Travel: Bali – The Highlights (Where to Eat)

Bali - The Highlights

Bali has often been referred to as a tropical paradise.  To me, it’s always meant an exotic vacation destination where culture and luxury intersect in Southeast Asia.  The expansive hospitality industry in Bali has definitely had its practice over the years as hotels and restaurants all over the island prepare for tourists all year round.

Because Bali is so heavily traveled, it was hard to plan an itinerary off the beaten path so we stuck with the tried and true.  Below are the places we checked out with some tips and reviews from our experience.

1.  Menega Cafe
Jln Four Seasons Hotel, Muaya Beach, Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia

Menega Cafe is just one of the many beachside barbecue seafood joints on Jimbaran Beach near the Four Seasons Hotel.  We chose this one in particular because it looked the busiest, which we felt would mean fresher seafood given the high turnover. However, there are several identical restaurants side by side on this strip.

Here is the storefront of Menega Cafe:

And inside, the BBQ grills….I can’t imagine working in that smoky room for an extended amount of time:

Let me explain how this works, since for us it was a little hectic initially.  First, on your way in, take a look at the fresh seafood and decide what you want but don’t order yet.

This is what it looks like outside at night – a beautiful romantic candlelight setting on the beach.  Okay, so when you are outside you want to find someone that looks like they work there (which is harder than it sounds!) and ask for a table.  After you get your table, grab your table number and go back up and order your food.

Unfortunately the photos of the food didn’t turn out since it’s not well lit on the beach at night, but we ordered clams, jumbo shrimp, grilled squid and a red snapper.  It comes with white rice and some dipping sauces.  Our favorites were the clams and shrimp.

On the beach in front of the restaurant, there are carts with vendors selling freshly grilled corn.  I definitely recommend buying some and trying it with your meal, or while you wait for your meal to arrive.  It was delicious!

Now some more tips and overall impressions:  In hindsight, and what I would recommend to others is to choose a less busy restaurant.  It gets crazy smoky on the beach so I don’t recommend it to anyone who is allergic to smoke, as for me it was often times hard to breathe.  If you do go, sit closer to the water because it’s lower ground but beware that later in the night high tide comes back so don’t put any valuables on the ground.  The service as noted by others on Tripadvisor is definitely terrible.  When you arrive there is confusion as to what you are supposed to do and where you can sit and when you place an order, only to then wonder if it will actually arrive since it takes an abnormal amount of time for something to get done.  If you order a lobster make sure you pick it out or know how much it costs.  They are still expensive.  If you are not staying nearby the Four Seasons, I recommend you prearranging a driver to pick you up for your way home.  This place is on a side street that’s not busy therefore not as easy to hail a cab.  If not, there are taxis hanging around for tourists but just know you will be doing some negotiating on the price.  This is what we did and found that their prices were higher since many taxis there don’t want to use the meter, but the price wasn’t too outrageous.  Menega Cafe and seafood restaurants like it are part of the Bali experience, but definitely know what you’re getting into before you go.

2.  Bebek Bengil (Dirty Duck Diner)
Nusa Dua | The Bay Bali, Nusa Dua Hotel Resort Area BTDC Lotco, Bali 80363 | (0361)8948111 | (other locations in Bali and Jakarta) | http://www.bebekbengil.com

I had very low expectations for this place with the mixed reviews I read online.  But low expectations are good because often times you come out liking your experience as did we with Bebek Bengil.  We ordered modestly though.

We ordered Chicken Sate, Nasi Campur Bali (steamed rice with an assortment of Balinese specialties), Bebek Bengil (the original crispy duck – half a duck steamed in Indonesian spices and deep fried for a crispy finish, served with sauced potatoes, rice and Balinese vegetables.  The sate was nothing special but the Nasi Campur Bali and Bebek Bengil were pretty tasty.  I would recommend skipping the sate and adding another Bebek Bengil crispy duck or just go with a full order.  It was accompanied with 3 sauces, a shallot vinegar sauce, a spicy pepper sauce and a tomato based sauce.

3.  Bumbu Bali
T. Benoa, Bali, Indonesia | +62 361 77 45 02, 77 22 99 | http://www.balifoods.com

This place serves up traditional Balinese food and even has a cooking school to teach you how to make some of their dishes.  It was one of the top places recommended by our hotel concierge.  Because of the popularity of this restaurant there are two locations very near each other: Bumbu 1 and Bumbu 2.  This place books up fast so make sure you make reservations in advance.  We dined at Bumbu 2 for dinner.

To start, let me talk about initial impressions.  The presentation of the food was very pretty and appealing.  The restaurant is outdoors but covered by Balinese style thatch huts to create a very pleasant ambiance.  The restaurant’s service was good and they even have a complementary pick-up and drop-off at your hotel which is a bonus.  Now for the food, I had high expectations with the raving reviews I read online.  I was ready to try true, authentic and traditional Balinese Indonesian food.  I thought it would knock my socks off but unfortunately it didn’t.  It was fine.  It was good.  It wasn’t great.  It was pricey in my opinion.  The ribs were good but not the best I’ve had.  Nothing compared to Naughty Nuri’s (see below).  I wanted to order the suckling pig but was saving myself for Babi Guling in Ubud (see below).  Maybe that was my mistake.  Have I not learned anything in life – always order suckling pig when there is suckling pig on the menu!  But to its defense I haven’t had too much Indonesian/Balinese food in my life to compare this to.  I assume that Indonesian food is flavorful from the various spices but with all do respect, maybe I’m not a fan of Indonesian food after all.  That’s the impression I was left with, or perhaps we didn’t order correctly.  Don’t order what we ordered.  You can go see for yourself, as I would not want to deter you from the +300 people on Tripadvisor and other reviews online who are avid fans.

Pesan Be Pasih – Marinated Diced Fish Grilled in Banana Leaf – Rp.120.000, Balung Panggang – Grilled Pork Ribs with Balinese BBQ Sauce – Rp.90.000, Tempe Sambel Nyuh – Soy Bean Cake in Turmeric Sauce – Rp.60.000

4.  Naughty Nuri’s Warung
Jalan Batubelig, 41 (Kerobokan Kelod, Kuta, Bali) | (62) 0361 847 6722 | www.naughtynurisbali.com

A warung is a street-side food stall or hole-in-the-wall joint in Indonesia.  Naughty Nuri’s is constructed to resemble a warung-style BBQ house.  I’m usually put off by a menu that serves both western dishes such as nachos, burgers and hotdogs along with “authentic” curries but this place I give two panda paws up!  I also love the fun pig decor they had around the place.

We ordered the famous BBQ pork ribs, the Grilled Chicken with homemade spices, potato wedges and what they call “Porn Corn.”  The BBQ ribs seem to have been slow cooked and then finished off on the grill.  They were fall-off-the-bone tender and delicious!  The secret sauce made me lick my fingers.  Honestly, I could have had another order.  I dreamt of them the next few days I was in Bali. The Grilled Chicken was also fantastic.  It was so juicy and had the perfect smokiness from the grill.  I really enjoyed the green dipping sauce that accompanied the chicken.  They wouldn’t share the ingredients with me since their recipe is top secret but I believe it was an avocado-based sauce with parsley and spices.  The potato wedges were crispy but standard.  The corn was sweet and had a nice crunch and I would order it again, but I almost feel like the ones off the street carts are better.  I didn’t order it that evening, but supposedly their super strong martinis are also a specialty.

5.  Babi Guling
Jalan Suweta/Tegal Sari No. 2, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

The anticipation of eating the famous Babi Guling Ibu Oka in Ubud was intense.  There were several locations of this particular restaurant and others like it but I wanted to go to the OG.  My husband and I were pretty serious about going to this place as we planned our whole day around it (no seriously, we really did).  We even hired a driver to take us from Nusa Dua to Ubud to ensure we could make it there without any problems.  I think secretly inside, part of the reason we went to Bali was to eat suckling pig.  Sorry, that sounds a little overly gluttonous.  I’m going to go run on a treadmill…be right back.  Anyways, we arrived a little early since we heard about the wait and thanks to our amazing planning were seated right away.

Here it is in all its greatness.  I really wanted to order an extra side of pork skin but they said they didn’t have enough that day.  Sad face.  How?!?  Why?!?

We ordered some fresh coconut water.  I love coconut water in tropical settings…always so refreshing.

Ok, let’s be real again.  This place was good but I am soooo super-duper sad and sorry to say….a little overrated.  Maybe I was too excited about it and got our hopes too high.  Don’t do that to yourself.  Definitely go check it out as it’s a Bali institution and Anthony Bourdain even said it’s the best pork skin he’s ever had.

6.  Potato Head Beach Club – LILIN
Jln. Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali 80361, Indonesia | t. +62 (361) 473 7979 | e. reservation@ptthead.com

I liked this place so much I decided it needed its own post.  Check it out here!

In summary, our trip to Bali was relaxing and enjoyable.  We had sunny skies during the time we were there, everyone we encountered was really friendly and all the plans we made were smooth sailing, which is more than we could ask for during a vacation.  Besides eating, one of our most favorite excursions was the Bali Eco Cycling tour through the countryside.  It was such a stunning landscape and interesting experience and I recommend it for anyone visiting the area.  And before you start thinking I’m a fitness fanatic, let me just say it was all down hill, almost never heavy pedaling and you’re actually cycling straight towards the all-you-can-eat Balinese buffet at the end of the course (my kind of workout 🙂 ).  Actually I might add, that this was one of the best meals we had in Bali (I wish I had photos to show).  Be sure to visit Bali if you haven’t been before, and I’d love to hear the highlights from your own Balinese food adventures!

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One comment

  1. Pingback: Travel: Bali – Potato Head Beach Club | the hungriest panda

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