Someone once told me that Bali is where chefs go to die but end up opening restaurants instead. It may be a controversial statement, but Bali is one of the world’s best food destinations. I’m not just talking about the plethora of casual Australian cafes serving avo smash, but the treasure trove of world-class dining hidden behind unassuming doors and alleyways. Here is where you should be making reservations on your next trip to Bali.
The Alila Seminyak is one of the area’s most refined five-star hotels that also houses one of “the yak’s” best restaurants. Located directly on the beach, Seasalt is a perfect place to sit with a glass of pinot gris from the Languedoc and watch one the island’s famous sunsets.
Using sustainably-caught local fish, the chefs here create dishes like the “Star Fish,” aka raw tuna, blue swimmer crab tartare, snapper baked in sea salt and oven-baked tiger prawns. The extensive wine list from around the world means there is something to pair well with any of their elegant dishes. You can also enjoy a spa day with a healthy two-course meal with the Alila’s Half Day Escape & Lunch.
The cheeky neon sign reading “U Look Hot In Bikini” invites diners in for what can only be described as a wildly colorful and inventive meal. Plates here are designed to share—though you won’t want to. Bikini’s menu is divided into “mouthfuls,” like a chicken liver parfait doughnut with prune paste and elderflower, and “small bites,” like the must-try stracciatella with wood-smoked blood plum, rye crumb and cab sav vinegar jelly. For mains, the farmed barramundi with kailan purée, fermented chili, shallots and ginger dressing is succulent, and the cacio e pepe gnocchi is light and fluffy. Forgo the wine for a night because here cocktails are king. If you have to choose one, the Kyoto rainforest with a white chocolate yuzu bomb is a crowd-pleaser.
Mads Lange, Ubud
Inside the stunningly eclectic Capella Ubud is Mads Lange. Named after a famous Dutch spice trader who landed in Bali, this restaurant, much like the hotel, is a showstopper. It’s made of Balinese wood and Batik designs with sprawling views of palm trees and Capella Ubud’s uber-cool, industrial-style pool. They have an extensive wine list from around the world and a mix of Indonesia and Western dishes. Try the Rijsttafel, an array of traditional Indonesian plates designed for sharing. Otherwise, opt the braised black pork ribs or the Sumantran beef rendang and pair them with a rich red.
Da Maria, Seminyak
Pasta and pizza lovers are transported to the Amalfi Coast upon walking through the door of this modern Italian restaurant. The local lava-oven pizzas are as high-quality as those coming out of the oven in Brooklyn, and the house-made pappardelle is rich and flavorful. Da Maria has a variety of wines including organic and natural bottles, and a good selection of bubbly. Order their pressed chocolate cake and mascarpone with one of their Italian reds. Past 10 p.m. on the weekends, a dance floor emerges, and Da Maria turns into a mini-club.
MoonLite Kitchen & Bar, Seminyak
One of the best rooftop sunset spots in Bali is on top of the five-star Anantara Seminyak Resort & Spa. This Asian restaurant celebrates its local food with dishes like Babi Gulung, crispy skin pork and jackfruit salad, and Nasi Bakar beef rendang. But their pork belly buns and Szechuan style fried rice are not to be missed. MoonLite Kitchen & Bar also has a variety of bottles to choose from including some fantastic sparkling wine from nearby Australia. A few glasses of that and their chocolate Alaska flambé dessert make for one romantic evening.
Room4Dessert isn’t just a restaurant, it’s an experience of a lifetime (one you may have seen on the Netflix show Chef’s Table). Celebrity chef Will Goldfarb creates a 21-course menu that includes seven savory bites, seven normal-sized desserts and seven dessert bites served in three separate dining areas. The three-hour journey begins with a tour through the restaurant’s garden where they harvest the local ingredients they use to prepare the desserts. You can choose to pair your meal with a selection of cocktails or a selection of juices, but the cocktail selection is more bang for your buck.
The stunningly peaceful rice paddy views are just one of the reasons Sardine is one of the top dining destinations in Petitenget. Specializing in seafood, this charming restaurant serves a tangy yellowfin tuna sashimi and a creamy black pappardelle with spiny lobster. They also have duck and quail, made from birds kept on-premises. For something a little different, try one of their arak cocktails made with the local spirit. Arrive early and grab a comfy seat at their outdoor lounge area while the sun sets behind the Indian Ocean.
The first fine-dining experience to put Bali on the map, Locavore prides itself on creating refined European dishes using local, seasonal Indonesian ingredients. Dine on nine courses as detailed and delicate as Cut the Crab made up of mud crab, bonito garum emulsion, pickled young mango and jellied crab consomme. There is also an herbivore menu with dishes like Singkong 17 made with cassava garlic mousseline and 17 tasty condiments. Understandably, it’s one of the island’s most coveted reservations, so be sure to book at least two weeks in advance.
Hujan Locale, Ubud
The first Ubud outpost for Bali celebrity chef Will Meyrick, Hujan Locale celebrates Indonesian food for those with a penchant for spice. The friendly staff will lead you up the stairs of this elegantly converted home to one of the tables facing open plantation shutter windows with a breeze. The menu can be overwhelming, but under each item is a nice story about Meyrick’s take on the dish. He tells how he almost had to swap his car for the recipe for his 48-hour short rib beef with roasted bone marrow served in a black nut sauce. To calm the palate, order the premium signature Hujan gin & tonic made with butterfly pea flower for a chilly surprise.
Katie Lockhart is a travel and food writer traveling full-time around Asia. She writes for National Geographic, Travel + Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler and many more. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @findyourhappyplate.