I met my Mum at our accommodation in Ubud. I had been on a yoga retreat for a week, and Mum was flying in from Perth. I had booked a home-stay in a small village just outside town, called Lod Tunduh, and though my driver had assured me that he knew where that was, he didn’t.
I was a ball of anxiety when I arrived at Pondok Langon (meaning house on the rice field), mainly because it had taken me two and a half hours to make the usual one and a half hour journey from the north, with the petrol light flashing the entire way. So much for my serenity…
Any-hoo, Mum’s smiling face greeted me at the front gate, and before long we were ready to commence Sarah and Pam’s Culinary tour of Ubud. My only regret is that we only committed to a measly three meals per day, and perhaps with a bit more dedication, we could have pushed it out to four.
Here are some of the places we dined at (though not an exhaustive list due to the sheer number of meals consumed at various locations)…
Casa Luna Restaurant
We had our first meal of nasi goreng (my favourite Balinese meal-rice, egg, salad, satay, what more could you want?) and some chicken satay here at this iconic restaurant. The atmosphere was great, but the meal was average, despite the hefty price tag (by Balinese standards). We still found ourselves back here on a few occasions, preferring to partake in their amazing cakes and espresso coffee (chocolate yoghurt cake; OH MY GOD!).
We celebrated Mum’s birthday early at this fine dining establishment, and it was nothing short of amazing. For around USD$65pp(without drinks) we received six courses of delectable Indonesian inspired cuisine delivered with the loveliest service, whilst seated under the trees in the beautiful courtyard.
I could easily write a whole post on this meal, but will skip to the part that left the biggest impression on Mum and I; I’m talking LEMON BASIL SORBET WITH HONEY CREAM AND BLACK PEPPER TUILLE PEOPLE! The words pallet cleanser do not do this culinary work of art justice. I can taste it’s lemony, basily, honey-y (I know, I’m pushing it), creamy goodness to this day.
By Bali standards this meal is very expensive, but it truly is a world-class dining experience that I highly recommend should your budget allow.
Ibu Oka (For Babi Guling, or suckling pig)
Vegetarians, look away now, but I just had to try this special dish usually reserved for special Balinese ceremonies. We went to the branch of Ibu Oka about ten minutes out of town, in the village of Mas, though there is also one in central Ubud. I was really looking forward to this one, as I had heard a lot about this revered dish, and yet, I found it a bit of a let down (sorry little piggy, your death wasn’t completely in vain, I enjoyed your crackling). The dishes of suckling pig that we received were cold, and maybe its supposed to be like that, but it didn’t float our boat.
Rai Pasti Tailor and Warung (For 12hr Smoked Duck)
This unassuming restaurant backs onto a rice field (in case you hadn’t seen enough in Ubud), and it was here that we ordered the 12hr smoked duck (another ceremony dish) a day in advance. It was well worth the wait! One of the best we meals we had in Ubud (a close second to Mozaic and about a gizzillionth of the price), Daffy was presented on a beautiful platter and accompanied by all the other ceremonial side dishes including aromatic yellow rice.
This little warung is family run by a beautiful lady who operates a tailor out of the front part of the restaurant, and is situated on Monkey Forrest Rd about half way down. Oh, and its cheap, cheep, cheep!
Saya Warung (aka The Smallest Restaurant in the World, and while I cannot prove this, it’s a pretty good bet)
We discovered this little gem of a place on a little gem of a street that comes off the main drag (access next to Nomad restaurant) called Jalan Goutama, on our last day in Ubud. The street has some really cute, interesting shops, massage places and some other warungs where the locals eat (our driver Kadek eats at the warung across the street from this one).
It is the cutest little place run by a cool man-about-town type character who seems to know everyone who is anyone in Ubub (which makes for great people watching, as all the expats stop by to say hello). The food here was surprisingly lovely considering the miniscule space available to prepare it. We tried a regular’s recommendation of “the best gado-gado in Ubud” and found him to be quite correct, despite having nothing to compare it with. It’s basically a vegetable salad, with tempeh, covered in lashings of satay sauce, and it was aweseome. Yay! One for the vegos… I haven’t lost you yet, have I?
Side note: I had a reiki massage at the Vinananda center next door, by a lovely, gentle soul of a man. Though I can’t say I felt, well, much at all, I did come out feeling very relaxed after a nice little sleep on the table, whilst he held his hands above different parts of my body, apparently balancing my energy.
Extra side note: Also in this kampong is the Wena Homestay, which I stuck my head in to, and would recommend as a cheap, clean and simple place to stay, in a lovely location right near the centre of town. Rooms from 250,000 Rp which is aboout USD$25.
Now this place is special for a few reasons, the first being that the food is delicious, and pretty reasonably priced, the second being the service is out of this world from happy, smiling staff, and the third being that our beloved driver-extraordinare Kadek is stationed out the front between jobs.
I was initially put off that it was on the main street, and appeared to be quite touristy (which it is). Kadek recommended it to us on the first day, and I was all suspicious, like “yeah whatever pal, I’m not going to your tourist trap of a restaurant!”
When it became clear that Kadek was the most genuine man on the planet, I thought perhaps I should follow his suggestion. I was eating my words along with the delicious fare on offer (fresh rice paper rolls, nasi goreng, pastas etc), which resulted in us having to go there twice in one day to sample more food and drink their ice-cold fanta served in fancy glasses. Sorry, Kadek.
Casa Luna Cooking School
Janet De Neefe came to Bali as a young woman, met the man of her dreams, and started a chain of restaurants, a guest house and a cooking school in Ubud. I bought her book, a memoir of food, love and culture called Fragrant Rice at Casa Luna and read it during my stay in Ubud. I loved it.
So I signed Mum and I up for a cooking class, which is held at the Honeymoon Guesthouse. She didn’t take our class, but her lovely assistant took me to meet her and get my book signed after we feasted on the fruits of our labour. The class was informative, but not very hands on, more like a demonstration. I probably wouldn’t do another one there, though I was pretty chuffed to meet Janet.
Well, I reckon that just about covers the places we ate our way through, though there are just so many quality eating establishments in Ubud, it would be hard to go wrong. From local warungs to world-class restaurants, you cannot leave Ubud without having your taste buds pleasurized (its my word, I made it up).
Info: We stayed at Pondok Langon, overlooking a rice field in a small village 10mins from Ubud, owned by Alex and Yoga, an Australian/Indonesian couple with three kids and two dogs who reside in the main house on the property. www.pondoklangon.com
I cannot sing the praises of our driver Kadek enough, if you go to Ubud, or need an airport pick-up, please call him, and tell him Sarah and Pam said hi! +62817 972 4633
Just to clarify, kadek WAS NOT the driver that ran out of petrol at the start of this post