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Comfort Food from the Heart

It was not easy, but we have found the best pho in Bali. This elusive classic Vietnamese beef noodle soup is a signature of Bo & Bun, a new Asian eatery specializing in Vietnamese comfort food and Southeast Asian cuisines, well-worth the parking hassle on the busiest street of Seminyak.

Co-founded in September 2014 by Balinese beauty queen Ines Putri Tjiptadi Chandra (formerly crowned Miss Indonesia 2012) and her partner, Bo & Bun is a full-blown love-in-action: the love of eating, the love of cooking, the love of experimenting and the love between two beautiful young talents. As they took us on a narrative journey through how they fell in love with Vietnamese cuisine in Australia, it became clear that food is at the very heart of their cultures and that cooking and eating are their shared passions.

“Our menu is small, only 20 to 25 dishes. We are not trying to be authentic because we are not. These are foods that we like to cook and eat ourselves,” Ines readily admitted. “This restaurant is built for locals living in Seminyak; it’s not a tourist trap. We want them to come here regularly for their weekday meals.” A brief scan around the French-inspired interior confirmed that they were right on target. Bo & Bun has become the talk of the expat town and attracted a steady local following.

Reading the menu left us licking our lips in anticipation. Stimulate your appetite with a nice cup of iced Vietnamese drip coffee while you wait. To start with, take your taste buds on a trip to Vietnam, China, South Korea and Thailand all in one course. The “Try Everything!” is made-to-share and includes half portions of the best-selling Bao Gao Pork Belly (twice-cooked pork belly marinated in hoisin sauce and sandwiched between steamed buns), the Pandan Chicken (Thai boneless chicken wings wrapped and fried in pandan leaves), the crispy Vietnamese spring rolls, the fresh Vietnamese rice paper rolls and the spicy Korean fried chicken wings—all served with three assortments of house-made sauces.

The secret to Bo & Bun’s signature “12-Hour Pho” main dish lies entirely in the broth. A combination of quality beef bones, oxtails and bone marrows are slow-cooked for 12 hours until all the juices are extracted, leaving behind a rich, hearty soup base. At Bo & Bun, they take it a step further by keeping the stock intense and limiting the yield, never once diluting it. The aptly named pho is served piping hot with rice noodles, thinly sliced tenderloin, meatballs, beef shanks, sliced onions and coriander stems with a side of fresh bean sprouts, Thai basil, chilli and lime.

If you crave a light main, try the Bun Bao Xao, a true Vietnamese salad consisting of a choice of lemongrass marinated protein (pork, chicken or tofu) glass noodles, pickled carrots and jicama, fresh vegetables and herbs, fried shallots, peanuts and Vietnamese spring rolls served with nuoc cham dressing.

For a quick bite on the run, try the Banh Mi Thit, which is essentially a French-inspired Vietnamese baguette of lemongrass chicken or pork, pickled carrots and jicama, cucumber, pate, mayonnaise, coriander, sliced chilli and fried wonton skins. A vegetarian option is available as well.

Other notable mains, which we will return to sample, are the lemongrass marinated and grilled pork chop with broken rice, and authentic Thai dishes such as the Thai green curry and pad Thai.

The owners of Bo & Bun have chosen to focus on the art of making good, simple, fresh food, respecting the original flavours of Vietnam and Southeast Asia, yet they are not afraid to challenge them and inject their own innovative touches. With its simple concept, honest-to-goodness comfort fare, friendly service and cosy ambience, this hole-in-the-wall is a new force to be reckoned with!

Bo & Bun
Jalan Raya Basangkasa No. 26, Seminyak
Bali, 80361, Indonesia
T: (+62) 859 3549 3484
E: boandbun@eatcompany.co
www.eatcompany.co

Notes:
This article was first published in Asia Dreams, March-April 2015.
Photos courtesy of Bo & Bun. 

March of the Peruvian

In recent years, the Nuevo Latino culinary movement has taken the gastronomy world by storm. Ubud’s hot newcomer, PICA South American Kitchen, is positioning itself as the undisputed destination for this nouvelle gourmet cuisine worthy of a trip to the cultural heartland of Bali.

Scoot over tacos and tortillas. Rest in peace, ”Eat, Pray, Love”. Ubud is revved up and ready for an irresistible jolt of Latin American flamboyance and vigour. In a town where conscious eating rules, with the incessant mushrooming of raw food cafés, juice bars and organic shops, PICA South American Kitchen’s arrival on Jalan Dewi Sita is much-welcomed.

PICA’s menu is predominantly Peruvian, the original fusion cuisine that has become an unstoppable global phenomenon since 2011, perched high up on the gastronomic pedestal thanks to the relentless endorsement of acclaimed chefs the calibre of Ferran Adrià, Gastón Acurio, Alain Ducasse and Nobu Matsuhisa.

A project of love conceived by a spirited couple, chef-owner Cristian Encina and co-owner Monica Fernandez, this inconspicuous hole-in-the-wall is small but never cramped, its vibe laid-back and relaxed. At PICA, the line of responsibility is distinctively drawn: Encina reigns in the open kitchen, while Monica manages front of house operations—a winning formula that has earned them a cult following. The design is simplistic and clean yet not an afterthought, staying clear of kitsch and clichés, while retaining a warm, convivial ambiance where South American swagger is balanced with Balinese sensibility.

Hailing from Santiago, Chile, with years of culinary experience in fine dining restaurants across Chile, New Zealand and Australia, Encina’s unfettered enthusiasm led him to experiment with a kaleidoscope of Latin American flavours, cultures and spices—a bit of Brazilian, Chilean and Argentinian, with a special place on the menu for Peruvian dishes. The thoughtfully curated wine list is limited but elegant, with an emphasis on new world wines from South America, Australia and New Zealand.

“South American food is different from country to country, of course, but when you look beyond its differences, it is fresh, somehow simple and complex, and all the time intriguing. It’s very exciting for me to explore and re-interpret the rich diversity of South American cuisine,” said the Chilean-born chef.

Embrace the Latin way of celebratory dining by sharing plates with friends, tasting your way through South America. Expect artful arrangement without the pretentiousness. Start with the invigorating ceviche Nikkei, a subtle Japanese take on the Peruvian classic of raw mahi-mahi, red onion, coriander, tamarillo dressing and leche de tigre (”tiger’s milk” consisting of a lemon marinade used to cure raw seafood). The causa del mar is a colourful Peruvian potato cake starter served cold with a trio of octopus, prawn and mahi-mahi escabeche (citrus-marinated) topped with criolla sauce.

Still on Peruvian turf, the pulpo al olivo and the picante de pescade y camarones are two delightful mains that have us coming back time and again. The former is a succulent, flavourful octopus main, lovingly prepared through a lengthy, tenderizing process and presented with a simple quinoa salad and olive sauce. The latter is a stunning duo of crispy-skinned, perfectly moist white fish and delicately breaded and fried prawns on a creamy picante sauce with sweet green peas, a dollop of fresh cheese, black olives, a quail’s egg and a side of rice and corn.

PICA regulars rave about the pancita de lechon (a pork belly dish with roasted vegetables, sweet potatoes, green apple puree and date sauce) and the smoky bife ancho (300g of top-grade Australian Angus rib-eye served with chimichurri, beef jus and a seasonal side), claimed by some as the best pork belly and steak in Ubud. Personally, I love the understated simplicity of the pastel de choclo, a harmoniously balanced stew of sweet corn puree baked with savoury mushrooms and criolla.

Between the two desserts on offer, the leche asada (Chilean crème caramel) and the tres leches (Peruvian ”three milks” cake), I prefer the latter—a chilled Genoise sponge cake soaked for at least three hours in three forms of milk (evaporated, condensed and cream), infused with fragrant spices of vanilla, cinnamon and cloves, and enlivened with a hint of tangy passion fruit.

Chef Cristian Encina has perfected the art of reinventing Latin American food at PICA, heating up the neighbourhood with his gutsy, uninhibited, authentic flavours, bringing in a fresh, contemporary twist whilst honouring timeless traditions.

PICA South American Kitchen
E: welcome@picakitchen.co
www.facebook.com/picasouthamericankitchen

Notes:
This article was first published in Exquisite Taste, February-April 2015.
Photos courtesy of PICA South American Kitchen.

Love Notes from Bali

All year round, Bali smells of incense and offerings, flowers and spices, coffee and tobacco, as well as scooter exhaust, trash burning, rice straw smoke and wet earth. It’s a part of my everyday life, and it’s distinctly Bali.

This year marks my 10th anniversary of living in Bali. The island has witnessed my heartbreaks and healings, empathised with my failures and frustrations, and given me love, confidence and a sense of identity. We have a strong bond, and I would like to pay homage to Bali and celebrate our decade-long relationship. The question is: How do I capture my love affair with Bali?

Along came Nora Gasparini, a stunning Martinique native and passionate founder of L’Atelier Parfums et Créations at The Ritz-Carlton, Bali in Nusa Dua. During a visit to Bali, the perfume connoisseur fell in love with the island and its wondrous scents, so she decided to stay and explore her obsession with perfumery and Indonesia through the establishment of her perfume studio in 2010.

Scents of Self

At L’Atelier Parfums et Créations, customers from all over the world come to create their own scents and learn about the raw materials of Indonesia. It’s a brilliant idea as people are constantly looking for creative ways to express themselves. I have always been scent conscious and the thought of encapsulating my memories of Bali in a perfume bottle excites me.

Photo courtesy of Fabio Lorenzo.

Stepping into L’Atelier Parfums et Créations, I was warmly greeted by Nora and her friendly team who then led to my workstation for the 90-minute perfume creation workshop. Nora is the epitome of a sophisticated modern woman with her timeless beauty, effortless elegance and entrepreneurial spirit.

“This is the workplace of a perfumer at a much smaller scale. Inside, you will find all the notes that we like to work with,” she began. “There are three sets of notes in a perfume; top notes, middle notes and base notes. These are the layers that a perfume has to have for a harmonious scent.”

Photo courtesy of L’Atelier Parfums et Créations.

The workstations consist of large teakwood tables paired with Phillippe Starck-inspired Louis Ghost armchairs, each personalised with the studio’s logo. The space is contemporary: modern innovation combined with history and traditions with a touch of whimsy. Little amber glass vials of essential oils were neatly arranged on narrow white shelves.

“The top notes are the first scents that hit your nose sharply when you apply the perfume. They have lighter molecules, which evaporate within 15 minutes. These opening notes give freshness to the perfume and seduce people to buy it. Usually, we use citruses, sea breeze and all the delicate scents,” Nora elaborated.

Photo courtesy of Fabio Lorenzo.

“The middle notes are the main body of the perfume with average intensity and longevity. This is where you find pleasant smells like flowers and spices. The base notes are the dry down of the perfume. They are low in intensity but high in longevity—the longest being benzoin, which comes from tree sap. It can last on your skin for up to four days if you don’t take a shower!” she laughed.

Scent of a Woman

There was a short questionnaire for me to fill in before I began. “This is to help me get an idea of the type of perfume that suits you,” she said. “Name one of your favourite perfumes”, read the first question. “Eternity,” I muttered under my breath.

A flood of vivid memories came rushing in and transported me back to the ‘80s. Sitting on my parents’ bed, I would watch my mother get ready for a romantic night out. She would dress to the nines but wear no makeup, except lipstick. For the final touch, she would spray on her signature fragrance, “Eternity” by Calvin Klein, a gift from my father. The luxurious scent would linger, comforting my siblings and me long after she and my father left the house.

Photo courtesy of Lorri Lang.

Photo courtesy of Lorri Lang.

A few years later, she gave me my first perfume, “Eternity”, to mark my teenhood. I wore the elegant scent into my early twenties, carrying her with me with each precious spritz as I moved from Indonesia to Singapore, Canada and back.

Is “Eternity” one of my favourite perfumes? It certainly evokes a wistful nostalgia for my childhood. French writer Marcel Proust called it “odour-evoked autobiographical memory” or the Proust phenomenon, where the act of dipping his madeleine cookie into a cup of tea had unlocked his forgotten childhood memories.

Photo courtesy of Kathrin Pienaar.

Photo courtesy of Kathrin Pienaar.

Upon completing the mini personality test, Nora tallied my score and categorised me as “Zen” and “Mysterious”. “Zen is soft, citrusy and aquatic, like the smell of the sea. Mysterious is the complete opposite. It is woody, resinous and intense. You’ll have to find the balance between the two,” she smiled. An astrologer once told me that my life goal is “to seek absolute freedom and total security”. I’m sensing a pattern here.

“I don’t have a passion for perfume,” Nora claimed. “I have a passion for scents. My husband has a better sense of smell but I am better at blending and training.” Based on the two categories, Nora guided me through the art of perfumery and some of the 44 fragrance notes—a combination of natural and synthetic aromatics, 80 percent of which are sourced in Indonesia.

Photo courtesy of Fabio Lorenzo.

Scents and Sensibility

I wanted my ode-to-Bali perfume to include strong notes of frangipani, champaka and jasmine—Bali’s ubiquitous flowers. During the following hour and a half, I carefully smelled, squeezed and selected the notes, adding and subtracting numbers and creating various combinations that would lead to three different perfume testers. The possibilities are infinite. I could do this all day!

Photo courtesy of Diverse Pixel.

“The first tester is a warm-up to see how all the aromatic components blend together. The final smell is already there but the molecules are fighting with each other, so the smell has not yet settled,” explained Nora as she gently dabbed some on the scent strips and on our forearms. It was too powdery for me; I couldn’t detect the flower notes.

For the second tester, eau de toilette, Nora recommended reducing the notes I wasn’t so fond of, like aldehydes, and increasing the ones I loved, highlighting fresher ones such as aquatic, lemon, frangipani and lotus. I was pleased with the blend: floral, sweet and delicate.

Photo courtesy of Seksak Kerdkanno.

The final vial was for the eau de parfum, which emphasised heavier base notes such as white musk and fougère. White musk is a synthetic aromatic created to ethically replace the original musk, a pungent odour derived from a rectal gland of the endangered Himalayan male musk deer. It certainly did not smell like my Bali.

A Moment in Time

It was decided—the standout formula was the eau de toilette. The last step was naming my new 30 ml baby. “A Moment in Time” resonated with me—a fragrance of my endearing romance with Bali. It opens with fresh lemon, oceanic breeze and dreamy lavender as top notes, unleashes a sweet floral aroma encompassing frangipani, champaka and jasmine, and slowly releases a deep rhythm of herbaceous fougère and clean white musk.

Photo courtesy of Mopfi.

“Now, you have to wait around three weeks before you can use your perfume. This is to ensure that the maceration process is complete and the scents and essences are of the highest quality,” Nora stated as she presented my very first signature perfume, “A Moment in Time”, dedicated to my Bali with love.


L’Atelier Parfums et Créations

The Ritz-Carlton, Bali
Jl. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan Lot#3
Sawangan, Nusa Dua, Bali
Tel:  +62 361 849 8988 ext. 3941
info@parfumsetcreations.com
www.perfumeworkshops.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — February 2017.
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.

Ricotta Dumplings at Copper Kitchen & Bar

Melbourne-born Chef Duncan McCance, Executive Chef at Copper Kitchen & Bar, BismaEight Ubud, shares his ricotta dumpling recipe for your guilty pleasure.

Recipe: Ricotta dumplings, cardamom parfait & pistachio
Serves 6

Main ingredients:

Ricotta dumplings
350g ricotta, plus 120g to finish
60g Caprino goat’s cheese or other soft goat’s cheese
3 eggs
4 tbsp milk
1 ½ tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
grated zest of 1 orange
160g plain flour, plus a bit more
1 ½ tsp baking powder
50g caster sugar
700 ml sunflower oil for frying
4 tbsp honey, warmed slightly for drizzling
2 tbsp icing sugar for dusting
cinnamon
salt

Orange syrup
1 orange
100 gr caster sugar

Method:
Beat 350g of ricotta with the goat’s cheese and eggs until fairly smooth. Whisk in the milk, mint and orange zest and set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and ¼ tsp salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a batter, adding more flour if necessary, until you reach a dropping consistency. Set aside for 10 mins to rest.

Heat a small heavy-based saucepan with enough sunflower oil so it rises approximately 4 cm up the side of the pan. When the oil is medium-hot (180°C), gently drop heaped teaspoons of the batter into the oil and cook for 3 to 4 mins, turning occasionally until golden-brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Continue with the remaining batter.

Pile the fritters on individual plates and drizzle with warmed honey or cinnamon sugar.

Optional: Serve dumplings with cardamom parfait and pistachio

Copper Kitchen & Bar
Bisma Eight
Jl. Bisma, Ubud, Bali
T: (+62) 361 479 2888
http://www.copperubud.com

Notes:
Read my gastronomic experience at Copper Kitchen & Bar: But First, Brunch.
This article was published in Foodies — May 2016

Photo courtesy of Copper Kitchen & Bar.

That’s the Spirit!

I’m no stranger to risk-taking—I have skydived from 4,000 metres high and gone bungee jumping. I frequently dive with sharks, and I even fell in love and got married. When adventure beckons, I brace myself, gear up and get going. Nevertheless, the concept of canyoning or canyoneering was foreign and a little bit scary for me.

Canyoning is an adventure sport that is rapidly gaining popularity worldwide. It involves the uncharted territory of specialised equipment, brain-boggling technicalities and challenging courses. But at the same time it is also a combination of fun and thrilling outdoor activities such as trekking, scrambling, sliding, rappelling, jumping and swimming, and it often takes place in remote and rugged natural settings. I was sold.


Ready to Go!

It was no ordinary Sunday morning. My husband and I were deep in the heart of wilderness, beneath the rainforest canopy of Git Git in northern Bali. We were already suited up in our canyoning necessities: five-millimetre wetsuits, helmets, rubber boots, a climbing harness with carabiners and a Pirana descender for rappelling as well as an unflattering butt cushion for water sliding.

Joined by two other couples, our guide named Angga, his assistant Oka, and Adventure and Spirit’s (Bali’s pioneering canyoning operator) photographer Imin, we explored Kalimudah, the novice’s easy half of the action-packed Kerenkali Canyoning Adventure program. It was a spot in Bali like we’ve never seen before.

The Wild, Wild, Wet

Undeterred by the impending rain we trekked down a scenic trail of forested hilltops amidst coffee and clove plantations, clambering over rocks and ridges and sliding down water-polished chutes into surprisingly chilly pools. So far, so good—until Angga started to set up the lines for our first rappel and showed us the ropes (excuse the pun).

Rappelling or abseiling is the act of descending from a vertical drop in a safe and controlled way by mastering the craft of the knot. The techniques were simple, yet I was nervous. Oka was already at the bottom, holding the (emergency brake) lines, just in case.

It was my turn to go. “Lean back and keep your feet flat against the wall,” Angga instructed. I took a deep breath, positioned my hands on the ropes and my legs shoulder width apart at right angles to the rock and descended gradually, a little steadier and faster with each step while maintaining my focus and control. To my surprise, I did it! I made it down in one piece, albeit with minor scratches. It was a strange sensation: a mix of pride and awe, much like when I took my first underwater breath while scuba diving.


Taking the Plunge

Pumped up with adrenaline and newfound confidence we moved swiftly, completing a cool sequence of jumping, rappelling and zip lining down the volcanic gorges in relative ease.

“Rule number one of cliff jumping: don’t change your mind,” said Angga, a confident, athletic young man with a sparkling personality and an infectious enthusiasm. “Jumping is optional; there is no pressure. But once you’ve decided to jump, stop over-thinking and just do it! The risk is in the hesitation,” he added. He obviously loves his job and is well versed in the art of empathy and the psychology of motivation.

Placing his left foot forward on the edge of the four-metre cliff and his right foot firmly back, he continued, “When you’re ready, push off with your front leg and jump out as far as you can. Before landing in the water, keep your arms in and your knees slightly bent.”

As if on cue, Oka stepped into the jump position and leapt, striking a cheeky mid-air pose for the camera before plunging feet first into the waterhole. Within seconds he surfaced and signalled ‘OK’ to us. Easy breezy!

 

When we arrived at the top of a 15-metre waterfall, our last abseiling challenge before the break, the tropical rain showers had turned into a torrential downpour. Channelling my inner Lara Croft, I braved the waterfall and planted my feet on the slippery rock.

For a minute I was caught off guard by the sheer force of the raging white water pounding me relentlessly. But there was no turning back and absolutely no looking up. My helmet came in handy in protecting my head and providing a breathing pocket under the waterfall as I rappelled down safely.

 

Sadly, due to the prolonged downpour with a possibility of dangerous flash floods, Angga made the unpopular call to end our journey and give Kerenkali a miss, as safety always comes first at Adventure and Spirit. We nursed our wet, disappointed selves with energy bars and sweet tea in a natural hot spring by the waterfall before reluctantly returning to civilization.

Reaching New Limits

In 2008, seasoned French canyoneer Michael Denissot (Mika) and his nature-loving Indonesian business partner Robin Endro introduced canyoning to Bali and Indonesia. It took them three years to get the business up and running, and now they are the undisputed experts in leading canyoning tours of all levels into the sublime landscapes of Bali.

Mika went a step further and initiated the International Canyoning Organization for Professionals (ICOpro) in 2011, which becomes the world’s first organization that offer professional canyoning training, standardization and certification.

When asked what one should prepare for canyoning, Mika replied, “Bring your courage, smile and trust. The only question you should be asking yourself is: ‘Do you want to do it?’” One will never know one’s powers until one unlocks the fear. “When our guests arrive at the end of the waterfall, many of them feel like they have won something,” shared Robin. “They have conquered their fear,” he smiled.

And so have I. I went home from canyoning feeling enriched, humbled and exhilarated. This experience has extended my physical and mental limits, inspired my spirited sense of adventure and deepened my respect for nature, especially the personal nature of my heart, mind and body.

In a team extreme sports environment such as canyoning, we cannot help but bare our souls for others to see. Angga said it best, “In nature, we are a team. There is no boss or customer. We support and help each other along the way. We are equals.” And that’s the spirit in canyoning… and in life!

PT. Adventure and Spirit
Mas, Ubud, Bali
Tel:  +62 361 971 288
www.adventureandspirit.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — November 2016.
Photos and videos courtesy of Adventure & Spirit.

But First, Brunch

Brunch—an indulgent and sociable meal inextricably tied with last night’s debauchery—is a dirty, dirty word in Ubud. The once quaint hometown of Bali’s artists and craftsmen has transformed into a holistic healing hotspot inundated with a parade of cold-press-juicing, kale-munching dietary tribe and sun-saluting limbersexuals seeking spirituality with their spirulina and clarity with their chia.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Plant-based restaurants and clean-eating cafés are sprouting up faster than the mould on my walls. One can’t swing one’s eco-friendly cloth bag without knocking over five raw food chefs or yoga teachers. It’s easier to find a colon whisperer (I kid you not) than a cool brunch spot in this town.

Fortunately, a new wave of restaurants in Ubud is stirring things up and reviving the art of brunch and the joy of daytime drinking with hangover dishes that are earth conscious and body friendly. Let’s clink our glasses to my top picks for Ubud’s best brunches!

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

glow

“My number one brunch place is glow for the fresh food and the relaxing atmosphere.” –Eva Natasa, Industrial Designer

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

A long-running smash hit among late risers, glow at the award-winning COMO Shambhala Estate Bali offers the best bottomless Sunday brunch deal. The healthy à la carte Mediterranean-inspired menu is curated to satisfy the fussiest retreat queens and health honchos, boasting homegrown organic ingredients, freshly caught seafood and the finest imported meats.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Nurse your hangover with an invigorating chilled soup of tamarind and young coconut, followed by “lean and clean green”, a detoxifying green juice that delivers nutritious goodness straight into your system. Start with the avocado and fresh soya bean dip with seaweed salsa and chia seed crisps.

The spelt-flour pide is a scrumptious Noah’s Ark of roasted pumpkin, spinach and caramelized onions sprinkled with goat’s feta and pistachio crumbs.

The less culinary restricted gastronomes will not be disappointed by the Australian Wagyu beef slider topped with Gruyère cheese or the harissa-spiced succulent tiger prawns with borlotti beans.

Check out the action in the open kitchen or sit back and watch the local village girls’ practise the traditional Balinese dance accompanied by a gamelan orchestra. This is guilt-free brunch at its best.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

Photo courtesy of COMO Shambhala Estate.

glow
COMO Shambhala Estate Bali
Banjar Begawan, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, Bali
T: (+62) 361 978 888
http://www.comohotels.com/comoshambhalaestate/dining/glow


Uma Cucina at Uma by COMO, Ubud

“I love the variety of delicious freshly made Italian specialties, and since it’s just across the street from Room4Dessert, I can sneak back into service quickly. My daughter loves the vegetarian options.” –Will Goldfarb, chef-owner of Room4Dessert Ubud

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

Leave it to the Italians to bring back the tradition of spending Sundays with family and friends over a delectable meal. Uma Cucina is a chic Italian restaurant at Uma by COMO, Ubud that epitomizes the Italian way of celebrating life’s simple pleasures: good food, beautiful art and great company.

Uma Cucina’s all-you-can-eat Italian Sunday brunch with punch has won the hearts and stomachs of many with its wood-fired brick oven pizzas and bread, house-made pasta, cheeses and sausages, classic Italian gelatos and granitas and free-flowing beverage packages.

Delightful, easily shareable antipasti include yellowfin tuna crudo, bruschetta, jumbo octopus and calamari fritti. Tuck into memorable mains like the baby chicken and the signature pizzettas—my favourite is the prosciutto di parma with organic egg, caramelized onions, radicchio and black pepper.

The restaurant—designed by architect Cheong Yew Kuan—oozes conviviality and stimulates lively interactions. A large communal dining table at the heart of the restaurant, an outdoor terrace seating and a laid-back lounge bar with a robust wine list and very crafty cocktails encourage guests to kick back, relax and enjoy la dolce vita.

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

Photo courtesy of Uma Cucina.

Uma Cucina
Uma by COMO, Ubud
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, Bali
T: (+62) 361 972 448
http://www.umacucina.com


Copper Kitchen & Bar

Photo courtesy of Copper Kitchen & Bar.

Photo courtesy of Copper Kitchen & Bar.

Rise and shine! The early bird catches the fabulous breakfast at Bisma Eight’s Copper Kitchen & Bar, a rooftop restaurant offering Asian-inspired comfort foods with a contemporary touch. Melbourne-born Chef Duncan McCance, affectionately dubbed “The Beard” for sporting some sexy scruff, loves to get down and dirty and grow his own vegetables in the nearby organic gardens.

Photo courtesy of Copper Kitchen & Bar.

Photo courtesy of Copper Kitchen & Bar.

The cuisine of Copper highlights this bountiful blessing of the seasonal harvest and locally sourced ingredients with great finesse, fusing indigenous Asian flavours with modern cooking techniques in a way that is subtle, complex and balanced.

The breakfast menu is decadently brunch-inspired with waistline-friendly options: Classic rösti with orange and miso cured salmon, blanched spinach and fried eggs sprinkled with black sesame; honey-drizzled waffle with yuzu parfait, poached apple, matcha-infused rye, date and rosella jam; and sago, coconut and chia pudding tossed with fresh mango and dragon fruit and topped with toasted coconut. Everything is served with house-made sourdough or pastries and your choice of coffee, tea or freshly squeezed juices.

Whether you choose to dine alfresco on the sunbathed patio with white curtains billowing in the balmy breeze or savour your brunch in the airy indoor seating with rice field views, a morning at Copper is nothing short of glorious.

Copper Kitchen & Bar
Bisma Eight
Jl. Bisma, Ubud, Bali
T: (+62) 361 479 2888
http://www.copperubud.com


Folk Coffee Bar

From the passionate food creatives behind Copper Kitchen & Bar comes Folk Coffee Bar, the newest kid on the touristy block of Jalan Monkey Forest. Led by Copper’s Chef Duncan McCance, Folk charms with a down-to-earth modern cuisine built upon Duncan’s multi-cultural Australian heritage, effortlessly marrying diverse global flavours with contemporary cooking methods.

Duncan has a natural flair for plating up simple soulful food that lets his homegrown ingredients shine. The rice, chia and coconut pudding with sliced banana, strawberry, tangerine, preserved rosella and fresh mint pays homage to Bali’s seasonal produce.

The poached eggs on fresh-baked sourdough toast with tomatoes, bocconcini and bacon screams brunch, while the soft shell crab burger with coleslaw, wasabi mayo and fresh coriander is a tasty little catch guaranteed to please any crowd.

The standout dish for me is the beetroot-cured salmon with savoury croquette, black sesame fried egg and crunchy lettuce, elevated by a surprise kick from the dried chilli vinaigrette.

The inspiration behind Folk’s unique design philosophy is the curious masyarakat (community) of Gianyar province and the challenges they face as they straddle the traditions of yesterday and the reforms of today.

Photo courtesy of Folk Coffee Bar.

Photo courtesy of Folk Coffee Bar.

The longing for simplicity, harmony and a reconnection with nature are reflected in the rugged, patchy local polpolan—painstakingly handmade earth walls—adorned with fitted terracotta light pots and replicas of primitive scratchings.

Folk is a cosy bustling brunch joint that radiates warmth, evokes creativity and delivers heart-warming food. Sit by the people-watching window, sip the special blend from Tetap Happy Coffee Roasters and enjoy your lazy weekday brunch. That’s all, folks!

Folk Coffee Bar
Jl. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali
T: (+62) 361 908 0888
www.folkubud.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Foodies — May 2016
Photos by Meliana Salim and Chema Calvo unless otherwise stated.

A Little French Flair in Bali

The narrow stretch of Jalan Arjuna in Kuta, Bali’s legendary tourist hub, is clustered with tacky shops and dodgy late-night bars. The last thing one would expect to find hidden in the side alley off this notoriously congested street is an oasis of elegant dining. And this is part of the charm of Pearl Restaurant, Bali’s best-kept French fine dining secret.

When you are young and carefree, you feel as if the world is your oyster. This certainly rang true for French chef Jeremy Blanchet, who relocated to Bali aged 22 upon completing his apprenticeship under Thierry Maffre-Bogé at his one-starred Michelin restaurant La Petite France in Provence. It is in the expansive grounds of Bali Hotel Pearl, a quaint boutique hotel founded by his parents in 2008, that Chef Jeremy began to build his idealistic dream, opening Pearl Restaurant in the heart of Kuta in 2009.

Pearl is a tropical sanctuary infused with French flair and the ubiquitous Balinese charm, offering chic indoor dining and breezy garden terrace seating beneath the starry skies. The 60-seat restaurant serves up refined French classics elevated with Chef Jeremy’s creative touches, integrating local produce and subtle hints of Asian flavours into his dishes.

Start your evening with the succulent grilled scallop wrapped in Parma ham, sitting pretty on light asparagus mousse with a refreshing salad of passion fruit and balsamic vinaigrette. All-time favourite appetizers include tuna tartare, lobster bisque and smoked pan-seared foie gras with caramelized apple.

One of Pearl’s signature mains—and a personal favourite of Chef Jeremy’s—is the salmon confit on lightly sautéed edamame, artichoke, snow peas and slow-cooked fennel, served with kaffir foam and a side of freshly shaved fennel on top of rich, earthy shitake risotto.

It is no secret that Chef Jeremy has a soft spot for the sweeter things in life. His savoury courses often contain a saccharine element of surprise—a slice of candied mandarin here, a smidgen of sweet kaffir lime gel there. His true passion lies in the cool comfort of his “pastry lounge” and it shows. Watching him whip up a decadent assiette gourmande (a selection of mini tasting desserts) of fondant au chocolat, crème brûlée, panna cotta and dark chocolate mousse is like witnessing an authentic love in action; he’s like a kid in a candy store. Pearl is renowned for its indulgent desserts, more than anything else.

Chef Jeremy is a young, spirited culinary artist with endless talents and a contagious love of life. Together with his brother Anthony (who seamlessly shifts between managing the hotel and helping at the restaurant on busy evenings), the dynamic duo have carried on their parents’ legacy beautifully, unleashing their potential and bringing a breath of fresh air into Bali Hotel Pearl and Pearl Restaurant.

Pearl Restaurant
Bali Hotel Pearl
Jl. Arjuna (Double Six)
Kuta, Bali, Indonesia
T: (+62) 81 934 334 060
www.pearl-bali.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Exquisite Taste, February-April 2015

Photos courtesy of Pearl Restaurant

A Fine New World

Up in the hills of Ubud, amongst the lush grounds of the Blanco Renaissance Museum, a culinary revolution is underway at BLANCO par Mandif, a new restaurant by Indonesia’s award-winning chef and restaurateur of the hugely successful Teatro Gastroteque, Mandif M. Warokka.

Chef Mandif

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

I first met Chef Mandif over a year ago when I interviewed him about the opening of his second restaurant, BLANCO par Mandif in Ubud. I left in awe of his passion and respect for Indonesian food as well as his grand ambition to elevate the cuisine of his homeland to a higher plane of gastronomic delight. Days after the hushed opening of BLANCO par Mandif in June 2015, he invited me over for a dinner. Little did I know that I was witnessing an extraordinary culinary renaissance with a signed copy of the menu to take home!

Food by Mandif 2

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

BLANCO par Mandif—the name is inspired by the flamboyant late Spanish artist Antonio Blanco—has boldly served dishes that have never been done by any Indonesian chef or restaurateur. Chef Mandif is an infinitely fascinating man who sees no distinction between life, food and art. While artful Asian-French fusion fare takes centre stage at Teatro Gastroteque, Indonesian heritage haute cuisine reigns the chef’s tasting runway at BLANCO. Let’s have a taste…

Blanco par Mandif

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

Crossing Boundaries
Beyond the opulent wooden space, the bustling open kitchen, the sleek eight-seater chef’s tasting table and the theatrical culinary inventions, a nostalgic sentiment lingers in the air. The highly conceptualized degustation menu, ranging from five to 13 courses, caters to sophisticated palates and reads like a delicious trip down Chef Mandif’s memory lane across the archipelago.

Food by Mandif

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

Digging deep into the roots of Indonesian food for customs and traditions, heart-warming recipes from his childhood are dissected, reconstructed and resurrected through innovative ideas, where classical culinary techniques meet modern cooking technology and give birth to elegant plating and refined flavours. Boundaries are crossed and palates challenged, and Indonesian cuisine, as we know it, is reborn.

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

Innovations aside, this is also where Mother Nature meets haute cuisine. Mandif is so in touch with the earth that he insists on only using the finest seasonal produce ethically sourced from local farmers and quality suppliers—with the exception of a few inevitable imports. Everything is meticulously made from scratch and brought straight from the bountiful nature to the kitchen table.

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.

Culinary Heritage
Eko Putro—BLANCO’s talented and sassy sommelier-cum-General Manager with a healthy rebellious streak—takes beverage pairing up a notch with his fierce homemade concoctions and aged cocktails matched perfectly to each dish.

Rempeyek, a savoury, ubiquitous Javanese snack of deep fried crackers made from flour, spices and other ingredients is the opening act at BLANCO, re-imagined as crispy spinach, kale and river eel—bred locally by one of the staff. This dish is gracefully balanced on a curious wire sculpture and served with a side of spicy tomato sambal. Accompanied by a citrusy Kintamani cocktail, it makes for a refreshing start to a decadent evening.

Comfort foods are revamped to complex modernist gastronomy, but there is no shyness or compromise on the flavours, textures and tastes. Rajungan—a dish of humble origin—is a hearty soup of roasted corn, shredded crabmeat, sweet onions and lime that is artfully presented in a unique ceramic bowl. I have to say, it is best paired with a cool margarita shaken right in front of you.

The next dish that blows my mind is the Cakalang, a famous dish from North Sulawesi that consists of warm dashi poured over silky house-made noodles. A sumptuous broth is painstakingly prepared with Japanese style katsuobushi or skipjack tuna that has gone through a lengthy process of drying, fermenting and smoking. In the hands of Chef Mandif, it is transformed into a delectable delicacy that evokes nostalgia and provokes interest.

Of course, don’t forget to try the Sambal balado, a tangy staple spicy condiment of West Sumatra. It is the sweet starring sauce of the butter poached tiger prawn, complemented with crispy and notoriously stinky petai beans—off-putting to some but popular among Indonesians. Eko swears by his signature barrel-aged Negroni to bring out the best of this dish.

Dessert is most certainly not an afterthought at BLANCO. Cendol, traditionally a sweet treat of rice flour, palm sugar, coconut milk and green worm-like jelly, is transformed into an exquisite symphony of delicate, colourful jackfruit and pandan spheres, gourmet pandan ice cream, slippery basil seeds soaked in coconut milk and fragrant coconut bubbles floating harmoniously in wedang jahe—a clever twist on the old ginger tea—made with a ginger and lemongrass infused palm sugar reduction. Truth to be told, this is the best cendol and wedang jahe I’ve ever had in my life.

There is soulfulness and an element of playfulness in Chef Mandif’s creations. Alongside his young, equally passionate and patriotic super team, he strives to simply “make people happy” through his culinary articulation and inspire Indonesians to be proud of their food. The BLANCO experience is a fine epicurean ride into the future of Indonesian cuisine. This is one man’s quest to reclaim national pride through a rich culinary heritage that has been globally disregarded for too long. His statement is bold, loud and clear. Close your eyes and just go with it. It’s about time.

Eko Putro

Photo courtesy of BLANCO par Mandif.


BLANCO par Mandif

Blanco Renaissance Museum Complex
Jalan Raya Tjampuhan
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
T: (+62) 361 479 2284
www.blancoparmandif.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — February 2016.
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.

The Elements of Life

Here’s a question to think about: do you eat to live or live to eat? From Socrates to Buddha, we are guided to eat simply and live modestly, yet for most of us, food is more than merely fuel. “Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are,” wrote French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. In our society, eating has become an intensely personal experience and an imperative language in the articulation of our identities as individuals, a society, a culture and a nation.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

We live in hedonistic times of egocentric consumerism, information obesity and digital overload. This technological revolution has drastically changed our love affair with food and our dining behaviour. The joy of eating is replaced by the obsessive act of documenting it. Dining has become more of a visual experience and less of a sensory indulgence. Gadgets and the Internet invade and exploit our mealtimes, turning them into a perpetual state of surveillance and culinary voyeurism.

Fivelements - juices

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Human beings are intricately connected with the environment and other life forms, and it is imperative to synchronize ourselves with the world around us. One of the ways is through our relationship with food. In recent years, a fundamental paradigm in the way we eat has shifted. The “farm-to-table” dining concept and the “locavore” and “living foods” movements have evolved from fancy fads and marketing strategy to food aspirations, inspiring us to make informed decisions in how we source, cook and eat our food in pursuit of a sustainable healthier lifestyle.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Raw Food Pioneer
In Bali, straddling the sacred Ayung River near the cultural town of Ubud rests Fivelements. This award-winning eco-luxury wellness destination is built around the traditional Balinese life philosophy of Tri Hita Karana, which promotes living in harmony among humans, with nature and with God.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Nestled within the Fivelements area is its iconic fine dining restaurant, the Sakti Dining Room, a celebrated pioneer of innovative raw food cuisine that has been awarded AsiaSpa’s “Best Spa Cuisine of the Year” for the second year running. A true sanctuary for the senses, this bamboo-structured restaurant sits amidst trickling fountains and lush tropical gardens, and is free from smoke, alcohol and stress.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Joining Sakti Dining Room’s green and chemical-free kitchen is a new executive chef, Felix Schoener from Germany. Chef Felix’s impressive resume boasts extensive international experiences in Michelin-starred restaurants and enviable trainings with Gabriel Cousens and Cherie Soria, both renowned leaders in the fields of living foods and gourmet raw vegan cuisine.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

The Signature
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food,” is the famous citation by Hippocrates that is written on Sakti Dining Room’s menu, which set the tone for my three-course plant-based lunch from the restaurant’s signature Chef’s Tasting Menu. First came the refreshing Hibiscus Rose, a heaven-sent elixir on a particularly hot and humid day, accompanied by an amuse bouche of creamy cashew pâté infused with coconut milk and garlic.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

The appetizer consisted of finely diced mango, tomato and jicama tartar stunningly served on chilled light-as-clouds avocado velouté, topped with micro greens, crunchy tomato chips and finished off with a surprising drizzling of kaffir lime oil. As I was focused on licking my plate clean, I could almost feel my body expressing gratitude for the pure nourishment.

 

For a corn and mushroom fan like me,  the main course, the Exotic Mushroom and Sweet Corn, was truly a dream come true. It features corn as the star of the dish in three unique ways—curried corn polenta, spiced popcorn and sweet corn crackers—complemented by hearty, smoky shiitake mushrooms, caramelized shallots and a medley of exotic Asian herbs.

Fivelements - main course - Exotic Mushroom _ Sweet Corn 2

The White Chocolate Truffle with passion fruit mousse and tarragon marked a sweet and satisfying ending to my extraordinary lunch. If this was what “healing cuisine” tastes like, I am hooked—mind, body and soul—and ready to join this culinary cult.

Fivelements - dessert - White Chocolate Truffle 1

All About Balance
Chef Felix’s love of raw living foods and his passion in the ancient philosophies of Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine are beautifully portrayed in each dish. Embracing local, seasonal, organic and wild foraged ingredients, he has perfected the art of applying ageless Asian wisdom in his avant-garde, modernist cuisine, marrying it with Balinese culture and tradition and elevating it with innovative culinary techniques. “It’s mother nature’s cuisine,” he stated.

Fivelements - herbal tea _ chocolate truffle

The Sakti Dining Room is a true sanctuary for the senses and has created a way for people to connect with the food they eat through its inventive gastronomy revolution. It is true that embracing raw food allows people to experience a whole new world with a new vision—to feel healthier, see more clearly and think more positively.

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Personally, I’m a believer of renowned food writer Michael Pollan’s simple and healthy attitude towards eating, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” After all, life is all about balance, isn’t it?

Photo courtesy of Fivelements.

Fivelements
Puri Ahimsa, Banjar Baturning
Mambal, Bali, Indonesia
T: (+62) 361 469 260
www.fivelements.org

Notes:
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — January 2016.
Photos courtesy of Fivelements.
Food photos by Meliana Salim.

A Toast to Ubud’s Best Roast

A freshly brewed cup of coffee is more than just a daily pleasure, it’s a way of life. And the art of drinking coffee is just as important as the science of brewing the perfect cup. Coffee is a powerful and complex stimulant that continues to play an integral role in our political, social, economic and environmental development. Some even claim that it’s a character-defining beverage: you are what you drink.

In Bali, Ubud’s thriving café culture is extensive. Mom-and-pop coffee shops and specialty roasters offer tantalising signature house blends and single origins, encouraging us to be adventurous with their tales of exotic, far-flung cherries and indigenous beans.

Follow my coffee chronicles as I sip my way around town and spill the beans on the best little-known artisan coffees in Ubud.

Photo courtesy of Petani Restaurant.

Photo courtesy of Petani Restaurant.

Juria House

Juria House (Jalan Sugriwa 5, tamansarikopi.com) is an unexpected hole-in-the-wall coffee corner in Ubud, quietly steeping the world’s rarest high-grade Arabica from a very special single variety coffee grown in Flores. These coffee trees are descendants of an old, rare Typica species of Arabica coffee of Ethiopian origin, and are survivors of the coffee rust epidemics. They were hidden deep in the mountains of Manggarai for over 60 years, until being recently rediscovered and resurrected.

Photo courtesy of Juria House.

Photo coutesy of Juria House.

Juria coffee has a strong, aromatic body, intricate layers of sweet tropical flavours, subtle spice notes, a lingering finish and a fascinating story to boot. Join the noble quest to save the remaining old Typica trees and preserve Juria’s lineage. For more information, follow the Facebook pages: “Save the Old Coffee Trees” and “Juria Coffee”.

Kahiyang Coffee

Meet Sumatran-born Iwan Raus, a passionate coffee roaster and owner of Kahiyang Coffee (Jalan Sri Wedari 6, kahiyangcoffee.com), who also has a penchant for storytelling. Raus firmly believes that there is a different coffee for each day. Choose from Kahiyang’s locally sourced Fair Trade Arabica coffee beans (20 per cent of Kahiyang’s profits goes to the farmers), Bali’s Kintamani, Java’s Prianger and Papua’s Wamena. Asep, the self-dubbed “YouTube Barista”, will brew you a fresh, customised coffee to match your mood on any day.

Kahiyang’s coffee beans are roasted in-house every morning. Early risers are invited to a free roasting lesson. Kahiyang Coffee is one of those hidden spots you are reluctant to tell others about. There are no tourists, hipsters, spiritual seekers and Wi-Fi freeloaders here. We are safe, for now.

A little tip from an insider: Kahiyang also supplies coffee beans to Ubud’s only drive-thru coffee-stand/art-gallery on Jalan Hanoman. It’s cheekily concealed with the resident artist’s vibrant paintings.

Café Vespa

Wake up and catch the arresting smell of coffee wafting from Cafe Vespa (Jalan Raya Penestanan Kaja, café-vespa.com), a popular expat hangout serving some of Ubud’s best coffees and food. Owner Neil is proud of his artisan coffee, and rightfully so, since he’s mastered the perfect blend using 100 per cent Arabica coffee sourced from Toraja in Sulawesi, Gayo in Aceh, and Kintamani in Bali. The beans are roasted weekly according to Neil’s strict standards and are ground fresh before serving.

Pair Vespa’s exquisite espresso with the best-selling Spinach and Mushroom for a wholesome breakfast. Spy on wacky post-modern hippy fashion and eavesdrop on the most bizarre conversations in town.

F.R.E.A.K. Coffee

Blink and you might miss inconspicuous F.R.E.A.K. Coffee (Jalan Hanoman 19, freakcoffee.com). The quirky name is an acronym of Fresh Roasted “Enak” (delicious in Indonesian) Arabica from Kintamani. F.R.E.A.K Coffee’s philosophy is “from the cherries to the cup”, and 100-per-cent organically grown Arabica from Kintamani is roasted fresh daily and served within 24 hours at the café.

The café boasts an extensive coffee menu and small bites (mostly organic, raw and vegan) catering to discerning coffee freaks and health nuts. Mingle with F.R.E.A.K.’s cult following –  dreadlocked locals, glowing yogis and effete hipsters – as you sip and watch the town go by.

Rio Helmi Gallery & Café

A few steps away from the gridlocked Ubud Palace intersection, the Rio Helmi Gallery & Cafe (Jalan Suweta 24A, riohelmi.com) is a cool respite from the throngs of tourists and their selfie sticks. Rio Helmi, the articulate owner/photographer, is very particular about his coffee. His signature blend comes from Aceh, Bali and Brazil. Try the rich caffè mocha, available upon request, which packs enough punch to jumpstart the grouchiest customer. A sprinkle of paprika and salt is added for depth, I later discovered.

This bright air-conditioned café also offers an all-day Mediterranean-inspired breakfast and brunch menu (I recommend the shakshouka). Come for the smooth lattes and hearty food and enjoy Rio’s captured memories across Asia.

Casa Luna

Strategically located in central Ubud, Casa Luna (Jalan Raya Ubud, casalunabali.com) was started more than 20 years ago by Australian writer/restaurateur/wonder woman and founder of the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival and the Ubud Food Festival, Janet DeNeefe.

The full-bodied house blend, brewed using 100-per-cent premium Indonesian beans, is earthy and velvety smooth. Ask Made Taman to whip up the legendary cappuccino and order a slice of cake from the Honeymoon Bakery – best savoured while people-watching from the comfort of your front-row seat.

Petani Restaurant

Petani Restaurant (Alaya Ubud, Jalan Hanoman, alayahotels.com) boasts single-origin beans from Aromanis, Enrekang in Toraja and Singaraja in Bali, which are processed using the extravagant La Marzocco FB/70.

Photo courtesy of Petani Restaurant.

Sometimes you just want a cup of latte art to show off on social media. Petani’s talented baristas think outside the cup when it comes to their coffee art, be it the Coconut Flakes Cappuccino, Red Velvet Latte, Salted Caramel Cappuccino or Matcha Latte. Bring your friends and have a leisurely latte-tasting afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Petani Restaurant.

Kopi Luwak: Cut the Crap!

Indonesia’s kopi luwak, or civet coffee, is the world’s priciest and most controversial coffee. These unusual beans are collected from the excrement of wild luwak, or Asian palm civets, after having passed through the animals’ digestive tracts. The result is a smooth, earthy brew.

The escalating global demand for these highly prized (and hyped) beans has resulted in the widespread illegal trapping and force-feeding of these wild civets. The only way to ensure that the beans are genuine and harvested ethically is to follow the farmers and civets around in the forest all night. I say cut the crap and leave those civets alone. Honestly, the taste does not justify the animal cruelty.

Photo source: unsplash.com

Photo source: unsplash.com

Dos:

  • ŸBuy fresh whole coffee beans (not grounds) from a reputable local roaster and use within a week. Store it in a dark, airtight container at room temperature and grind your beans right before you brew them.
  • ŸInvest in good coffee grinding and brewing equipment and regulate the grind size according to the brewing method. Use filtered water and keep the temperature between 195°F (91°C) to 205°F (96°C). Clean your coffee equipment thoroughly after each use.
  • ŸDevelop your palate; start by drinking unadulterated coffee. Additions such as sugar, milk and flavourings affect the texture and aroma of coffees, tainting the actual taste.

Don’ts:

  • ŸAsk for your coffee to go and rush around town holding it. Take the time to sit down and appreciate your fresh brew. It’s worth it.
  • ŸBuy poorly packaged coffee beans or grounds. Check for scratches or tears in the packaging. If air gets into the bag, the coffee will go stale immediately. Ground coffee should have a valve in the bag to let air out.
  • ŸLet coffee snobs get to you. Whether you are a slow-sipping espresso connoisseur or a morning java gulper, all that matters is your own personal preference.
Photo source: stokpic.com

Photo source: stokpic.com

Notes:
This article was published in hellobali — November 2015
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.

Ride the Wake

As an adventurous water baby living on an island of endless summer, I owe it to myself to explore every waterhole and aqua activity. Be it scuba diving, surfing, white water rafting, snorkeling or waterfall hunting, I never turn down a chance to get wet and wild in Bali’s beautiful nature. I am hopeless at board sports and my knowledge of wakeboarding is practically non-existent, but when I was offered an experience at the Bali Wake Park, I descended from the highlands of Ubud in a heartbeat.

Conveniently located in Benoa Harbour—15 minutes from Bali’s tourist hotspots of Kuta, Jimbaran and Sanur, an hour from Ubud and a 10-minute drive from Ngurah Rai International Airport—Bali Wake Park is the island’s first and only wakeboarding park, serving riders of all ages and skill levels since April 2015.

Photo courtesy of Bali Wake Park.

Encompassing state-of-the-art full size rotating cable systems surrounding a five-hectare saltwater lake with eight carriers (allowing up to eight people to ride at once), a two-tower system ideal for beginners and children and a multi-brand retail pro shop, the park introduces beginners to the thrilling sport of wakeboarding while providing experienced riders with the facilities to further hone their skills. Simply put, it’s wakeboarding while being towed by an overhead cable system instead of a boat, making it significantly cheaper, hassle-free and environmentally friendly.

Photo courtesy of Bali Wake Park.

Non-wakeboarders are also welcome to pamper themselves in the lovely day spa, check out the Ninebot (electric-powered recreational vehicle) or soak up the sun in the infinity pool overlooking the lake action. Foodies will not be disappointed with Made’s Warung (an outlet of Bali’s iconic restaurant chain) and an upscale Chinese seafood restaurant, Akame. For those with deeper pockets, the adjacent heliport promises to take you to great heights in style for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the island.

Photo courtesy of Bali Wake Park.

My one-hour daily riding pass, priced at IDR 400,000, includes a wristband (to be time-scanned at the beginning of each ride) and the use of basic equipment: a life vest, a helmet and a board—choose from beginner boards, skurfers, kneeboards or double skis. I decided the least intimidating one for a wakeboarding virgin was the kneeboard.

As with all sports, safety comes first. In less than four minutes, the Bali Wake Park introductory and safety video had me all revved up and ready to get onboard. If those young, gorgeous, sashaying bikini babes in the video can do it, how hard could it be? I signed the waiver, put on my helmet and life vest, said a little player and headed to the deck to for a crash kneeboarding course with the friendly instructor.

Placing my kneeboard on the start ramp, he eased me into a comfortable kneeling position, secured my legs with the knee straps and reminded me that most beginners tend to fall in the water at the launch stage. I took the handle from the cable operator, grabbed it firmly and got into launch position. As I leaned forward on my board, I kept my centre of gravity as low as humanly possible and my eyes fixed on the light above, anxiously waiting for it to turn green. I admit I was nervous. This reminded me of the first time I went skiing in Canada without much instructions, had cold feet and froze in absolute fear at the top of the slopes and had to take my skis off and endure the walk of shame downhill, much to the annoyance of my ski buddy.

It was too late to back down now. The light had just turned green. I braced myself for the initial jerk and held on for dear life. In a split second, the cable thrust me forward from zero to 25 kilometres per hour. I went off like a rocket. The pull was so strong and swift that I almost lost my grip but I promptly steadied myself. As my board stabilized, I straightened up and let the handle pull me along for a few exhilarating metres, zooming past strategically placed obstacles (for advanced riders only). Fast approaching ahead, I saw my very first corner marked clearly with two little red buoys. I leaned to the right side, putting most of my weight on my right leg. The board responded by steering to the right, just in time for me to go through the buoys. I did it!

I cleared two more corners and was well over halfway around the lake, beaming and screaming away. My complacency was short-lived. At the next corner, I forgot everything that the instructor taught me and panicked. I lost control of the handle and fell face down into the water. I laughed out loud as I regained my composure and make my way onshore. On the buggy ride back, my instructor divulged that it was the hardest corner in the park and commended my novice effort.

Photo courtesy of Bali Wake Park.

That challenge pumped up my adrenaline. Following additional coaching and tips from my instructor, I was primed and determined to tackle that tricky turn before my hour ended. I went for it, again and again unsuccessfully and I could feel my arms weakening and my grip loosening with every attempt but I refused to admit defeat. On my fourth round, I finally cleared it and came full circle! It was the most wonderful feeling in the world.

Photo courtesy of Bali Wake Park.

Before my hour was up, I decided to give my sore muscles a break and save the beginner board experience for another sunny day. Wakeboarding is a skill best learned with great patience along with determination. When you stumble and fall, you can choose to slink away and nurse your bruised ego, or you can smile, swim to the side of the lake, get back up and try again. The important thing is to listen to the instructions, never give up and enjoy the ride. That’s wakeboarding. Come to think of it, that’s life!

Bali Wake Park
Jalan Pelabuhan Benoa No. 7X, Pesanggaran
Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia
T: (+62) 846 8866
E: contact@baliwakepark.com
www.baliwakepark.com

Note:
Photos by Meliana Salim unless otherwise stated.

Welcome to the Jungle!

There is always that one evocative summer that changes you: the lingering memories of a sweet romance; long gourmet brunches with great friends; endless sun-drenched afternoons celebrating the pure joy of doing absolutely nothing—and what better place to enjoy summertime feasting and living than at the newly opened Jungle Fish in Ubud?

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Take the culinary road less travelled across Bali and head to the hills above Ubud to the Chapung Sebali Resort & Spa in the traditional artists’ village of Keliki. The resort itself has been a well-kept secret retreat to those in the know for many years. Thanks to the recent buzz surrounding the unveiling of Jungle Fish, now everyone is flocking to this chic restaurant, pool, deck and bar.

Sitting stylishly on the side of a mountain overlooking the Osh River Valley, the split-level Jungle Fish embodies the eccentricity and eclecticism of its Danish owner, Niki Nasr, a charming, mysterious furniture designer and a long-term resident of Bali.

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Together with his Australian architect friend Rob Sample, Nasr took inspiration from the surrounding natural beauty and combined it with a modern, edgy mid-century Scandinavian design, the warm elegance of Balinese aesthetics and his sleek signature style.

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Georgios of the Jungle
The contemporary Mediterranean menu of Jungle Fish, crafted by Greek Executive Chef, Georgios Giannoulis, evokes the spirit of the sun-kissed region, where cuisine is a philosophy and the art of eating is a palpable passion embraced by all. Having access to extensive organic gardens scattered throughout the estate is an enviable luxury for any cook, and Giannoulis is one lucky chef! Fresh, home-grown, organic vegetables, aromatic herbs and basmati rice are right on his doorstep—an advantage he takes fully, transforming nature’s bounty into his vibrant, seasonal menu.

It is easy to be charmed by Giannoulis’ colourful dishes, as each one of them is his personal culinary journey of respectfully marrying robust Mediterranean essences with bold Asian flavours and locally sourced premium ingredients.

Summer is for feasting and feast we did, starting with the succulent grilled octopus (the chef’s favourite dish) chargrilled to perfection to bring out the sweetness of the delicate meat, and marinated with lemon, oregano and Pernod sauce. The calamari, the ultimate crowd pleaser, is light, crispy and served with a fiery harissa mayo dip.

The Greek salad is a summer classic best savoured sitting on the sunny terrace and taking in the spectacular view. Giannoulis’ version boasts the freshest tomatoes, cucumber, onions and herbs from the gardens with capers, olives and creamy feta cheese mousse.

My personal favourite is the roasted beetroot salad with goat cheese brûlée, orange, onions, watercress and toasted hazelnuts—a timeless combination that lets the beetroot’s sweet depth and earthiness shine through. It’s definitely a salad with a wow factor.

The chicken with lemon-herb pesto, presented with a side of pretty purple potato salad, is one of the most memorable poultry dishes I’ve ever had. Tender, juicy and subtly spiced, it’s sophisticated in its simplicity. If you’re craving for something from the sea, opt for the white snapper served with an elegant fennel salad, couscous and bumbu Bali—a tasty concoction of traditional Balinese spices.

No feast is complete without a sweet treat. Giannoulis tantalises with his signature dessert: the chocolate soufflé with vanilla ice cream and diced mangoes—a perfectly sweet ending to a delightful meal fit for the Greek gods.

The Jungle Star
The undeniable star of Jungle Fish is, as the name cleverly implies, its 35-metre infinity pool at the lower level, facing the lush green ravine. Who needs the sand and the sea when you can listen to nature’s living orchestra? For a fee of IDR 150,000 net per person (fully redeemable for food and beverage), non-hotel-guests can soak up the Bali sun in one of the Jungle Fish’s cool cabanas or lively sun loungers, take a dip in the swimming pool, sip fun cocktails and have an evening picnic barbecue or enjoy the Sunday brunch in style.

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Inspired by the ocean, the highlight of the impressive bar area is a floor-to-ceiling recycled glass mosaic meticulously designed by Niki Nasr. The pool deck interiors feature a volcanic rock backwash and dark ironwood enlivened by the colourful, striped daybeds and a crimson-lit wooden ceiling. Forget the beach club, the true style is in the jungle!

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Summer seduces with a dose of escapism; inspiring a rediscovery of the pleasure of food, a reality uncheck, an urban detox and a time to rekindle romance, kinship and friendship. The tans will fade but the memories will last forever.

Photo courtesy of Jungle Fish.

Jungle Fish
Chapung Sebali Resort & Spa
Jalan Raya Sebali, Keliki, Ubud
T: (+62) 361 898 9104
www.junglefishbali.com

Notes:
This article was first published in Bali & Beyond — August 2015.
Photos courtesy of Jungle Fish.
Food photos by Meliana Salim.