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 5,000 Rupiah, and you can spend US$150 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.
Although not cheap, the Balinese dance performances presented during a buffet dinner in some hotels for about US$80 or more per person are memorable events you should attend at least once (the open stage at THE OBEROI offers perhaps the most attractive setting). The adjacent KURA KURA restaurant of The Oberoi would be our first choice for "Fine Dining" in Bali.
Special culinary events, although aimed predominently at the local expat community, are dinners at THE CONRAD, THE ST. REGIS and THE BVLGARI resort introducing the products of visiting wine makers priced at US$100 to US$700 per person including wines.
The monthly lunch meetings of the "Bali Wine Club" (gentlemen only), the "Bali Champagne Club" (ladies only), the "Chaine des Rotisseurs" Black-Tie Dinners and the spectacular Gala Dinners of the BCP (Bali Culinary Professionals) are for members and their guests only.
If you wish to arrange a special celebration or just want to enjoy a truly outstanding culinary experience, your top choice in Indonesia would be contacting Chef Enrico Wahl at the KURA KURA restaurant of the BALI OBEROI resort (second choice in the Kuta area would be METIS); if you stay in the Nusa Dua/Jimbaran area, don’t look any further than the KAYUPUTI beachfront restaurant at the luxurious ST. REGIS BALI (the di Mare at the KARMA KANDARA not far from the Uluwatu temple would be our second choice here), and booking the Private Chef’s Table @ MOZAIC in Ubud is a great experience if you stay in that part of the island and have a group of 8 or 10 friends to join you (our second choice in Ubud is LAMAK). Please visit our "Kuta Restaurant Guide" , "Nusa Dua Restaurant Guide" and "Ubud Restaurant Guide" for details. Expect to pay between US$40 and US$150 per person without drinks; this is not cheap but still much lower than what you’d pay for a comparable meal in other parts of the world.
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$1.50 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, MACDONALD’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 difficult. 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 often 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.
For Indonesian "High Cuisine" – not to be confused with local home cooking – visit the restaurant KETUPAT in Kuta. For a down-to-earth experience of Indonesian food you should visit the night markets and/or the food halls in or adjacent to some shopping centers (e.g. Tiara Dewata) in Denpasar. For a dollar or so you can try "Bakso", different "Sate" (including the Balinese "Sate Lilit" made from minced seafood), and many other local delicacies.
NASI PADANG FROM SUMATRA
In every Balinese town you will see a number of very simple restaurants which display 10 or 15 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 you should not miss: It’s a must to try the 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. The "Bebek" you should try in MURNI’S WARUNG next to the bridge in Campuhan, Ubud.
The best place to experience a whole range of authentic Balinese dishes including Sate Lilit made from minced prawns and fish, a delicious grilled marinated fish, and Nasi Kuning, yellow rice often served at celebrations, is the BUMBU BALI Restaurant in Tanjung Benoa adjacent to Nusa Dua (Jalan Pratama, Gang Nusa No. 5B). This unique and comfortable restaurant was opened in December 1997 by Heinz von Holzen, the author (and photographer) of "The Food of Bali" – a book which is a must for everybody interested in exotic cuisines. Heinz is the former food guru of the Grand Hyatt Bali and the Ritz Carlton hotel, and his restaurant is a temple devoted to traditional Balinese cuisine.
Inside the nearby RUMAH BALI Heinz opened in March 2006 the BALINESE VILLAGE CENTER – a carefully designed compound to stage cultural shows for up to 340 guests, art exhibitions, theme parties or private dinners. In various traditional pavillions the preparation of rice, vegetable and meat dishes is demonstrated, and you can also watch the destillation of and taste the home-made Arak and Rice Wine. Moreover, during most mornings the VILLAGE CENTER is the venue of Heinz’ popular Balinese Cooking School for visitors.
To learn more about Balinse specialties and how to prepare them, please visit our Balinese Recipes pages providing over 70 recipes for traditional Balinese food preparations.
BEER, WINE, AND LOCAL ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
In restaurants you’ll pay for a large bottle of local beer between 12,000 and 80,000 Rupiah (plus 21% tax and service charge in hotels). A small glass of mediocre Australian table wine costs 50,000 to 80,000 Rupiah ++. Prices for a bottle of any better wine start between 280,000 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, one rosé wine and two types of white wine 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. The same company is producing also a rosé sparkling wine named "JEPUN" with a refreshing fruity taste. "JEPUN" is about 50% to 100% more expensive than HATTEN Rosé. HATTEN’s newer white sparkling wine named "TANJUNG" is also getting quite popular.
Most foreigners like the local BINTANG beer. Many restaurants and pubs also serve BINTANG "draft". Other locally produced 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 shops where you can find a good choice of imported wines at more reasonable prices. Have a look at the WINE HOUSE at Jalan Kerobokan opposite KAFE WARISAN, the BALI WINE SHOP, Jalan By-Pass 546 in Sanur, BALI DELI in Jalan Kunti and the BALI LIQUOR STORE, Jalan Kunti No. 18 in Seminyak, and at BEST WINES & SPIRITS, Jalan Tangkuban Peradu No. 15D, Kerobokan. The best source to buy Cuban cigars is CIGARS & CIGARS at Kuta Poleng Mall B-5, Jalan Setiabudhi near the DFS circle at Jalan By-Pass in Kuta.
Some religious (Moslem) groups are trying to make the consumption of alcoholic beverages illegal in Indonesia, and there is a possibility that in future alcoholic drinks will either not be available at all or can only be served in international hotels and only to foreigners.
This is really bad news for all Balinese who have enjoyed Arak, Tuak, and Brem as long as anybody can remember. It is a tradition that in all villages the men meet in the evening in "drinking clubs" where they discuss the news of the day and get slowly stoned 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 40,000, 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. There is no hang-over as long as you don’t mix your drinks, and many visitors don’t order anything else after they have discovered Arak.