Prices, style, food presentation, decoration and service you will experience in Bali vary from restaurant to restaurant and range from very basic to luxurious and from extremely cheap to expensive. You can still have a tasty meal at one of the many food stalls (warungs) for less than 10,000 Rupiah, and you can spend US$100 and more per person (without wine) in some of Bali’s leading hotel restaurants. But even this is not much more than you’d pay for an appetizer in some restaurants in Paris, London or New York of equal quality, style and atmosphere.
In all restaurants outside the large hotels you can expect to pay from US$2.50 to about US$30 for a main course. Each beer adds US$2.50 to US$5 to your bill, and if you really want to live it up and order a bottle of imported wine or champagne this will set you back at least another US$40 and more. (WARNING: in hotel restaurants this extravagance carries a very steep penalty.) Usually 10% service charge is included in your bill. If not, a tip of 5% or a maximum of 10% is appreciated but not necessarily expected. Hotels always add 21% (11% tax & 10% service) to your bill.
Most restaurants in Bali are open until 10:00 or 11:00 p.m., and a few eateries in tourist areas keep their kitchens open until 12:00, 1:00 a.m. or even around the clock. For a late sushi or sashimi dinner you can go to any of the RYOSHI restaurants (until midnight). LA PORCHETTA and MAMA’S in Kuta stay open 24 hours. Another late night place is SANTA FE in Jalan Dhyana Pura, and there are quite a number of simple PADANG RESTAURANTS in Kuta, Sanur, and Denpasar which serve also food around the clock.
YOU CAN CHOOSE FROM A WIDE VARIETY OF CUISINES
Whether you long for an original Austrian Wiener Schnitzel, Chinese delicacies such as Hong Kong style Dim Sum, Smoked Duck from Szechuan or Scallops in Black Bean Sauce, German Wurst or Rindsrouladen, Greek Souvlaki, Indian Tandoori Chicken or Rogan Josh, Italian Lasagna or Pizza, Japanese Sushi, Yakitori or Shabu-Shabu, Korean Bulgogi Beef and Kimchi, Mexican Enchiladas or Tacos, Russian Borscht, Spanish Tapas or Paella, Swiss Cheese or Beef Fondue or a spicy Thai Tom Yam you can get it in Bali.
Although based on original recipes, the preparation of the dishes is often adapted to the local taste and the availability of certain ingredients and the results are not always predictable. However, if you don’t insist on comparing the Balinese version of international delicacies with those prepared in the country they originate from you can usually expect a rather enjoyable meal.
In addition to restaurants specializing in one type of cuisine you find many (usually not very trustworthy) places which offer a wide range of Chinese, Indonesian and Western dishes. For emergencies, there are also branches of KENTUCKY FRIED CHICKEN, MCDONALD’S and PIZZA HUT as well as a HARD ROCK CAFE. These Western fast food outlets have recently become very popular with young Indonesians.
INDONESIAN FOOD AND COOKING
Indonesian home cooking can be excellent, but finding a restaurant serving good local Indonesian food in pleasant and comfortable surroundings is not always easy. Some tiny food stalls and "Warungs" offer one or two excellently prepared local specialties but the primitive surroundings easily spoil the experience for many visitors. On the other hand, Indonesian food served in well-decorated and comfortable Western-style restaurants is sometimes specially prepared for foreigners and has not much similarity with the authentic version.
The centerpiece of any Indonesian meal is steamed or boiled rice. Accompanying dishes include various preparations of chicken, duck, beef, (in Bali also pork), goat, all kinds of seafood and vegetables, either steamed, boiled, braised, stir or deep fried, roasted or grilled over coconut husks. Other ingredients used to give Indonesian food its unique flavours are chillies, coconut, peanuts, garlic, ginger, saffron, basil, cardamon, lemon grass, lime, nutmeg, pepper, shallots, soy sauce, tamarind, turmeric and several kinds of shrimp paste. (They weren’t called the Spice Islands for nothing, you know.) The result is usually very tasty but not unbearably hot, as long as you avoid the small green chillies and different kinds of ‘Sambal’ which are often served together with your meal.
Indonesian delicacies served in many restaurants and hotels include ‘Sate’ (charcoal-grilled skewers with small pieces of chicken, beef, pork, prawns or minced seafood) served with a peanut sauce, ‘Gado-Gado’ (a half-boiled combination of various vegetables with peanut sauce) and ‘Nasi Goreng’, tasty fried rice with either meat or shrimps.
NASI PADANG FROM SUMATRA
In every Balinese town you will see a number of very simple restaurants which display 10 to 30 different plates and bowls with cooked food in a glass box next to the entrance. Chicken, beef, fish, liver, eggs and different vegetables are prepared in the style of Padang, a major city in Sumatra. When you sit down at a table, the waiter brings a plate of rice and one plate of every single dish to your table. You eat whatever you like, and you will be charged when you leave only for the food you’ve eaten. Usually a meal with many different dishes is two or three US dollars. Many Nasi Padang Restaurants in South Bali i.e. Sanur, Jimbaran, or the Kuta area are open 24 hours a day.
TRADITIONAL BALINESE FOOD
There are two traditional Balinese dishes that stick out: Babi Guling, the crispy skin and pieces of grilled suckling pig which is a specialty of the town of Gianyar, and the Bebek Betutu, a delicious duck specialty, slowly baked in banana leaves together with many different herbs and spices. To try "Babi Guling" watch out for signboards at small restaurants which specialize in this dish.
BEER, WINE, AND LOCAL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
In restaurants you’ll pay for a large bottle of local beer between 28,000 and 100,000 Rupiah (plus plus (++), means plus 10% tax and 5-11% service charge in hotels and some restaurants). A small glass of mediocre Australian table wine costs 50,000 to 80,000 Rp. Prices for a bottle of any better wine start between 300,000 Rupiah and 600,000 Rupiah, depending on where you are. Prices for wine and champagne in many hotels are outrageous compared with Western countries.
The good news is that the choice of available wines from Australia, California, Chile, France, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal and South Africa has recently increased. If you think the prices of these imports are too high, you should at least try the HATTEN wines, made from grapes grown in North Bali and sold in restaurants for 120,000 to 180,000 Rupiah and in hotels for sometimes 450,000 Rupiah ++ per bottle.
Most foreigners like the local BINTANG beer. Many restaurants and pubs also serve BINTANG "draft". Other popular beers are ANKER, CARLSBERG, SAN MIGUEL and the less popular BALI HAI beer. In hotels and supermarkets you can also find well-known brands imported from Australia, Germany, Japan, and even China (Tsing Tao).
Beer is available in all supermarkets and many smaller shops. Wine is very expensive in supermarkets but nowadays there is a number of specialized wine and liquor shops where you can find a good choice of imported wines at more reasonable prices.
Balinese enjoy their home brewed Arak, Tuak, and Brem. It is a tradition that in all villages the men meet sometimes in the evening in where they discuss the news of the day and get slowly high (or low) on their rather potent home brews.
Tuak (about 5% alcohol) is a sweet palm wine made from the juice of the coconut palm flower which is stored for about one month for fermentation. Brem is made from black glutinous rice and coconut milk; the alcohol content is about 7% to 9% after three days fermentation. Most popular with foreigners is Arak: a colorless, sugarless spirit distilled from either Brem or Tuak with 20% to 50% alcohol content. A whole bottle costs about Rupiah 60,000, and it is usually served ‘on the rocks’ as "Arak Attack" or "Arak Madu" (Arak, lemon or orange juice, and honey). You should try it at least once.
Have a look at the ever growing list of places for going out on Bali of our partner Bali.com. Make use of the map and zoom into the area you are interested in, use the filters to find the perfect restaurant, bar etc for you.