If you think Bali is known for just its sun and surf, you are in for a pleasant surprise. After all, this is the island of the gods—and the gods sure know a thing or two about epicurean pleasures.
We bring you some of the best the island has to offer, from masterfully prepared local cuisine to world-class international fare.
Step into Motel Mexicola and you enter another world. Eclectic and bold, its decor a riot of colours, patterns, and textures. It’s hard to believe that such a place exists in Bali. Then again, one should always keep an open mind in Bali.
If the wide array of tostadas, empanadas, quesadillas, tacos, and salads has left you undecided, go for the Feed Me menu—a tantalising five-course spread with a selection of esquittes, tostadas, tacos, ceviche, and a few of the mains. The best way to enjoy this mouthwatering feast is to share, although it’s perfectly understandable if you’re tempted not to.
Standouts include the all-time favourite guacamole, served with homemade corn chips, and the very refreshing ceviche de coco, with generous cuts of tuna sashimi served alongside young coconut, ginger, cucumber, avocado, and lime. The burst of flavours is as surprising as the decor of Motel Mexicola itself. You’ll also do well to leave room for the jaiba suave, a soft shell crab taco with mango, chilli salsa, and chipotle mayo, and the pescado frito, succulent barramundi fillets paired with a lovely coriander mayo. Whatever your choice, the presentation is always colourful, a total feast for the senses.
Naturally, the only thing left to do is to order a round, or two, of tequila to wash down all the Mexican goodness. Sit back, relax, and lose yourself in the enchanting Motel Mexicola.
Jl. Kayujati 9X Petitenget, Seminyak, Bali
Tel +62 361 736 688
Opening hours: 11am to 1am daily
Canggu, just 15 kilometres north of Hard Rock Hotel Bali, is the latest go-to enclave, filled with trendy, casual cafes and bars. One of the most artsy of which is La Laguna, a gorgeous beachside getaway perfect for catching the romantic Balinese sunset.
The vibe is tropical and inviting, relaxed and idyllic. The entrance is lined with vibrant vintage gypsy caravans, and the setting punctuated with oversized cushions and quirky wooden furniture. In this modern-day Eden by the water, there is not a care in the world. You are completely, and blissfully, immersed in the surroundings, bewitched by the sky painting
itself in mesmerising hues of orange, red, and crimson.
The perfect accompaniment to watch the sun dip into the horizon is one of La Laguna’s many signature cocktails. Whether your choice of drink is the White River (a tropical concoction of banana, vodka, banana liquor, Baileys, and vanilla syrup), the La Favela Breeze (dragon fruit, vodka, peach liquor, lime juice, and sugar syrup), or the Herb & Spiced (a fiery infusion of lemongrass, vodka, big red chilli, basil leaf, lime juice, and sugar syrup), there’s no better way to end the day, or begin the night, in the balmy island paradise of Bali.
Warung Men Rida Biku
Jl. Pantai Kayu Putih, Berawam Canggu, Bali
Tel +62 812 3638 2272
Opening hours: 11am to 11pm daily
Biku is a tea lounge, restaurant, antiques store and bookstore. Yet the name Biku is an old Indonesian term for a Chinese monk. The name of this quaint, cosy venue was inspired by the building’s past as an antique store, and an ancient wood-carving of a Chinese monk is still preserved and worshipped today with tea and sweets to keep him appeased.
As for customers returning time and again to this restaurant, it is not hard to see what keeps them satisfied. Aside from tropical comfort food such as nasi campur a’la Biku (a Balinese rijsttafel served with rice, vegetables, shredded spicy chicken, spicy egg, beef rendang, satay chicken, tofu, and tempe) and pepes ikan laut (fresh fish with Balinese spices grilled in banana leaf), Biku also serves up western favourites such as the Biku deluxe burger and succulent steak sandwiches. The ingredients are mostly locally sourced too, ensuring the freshness and quality of the food.
The highlight though, at Biku, is their superbly curated selection of over 40 blends of tea, carefully and expertly sourced by Tjok Gde Kerthyasa and Tjok Bagus Kerthyasa, Biku’s very own tea masters. Go for the Danu Tamblingan Balinese tea, made by Biku from seed to cup. The tea is grown at a high elevation, resulting in a flavour that is complex, smokey, and a little nutty—simply perfect with Biku’s delicately home-baked lime pistachio cake.
Jl. Petitenget No.888, Seminyak, Kuta Utara, Bali
Tel +62 851-0057-0888
Opening hours: 8am to 11pm daily
Warung Men Rida
For a taste of real Bali, and a chance to mingle with the locals, head to the island’s many warungs, humble little shops serving home-cooked fare. We recommend Warung Men Rida, a 45 year-old establishment which
happens to be run by Luh Ayu Anggreni, the wife of Hard Rock Hotel Bali’s executive sous chef Pak Putra.
Now, to be able to please the palate of her chef husband, that certainly says a lot about Luh Ayu Anggreni’s culinary chops. Warung Men Rida serves nasi campur, or mixed rice. More specifically, fragrant white rice topped with a variety of dishes. On the morning we went, we were treated to grated coconut salad, mixed bean sprouts and long beans (sayur campur), hard-boiled egg, young papaya slow-cooked over a wood fire for over
12 hours, and fried chicken flavoured by ginger, turmeric, galangal, shrimp paste, coconut, and salam leaf. All this, served on white rice, paired superbly with a light but intoxicating sambal. Every bite beckoned the next, every mouthful a layered interplay of different tastes and textures.
Immensely popular with locals, Warung Men Rida typically sells out by 10am. When we looked surprised at how the Balinese people are used to such a hearty breakfast, Pak Putra wisely pointed out, “It’s Bali. We eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner”. With food like this, we sure could get used to the idea ourselves.
Jalan Raya Tohpati
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia 80582
The menu here reads: Kayun, heart-touching life. And this is exactly what Kayun serves up. Meaning ‘heart’, Kayun exemplifies the art and spirit of Balinese cuisine and hospitality. Here, the philosophy is to harvest the best of the land and present it to the people through food. To this end, the ingredients used are always in tune with the season, and sustainably and organically sourced.
Chef Dewa, the head chef at Kayun, explains that the heart of Balinese cuisine lies in the use of spices, as many as 18 of them, including galangal, ginger, turmeric, shallots, garlic, chillies, lemongrass, and shrimp paste. The spices are grounded into a paste known as basa gede, which is then used to flavour different meats and dishes.
A must-try at Kayun is the award-winning chicken betutu—a mouth-watering delicacy of stewed local chicken marinated with basa gede, and served with leek, star fruit, and lime leaf on rice. The flavours are complex, the beautifully charred coating of basa gede adding lingering hints of lemongrass, turmeric, and ginger. Paired with nasi, or rice, the taste is sublime, balanced, and never overpowering. This is truly Balinese cooking at its most harmonious
Jl. Raya Mas No.47, MAS, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali
Tel +62 361 2180708
Opening hours: 10am to 9pm daily
Warung Jepang AngKaSa
Tucked along a quiet lane away from the main tourist thoroughfare of Jalan Monkey Forest is Warung Jepang AngKaSa, or Cafe AngKaSa.
The cafe was set up by a Japanese owner and his Balinese wife some 19 years ago, and the decor reflects a sense of zen and calm that is typical of both cultures.
The inspired menu is a smorgasbord of Japanese delights, such as the simple but elegantly prepared mentaiko daikon salad, a medley of fresh sashimi and sushi, as well as Japanese curry and ramen. What got us hooked though, was the spaghetti mentaiko, pasta cooked al dente and coated just so lightly with cod roe Japanese sauce.
The coffee here is also specially blended, with green coffee beans grown and harvested from Kintamani, a highland area north of east Bali. The beans are freshly grounded and drip brewed, resulting in a rich aroma and a deep body. Try the cold version that is poured over iced coffee cubes.
The second floor of the cafe is particularly serene. Book in hand, with a cup of beautifully prepared coffee and the gentle breeze blowing across the open space, all you need is to find a perfect spot to watch the world go by.
Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali
Tel +62 361 978 257
Opening hours: 11am to 11pm daily
cod roe Japanese sauce.
Trendy restaurants, cafes, and shops specialising in jam, ceramics, and aromatherapy line a narrow little street in Ubud known as Jalan Dewi Sita. It’s not difficult to spend an afternoon here just wandering around, soaking in the languid, relaxed atmosphere of Ubud. And while you’re there, don’t forget to make a stop at Balistar Coffee. Simply follow your nose—for right outside its entrance is a coffee roaster, perfuming the air with the rich, nutty aroma of freshly roasted beans.
While coffee is not indigenous to Indonesia, having been introduced to the archipelago by way of Yemen then India, Indonesia is today the fourth largest producer of coffee in the world. The regions of Sulawesi and Sumatra are especially renowned for producing exceptional beans, and in Bali itself, the highlands of Kintamani serve up some very special beans as well, nurtured by rich volcanic soil and a pleasant climate.
Balistar Coffee serves mainly four types of coffee. Organic Bali Arabica (mildly acidic), Toraja (mellow, spiced, and sweet), Mandheling (earthy, intense, and aromatic) and Luwak coffee, known famously for being the most expensive coffee in the world. A cup of Luwak coffee, or kopi luwak, costs about US$8 at Balistar Coffee, and is well worth a try for its smooth, earthy, and nuanced bitter aftertaste.
Jl. Dewi Sita Ubud Gianyar, Bali
Tel +62 896 7118 8648
Opening hours: 10am to 7pm daily
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