Sarong Restaurant, Bali
There's no question that you can eat well in Bali, given the multitude of resorts, hotels, restaurants and eateries constantly adapting to the pulse of capricious tourists. For many holidaymakers it's simply an issue of sustenance, preferably from a horizontal position.
The very thought of fine dining seems incompatible with sarongs, shorts and thongs and yet it depends on what you perceive fine dining to be. Invariably the stress is on formality yet for me it is more about the quality of ingredients, the chef's talent and the restaurant's style, and most importantly theatre. I like restaurants that have energy and this one has it. Casual is ambiguous but congenial is everything when you are in a relaxed and indulgent frame of mind and the mood often predominates over the food.
But Bali permanent expats, including a large contingent of Australians and practically every other nationality, can be somewhat immune to their tropical paradise. They too need somewhere that arouses the senses, both visually and gastronomically. I suspect this is the foundation of Sarong Restaurant, a place of convivial style where residents can hang out and bring their guests and friends bolstered by a steady stream of affluent tourists.
Sarong's ambience and decor are unequivocally stunning, totally engulfing the senses from the moment you walk through the walled courtyard, the lightning incurably soothing, in a way only Bali can do. I applaud their decision opening only at night and preserving this meditative reverie.
I also concur with Sarong's designer Liv Clausen's decadent approach, dismissing the original brief of Asian minimalist.
"I'm minimalisted out, I like sensuous, comfy, personable and a bit of ‘WoW'ism... it's been ages since I have gone to restaurant in Bali and felt at home," Clausen told Bali Insight magazine.
The richness and opulence of colors from wall fabrics, plush club lounges and an eclectic array of elaborate chairs juxtaposed with the rawness of natural timbers and stone floors, a covered yet open-air structure with watercourses and pools, exquisite Balinese, Indonesian and Indian antiques, all cleverly lit from ceiling to table is a kaleidoscopic titillation of the senses.
Supported by strategic local partners, the Scotland-born, Australian-indoctrinated proprietor chef, Will Meyrick, brings to Bali that refreshingly liberal interpretation of Asian cuisine I call Australian-freestyle which he perfected at icon Sydney restaurants Jimmy Liks and Longrain. It is inspired by humble, authentic street food and home-cooks from many Asian cuisines, applying a contemporary translation and the chef's talents.
Moreover, it is about great ingredients, sourcing only the best produce and knowing how to harmoniously combine the diverse yet synergistic flavors.
The Pan-Southeast Asian menu at Sarong is a mélange of Thai, Indian, Balinese, Sumatran, Vietnamese and Malaysian with a wink to China although with a strong accent on Thailand and India. It's the sort of menu that makes you want to try it all. Communal dinning is the only way to go, otherwise just start at the top of the menu and work your way through, returning as many evenings as it takes to get through it.
You can also graze well here, between the extensive list of starters, such as salmon betel leaf with shrimp galangal & coriander or wok-tossed balado crispy beef with caramelized chilis. Along with several light dishes and salads such as crispy salmon with watermelon mint Thai basil & roasted chili shallot dressing or seared scallops with crispy pork belly young coconut; if you are not entirely hungry, as one can be in holiday mode, you can still stimulate the taste buds.
Personally I find it hard not to be seduced by the offerings from the coconut grill; grilled Bangladesh prawns marinated with mustard seeds, chili and garlic with a tamarind dressing or lamb shank twice cooked in western Sumatran spices with sambal dabu dabu.
Then there's the Tandoor with chicken katsoori kebab marinated in saffron yoghurt kosta methi and green mango salad or snapper pahadi with mint coriander yoghurt & radish mustard seed salads. There are innovative curries and tsir fries as well. I did say there is no way you would get through the menu in one sitting, which is just as well, as assuredly you will want to return.
The wine list is snappy, concise and commendably artisan producer focused. Let's just say you can certainly get a decent drink at relatively reasonable prices and that's saying something in Bali. Make sure you try the O:TU Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, mellifluous with the cuisine and environment.
The service is genuinely friendly in that unique Bali genre but also polished and highly-efficient. You can relax in the lounge with a cooling champagne mojito or vodka-laced ginger pear or prop yourself up at the bar with a lemongrass vanillatini martini and lose yourself in the buzz of the place.
Approaching its second birthday, Sarong Restaurant is an archetypical tropical sanctuary and adult playground after a hard day relaxing at the poolside.
Location: Jl. Petitenget No. 19X, Kerobokan - Kuta Bali Indonesia Web: www.sarongbali.com
Tel: +62 361 737 809