I must apologize for leaving you hanging for two weeks, but I had good reason: I was indulging in a beauteous holiday in utopia, aka Bali, Indonesia. P & I spent four (all-too-short) days in the small beach town of Seminyak and naturally, I had to find the best food on the island. I must admit, though, that being in vacation-mode meant I was not uber-diligent about taking notes on the food. However, I will try to recollect all of the savory memories bit by bit in these next few posts as I recap the best of Bali. I’ll start with possibly my favorite restaurant in the world (yes, the whole world, or at least the countries I’ve traveled to, anyways): Chandi.
I visited Chandi during my first trip to Bali two years ago. As a nascent foodie, Chandi really affected the way I looked at food. It was the first time in my life when I realized two things: one, that organic and fresh ingredients do make all the difference and two, that plenty of flavoring, seasoning, and full-on taste can be achieved without loads of oil, cream, or butter. (As a girl who grew up in the Midwest, where there are more cows than people in certain places, this was an amazing discovery.) P and I went to Chandi for dinner this time around and ordered a couple of appetizers, two mains, and were way too stuffed for dessert (unfortunately).
The first appetizer we got was the Tempestuous Organic Mixed Salad (seen above, which we dug into eagerly – also seen above), which had field greens, edamame, tempe, dragonfruit, starfruit, mango, pomelo, and fennel in a peanut tamarind dressing. The eclectic mix of sweet, sour, salty, and zesty was amazing. In addition to a bit of texture from the crispy tempe, you also got bursts of pomelo every few mouthfuls. Chandi’s menu proudly proclaims all produce, spices, and fruits are sourced from the Bedugul Hills, which I gather to be a rich agricultural area on the island’s southeast side. In any case, rest assured the salad – and all the produce and spices in our meal – were FRESH.
After the salad came our Spicy Tenderloin Lettuce Cups, miniature slabs of beef topped with a little salsa of pomelo, cashews, and cilantro. I found the beef a bit on the medium well side, and without much discernible heat, but it was juicy and solidly seasoned otherwise. The sweetness of the pomelo might have mitigated the “spicy”; the cilantro gave it a fresh finish.
For our main dishes, we ordered the Seared Barrumundi Fillet and Medley Sate, which was curiously subtitled “Day Night Fever.” Is it going to make us disco?
In any case, in retrospect perhaps a seafood non-lover such as myself should not have consented to as many creatures of the ocean. But, I figured since we were in Bali and P rarely gets to make friends with fish, why not? I do think, however, I would have enjoyed dinner even more had I gotten some of the other selections (namely, Nasi Goreng, which I have a weakness for, or the Lamb Shank Gule). But anyways…the barrumundi was actually really tasty, even in my estimation. The fish did taste “fishy” but not pungent; rather, the ocean flavor came across more aromatic than anything. There was a taro crisp on the bottom, like a potato pancake, which contrasted nicely with the crunchy outer finish of the fish. The pepes mushrooms were absolutely, earthily divine. I wasn’t too crazy about the basil emulsion, which was tantamount to pesto. I thought it was an incongruous choice for this type of seared seafood, as it jarringly took my taste buds of out Indo and landed them in Italy. (No, I have not been reading any Elizabeth Gilbert lately. Nor will I ever.)
The sate platter that came next was huge! It was artfully arranged in a pyramid on a sizzling hot lava stone which continued to cook the skewers as we ate. I was a little disappointed at the ratio of seafood-to-not, but again, I think if you’re an average person, it would have been delightful! My favorite skewers were actually the mixed veggies – peppers, zucchini, onions – and the beef (no surprise there). I also enjoyed the tempe, though it tasted a bit bland on its own. Fortunately, the sate medley came with three dipping sauces: Pecel Peanut Sauce, Sweet Soy Sauce, and Garlic Butter. The Garlic Butter was genius for the veg.
At this point we were way too full to order dessert so we just relaxed, watching the crowds pass on busy “eat street”, Jln Laksmana. Here, a note about the ambience: The first time I went to Chandi two years ago, they didn’t designate a smoking/non-smoking section, so we sat in the general dining room, which features dark wood, low lighting and tropical sexiness. The front tables are open to the street, which I found lovely. This time, however, they did have a non-smoking section, which I really appreciated, but it was a glassed-off enclosure just the left of the main entrance. It was cool and clean, with lovely white linens on the few tables (four or five, if I recall correctly). But I couldn’t help but feel cut off from the main “action” of the restaurant and its seductive vibe, not to mention from the outside. If I were to go next time, I might brave the smokers and sit in the “smoking section” to get more atmosphere.
Overall, though, Chandi still impressed me with its great, fresh, flavorful Indonesian/fusion food. I would definitely say it’s a must-eat in Seminyak.
Jln Laksmana 72
+62.361.731.060 (Reservations are only taken by phone; must call on the day to confirm your booking)
Cost: ~ $300,000 IDR/person (Roughly $275 HKD or $35 USD)
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