Will the Developments of Fine Dining in Bali Make it the Region’s Culinary Capital?
Ubud, updated 13 June 2022 – Whilst they hate to admit it, even those hailing from Indonesia’s capital of Jakarta — with over 18 million people and a booming economy — recognise Bali’s superior culinary industry. It has become its very own attraction: outside of the beaches, tourist sites and experiences available, people are coming for the food. From fine dining in Bali to the smaller scale but high-quality cafés, bars and restaurants, this is an industry that has grown alongside the island’s popularity.
But how good is it really? With no Michelin Stars to boast, as yet, does the island really have all the right ingredients to become the leading food destination in the region, above the likes of even Singapore food culture?
- From Cultural Bali to Culinary Bali
- Best Restaurants in Bali
- Fine Dining Culture
- Apéritif Bali
- In Conclusion
From Cultural Bali to Culinary Bali
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact moment when Bali’s food industry began to blossom as a whole. Was it the rise of the beach clubs, ignited by the popular Potato Head Beach Club in 2010? Or later, in 2015, when a new trend of Australian-styled cafés began, spurring a new era of design- and health-focused eateries?
There have always been popular restaurants around the island, of course. On Jalan Oberoi, Bali’s eat street, with likes of Cafe Bali, Ultimo and Ginger Moon; further up, Ku De Ta and La Lucciola dominated beachfront dining; Metis presented sophistication in Seminyak. In Ubud, Cascades Bali became a destination for diners, with its gorgeous views complementing an evening of fine dining in Bali. But the ‘hole in the wall’ Naughty Nuri’s was popular too, for a different kind of evening altogether. The old classics shouldn’t be forgotten either, with Made’s Warung, Poppies Restaurants, and Un’s restaurant continuing to pull in the droves of Kuta-based visitors, eager to taste Indonesian food culture done with an international twist.
But, these all seem fragmented. The best restaurants in Bali were individually popular, attracting (and pleasing) many diners. They were seen as good-quality elements of supporting industry in Bali’s tourism experience, but not as a reason to come to Bali.
Today, that has very much changed. The food industry in Bali has grown in both quality and quantity, developing in breadth and depth. Peruvian cuisine, Japanese-Latino, creative vegan joints, Indonesian fusion, steakhouses, coffee-houses… different cuisines done authentically, and dietary preferences catered to with creativity and innovation. Now every meal of the day — from breakfast to lunch and dinner — is presented with stunning quality. Even the top of the range has broken through the glass ceiling. Fine dining in Bali has reached levels of excellence that are normally found in elite metropolitans, with ingredients and wine lists to match that of London, France, New York, and more.
So, now people are excited to simply eat whilst they’re on the island. A day’s activity determined by the next restaurant or café, rather than the actual activity itself! So, on top of cultural Bali, adventurous Bali, relaxing Bali and natural Bali, culinary Bali can be added to the list.
Best Restaurants in Bali
This has always been a point of contention on the island because food is so subjective and comparing an Indonesian restaurant to an Italian restaurant doesn’t seem fair. Besides, we as diners will change our preferences based on our own moods and tastes at the time.
Often, new venues in Bali are popular and busy when they first open, as people are excited to try something novel. The question then becomes, can they stand the test of time? Will they remain open after the pandemic?
There certainly are venues that stand out due to their consistency, quality, service and creativity. Staple dining destinations that seem to always draw interest — this may be what makes venues the best restaurants in Bali.
So, who continues to stand out? Here are some that come to mind:
|Fine Dining||All-Day Dining and Cafés||Regional Cuisines||Local Cuisine||Vegetarian and Vegan|
|Apéritif Bali||Cascades Bali||Golden Monkey Ubud (Chinese)||Sangsaka||Kynd Community|
|Kayuputi||Milk and Madu||Pica South American Kitchen||Dapur Raja||Zest Ubud|
|Mozaic Bali (update: Mozaic has temporaily closed with no open date).||Pison Cafe||Indigo Canggu (Japanese)||Bali Asli||The Elephant Bali|
|Cuca Bali||Mason Bali||Si Jin (Korean Steakhouse)||Riung Rasa||Manggis in Canggu|
|Locavore||Sundara Bali||Al Diwan (Lebanese)||Kaum Bali||Moksa Ubud|
Fine Dining Culture
Of course, it is the fine dining in Bali that really showcases the highest level of experience on the island. Whilst many restaurants in Bali provide fantastic food and service, it is the fine dining restaurants that must go above and beyond, and thus represent the pinnacle of Bali’s culinary world.
Previously, such exquisite experiences were only found in international-chain hotels and resorts. The likes of Kayuputi at St. Regis Bali Resort or Il Ristorante at Bvlgari Resort Bali were where top-level dining experiences could be found. Of course, the international standards help them take the lead.
However, this has expanded and fine dining in Bali expanded to standalone venues or in independently-owned hotels, helmed by chefs with impressive international experience.
Early innovators were Teatro Gastroteque and Metis in Seminyak, or Mozaic in Ubud; as well as Cascades Restaurant found at Viceroy Bali, now rebranded to become an all-day gourmet dining experience. But Ubud itself certainly became a hub for high-level restaurants, such as Locavore and Blanco Par Mandif, and now, Apéritif Bar and Restaurant.
Whilst there are a handful of fine dining restaurants in Bali, one, in particular, has taken the mantle as the most sophisticated culinary destination on the island, and is certainly one of the best restaurants in Bali. It is not just ‘dinner’, it is an experience.
The restaurant and bar are found within a glorious, colonial-style building, its white exterior standing out from the rice terraces that run towards it and the palm-lined river valley that falls behind it. Inside, a 1920s inspired dining wonderland awaits. One wing is comprised of an expansive dining area, with an open theatre-kitchen; the other wing is a plush, dark-wooded bar that serves top-shelf drinks, cigars, and an atmosphere that asks you to stay all through the night.
The dining concept integrates the long-standing European tradition of enjoying a pre-dinner drink and canapés, before journeying on a degustation menu created by Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken. The menu is comprised of culinary influences from Indonesia’s old Spice Islands, combined with distinctly modern
European flavours. With over 180 of the world’s most exclusive wines, Apéritif boasts the best wine cellar on the island, curated by I Made Yudiana, Restaurant Manager & Sommelier.
The bar, helmed by Head Mixologist Panji Wisrawan, allows you to immerse yourself in the design and concept of a bygone era, like being transported back to 1930s Bali.
What Apéritif has essentially done is elevated the current standing of fine dining in Bali, one that truly calls to the world, saying Bail has a dining destination worth flying over for. This is only further supported by the other great dining destinations around the island, who will impress any gourmand traversing Bali.
Despite the industry as a whole providing fantastic dining experiences, and the top fine dining restaurant proving its quality to diners, even though the pandemic, Bali has never really been officially dubbed a dining destination. What will it require? Will it need the first Michelin Star in Bali to put it on the map? A Gaullt Millau guide, or New York Times food critic?
The fact of the matter is at all levels, from humble suckling pig eateries to the extravagance of fine dining in Bali, the flavors, quality and service are recognized not by some guide or critic, but by every single visitor and resident in Bali. Already, people fly into Bali excited to eat and drink, and that should be the island’s calling card.