootama...has tasty samosas and curries. They also make Thai curries, but we've found the Indian selection to be much better.

Warung Devilicious: On Jl. Gootama, this cozy place has Cajun food (once again, !)...I like the interior and the food is pretty good.  However, I advise against the po'boy sandwiches as they're more regular sandwich than po'boy, but their other sandwiches are good (esp. their chicken parm). I've yet to order their pastas, red beans and rice, or shrimp creole, but will post when I do.

                                                                    Chicken Parmesan sandwich

Warung Simple

Warung Simple.  Their menu is truly simple as they offer diners a choice of only 3 main dishes everyday.  For example, we went on a Thursday and their offerings were Ayam Bakar or Goreng (Grilled or Fried Chicken), Nasi Goreng Pandan (Pandan Fried Rice), and Bubur Ayam (Chicken Porridge).  The other days offer dishes like Rendang, Gado Gado, Vegetarian Nasi Campur, Rawon, and oxtail soup. Dishes range from 15,000Rp to 25,000Rp and during happy hour, buy one beer and get another for free (including Heineken and local Storm beers).  They also have a few appetizers and a selection of Indonesian desserts like fried bananas and es cendol. The restaurant's been open for about a year; the staff are nice and the interior is very welcoming--the walls are covered in dark bamboo and the tables are sturdy with benches (fancy Balinese picnic tables of sorts).

Nick ordered the ayam bakar and even though I don't like fried rice much, I had the pandan fried rice as I was curious about the pandan flavor.  We also ordered tahu isi goreng (3,000Rp)-- tofu stuffed with bean sprouts, vegetables and ground chicken, then deep fried -- which was delicious.  We both agreed that the ayam bakar was some of the most well-cooked and tasty grilled chicken we've had.  The meat was moist and the sauce/baste was a well-balanced mix of salty, sweet, and a hint of spice.  My pandan fried rice was good, but nothing special.   I wouldn't order it again as I'd rather try their other dishes as some of them aren't available elsewhere in Ubud, and their food is really yummy.

Ayam Bakar with rice, sambal, and salad

                                                                     Nasi Goreng Pandan

The restaurant is about 5 minutes west of Ubud centre a little past Naughty Nuri's on Jl.  Raya Sanggingan.  You should definitely check out this place and get away from the boring places on Monkey Forest Rd.

Warung Simple
Jl. Raya Sanggingan
Open 7 days a week

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Chicken Rice the Kedewatan Way

Months before we moved to Ubud, I heard about the great nasi campur  served out of a little house that's been converted into a restaurant.  Even Janet De Neefe, Ubud's Austrailian-Balinese Martha Stewart, writes about it in her book (although she leaves out the restaurant's name).  The restaurant is called Nasi Ayam Kedewatan (literally--Chicken Rice Kedewatan) and has been operating  in a small village northwest of Ubud proper since 1964.  It's run by Ibu Mangku and is usually full of locals stopping for lunch on their way to temple or sitting with their office/store mates for a plate and a smoke.  You'll also find a few tourists digging into their food.

The guy who rents us our motorbike also told us this is the best nasi campur place in Ubud, so we had high hopes going in...especially because we've been eating THE BEST nasi campur in Sanur for the last few months.  And everyone seems to think food in Ubud is soooo much better than food in Sanur (which it is for the most part), so this had to be an awesome plate of nasi campur.  I have to admit, it is  pretty good. Although not as good as the nasi campur in Sanur (still debating whether or not I should tell readers where it is).

The plate (12,000Rp) comes with rice, sate lilit (chopped chicken mixed with grated coconut and spices, molded onto bamboo sticks, then grilled), tum (slices of chicken mixed with spices and grated coconut covered by banana leaves then steamed), two kinds of braised chicken (spicy and mild, both of which cooked in cocount milk), sayur lawar (sliced long bean mixed with grated coconut), roasted peanuts, fried chicken skin, and a very spicy dry sambal.

The chicken is indeed very moist and flavorful, the lawar offers a nice contrast to the chicken, the peanuts perfectly roasted, and the sambal spicy.  My only real complaint is the sate lilit as it's too sweet and always contains unpleasant, crunchy bits of coconut husk and whatever else.  But who am I to complain after paying $1.25 for the entire plate.  Also, unlike most other local warungs, Nasi Ayam has a nice dining area where you can choose to sit outside or inside.

If you're in the area, you should definitely stop by, have a plate and wash it down with a nice mug of es teh tawar.

Nasi Ayam Kedewatan
Jl. Kedewatan (North of Jl. Sayan)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Temple Procession and a Martini

First, few pictures of a temple procession down the main road:

Also, I had the second Martini of my life (my first was a horrible-tasting "Executive Martini" I shared with my sister in Chicago) and enjoyed it.  I had it extra dirty from Nomad's.  The restaurant was started by Nyoman Sarma and he's very active in Indonesia's organic and sustainable agriculture movement.  His restaurant's been around for over 20 years and is a nice place to grab a drink.

                                                                                         Late-afternoon martini