By Jin Perez
I chose to spend the last few days of 2016 in a place I had always wanted to go back to a place with peace and quiet, a lot of nature, smiling people, healers, raw food, vegan restaurants, a place where I could slow down, reflect, and, most important, detox my mind, body and spirit, a place which means “medicine” in its native language—Ubud.
I should have known better.
Despite being in the mecca for health, the one and only clean meal I had was at Paradiso, a really cool cinema that shows old films and serves strictly plant-based food. So you see, there was no choice but to eat falafels (which were delicious, by the way) and a plate of vegan nasi goreng while I watched Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe try to make their way out of a Japanese suicidal forest alive. It was a movie that called for steak.
The rest of my meals were heavy on meat. Too bad for my body, but lucky for you, you now have a good eat list for your next Bali trip.
My search for the best beef rendang in town led me to this quirky restaurant where everything on display is for sale. The rendang served here is made using Bernadette’s family recipe and involves cooking the meat in coconut milk and secret spices for 12 hours—eight on the first day, and another four on the second. No wonder the beef was ridiculously tasty. Warning: You are likely to consume more than one bowl of rice.
Address: Jalan Gautama Utara, Ubud
Bebek Tepi Sawah
The biggest dilemma here is whether one should order the Balinese crispy duck or the fried smoked chicken. I suggest both because aside from the fact that they are equally delicious, I must admit, portions are tiny. Do not forget to mix and match the different sambals, and wash everything down with avocado iced coffee. After overeating, walk off the meal around the beautiful property surrounded by lotus ponds and rice paddies.
Address: Jl. Goa Gajah, Ubud
The coconut curry noodles here are one dish I often fantasize about ever since my first taste of them in 2013. You can opt to have your bowl plain or with tofu or meat. Of course, I had mine with beef. Rich and hearty with a broth boasting so many layers of flavors and a depth that can only be achieved after hours and hours of simmering, it was the simplest meal of the trip but one that brought me the highest satisfaction, even topping the chichi, award-winning Mosaic. The place is always packed so call ahead to reserve.
Address: 13 Jl. Gootama, Ubud
It is difficult not to compare babi guling to our Filipino lechon (which is still, hands down, the best pig for me), but when in Bali, do as the Balinese do—eat Balinese pork. The suckling pig at this overly popular warung is stuffed with a paste made with shallots, ginger, galangal, garlic, turmeric, chili, peppercorn, and shrimp paste, and then roasted over open fire for six hours. The result is mildly fragrant pork with not so crunchy skin. Admittedly, it is not something I am ecstatic to eat again, but definitely a dish you must try once when in Bali.
Address: 2 Jalan Tegal Sari, Ubud
From the makers of Mamasan and Sarong comes the newest addition to Ubud, serving Indonesian flavors with finesse and always with a surprise factor. My kambing curry (the spicier the better!) came with roti canai that was chewy and crispy at the same time, the tuna tartare was served with a medley of watermelon, Thai basil, sesame seeds and chili shallot lime dressing. It is the place to go for local flavors when you need a break from the warungs.
Address: 5 Jl. Sri Wedari, Ubud
I discovered this place through an Instagram follower who tipped me about Chef Joshira’s crazy dishes. I went without any expectations, and honestly, the funky interiorsleft me doubtful. But wow, my cinnamon and cumin-rubbed lamb appetizer was out of this world! The grilled meat sat on a bed of toasted cashew and feta salad tossed in lamb tamarind jus, its flavors complex, bold, and exciting. The prawn tacos were fresh and delightful, the chocolate mousse rich and decadent and made even more fabulous with candied orange peel. Secret to finding this hidden gem: look for the blue octopus on the wall.
Address: 9 Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud.
Follow Jin on Instagram/@jinlovestoeat; [email protected]