Over the last decade, the Seminyak area of southern Bali has emerged as an epicenter of fine dining in Southeast Asia. It’s a place where great chefs come from across the world to have the freedom to experiment and refine some of their most exciting dining concepts, and where people who truly love to eat basically just sit back with wide-eyes and wait for what comes next. And there seems to always be something coming next, as every year the bar keeps getting raised a little higher and newer and bolder ideas arrive and set-up shop.
And why not? Bali is a place of adventure and escape from the boring and the already-tried. Sure, you can go have a Michelin-starred meal in Tokyo or Hong Kong, but can you go surfing afterward? You cannot.
Here’s a look at five of the restaurants that are turning southern Bali into a destination for the traveling gastronome with a taste for good food and high living. Please note that we’re saying ‘five of’ and not ‘the five best’ or ‘our five favorite'; this is Bali, and this more particularly is Seminyak, where trying to pick your five favorite anything is pretty much impossible.
Chef Chris Salans’ Mozaic in Ubud is the kind of place where people use the word ‘sublime’ and ‘an epiphany’ to describe the tasting
menu; you go there because you planned to go there for the last three months. Mozaic Beach Club is a little more laid back. Mozaic co-owner James Ephraim has created a space where the food lives up to the legendary standards of the mothership, but in a setting that’s says ‘Hey, you’re on a beach. Stop, enjoy, eat this.’
Anyone who makes it their business to know about the Fine Art of Eating Things That Are Delicious is already quite aware that when Australian chef Luke Mangan opens a new restaurant, all of Asia is going to take notice. What makes Salt Tapas a departure is the artisanal, Aussie-influenced menu. Mangan is well known for being an evangelist for the quality of Australian cheeses, seafood, and produce, and these form a heady mix with the light and flavorful tapas menu on offer.
Some people might question what a coffee shop is doing on a list filled with temples of haute cuisine. Have the baristas at Revolver pull you a double shot of espresso and understand that coffee can be a divine moment of unrelenting joy. Bali has a few specialty coffee shops — we’ll get to all of them, eventually! — but Revolver is the Ur-text of Third Wave on the island.
There’s a siren song that seems to bring the most unique personalities to Bali; people who march decidedly and gloriously to their own beat. Christian Vanneque, the creator of Sip, is one of those people. Vanneque is one of France’s most respected sommeliers, a man who has presided over the wine cellars of some of the most hallowed restaurants in Paris, the man who helped put Californian vineyards on the map. He’s been in Bali since 2001, and Sip is a testament to a rare vintage of a career.
There was an amazing culture of Balinese cuisine a thousand years before there was ever a tourist in Bali, and there would still be an amazing culture of Balinese cuisine if every tourist dollar left the island tomorrow. Calling Made’s Warung the best is nonsense; no sane person would declare a ‘best warung in Bali’. Made’s is simply the story of a restaurant that serves soulful food, day-in-day-out, to packed tables. Lines of diners don’t lie, the food is just that good.
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