The Warung, Bali

Posted on December 13, 2009 by Aun

A friend of mine said something really interesting the other day. He asked me if I’d ever noticed that while Bali has several stunningly beautiful restaurants, with gorgeous views and great design, and some great local restaurants, that serve both fantastic Balinese and other regional Indonesian dishes, it was pretty much impossible to find a restaurant that combines all of the above. The more I thought about it, I realized he was right. It was hard to name a restaurant that could offer breathtaking vistas, a cool vibe with great style and design, and really sumptuous, authentic local food. The combination was only logical. Why wouldn’t some smart restaurateur design a restaurant like this? Why shouldn’t there be a place as cool as Ku De Ta, or as pretty as Mozaic, that offered really delicious Balinese fare? After all, when I travel somewhere, I want to explore and learn about the local cuisine. I want to tuck into really well-prepapred authentic (and not touristy) dishes. But I’m also a slave to style and I’d like to not have to always be eating such food in less than chic environments.

Enter The Warung at the new Alila Villas Uluwatu resort. This swanky casual restaurant at this glamourous new property, perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean on Bali’s southern coastline, delivers the total package. And I know I was just recently waxing lyrical about another Alila property, but I have good reason. These guys, at least at the Alila Villas level, just seem to be able to get things right. And that’s worth shouting out about. The Uluwatu resort, an ultra-luxe (and yet also sustainable) development designed by Singapore starchitects Wong Mun Summ and Richard Hassel of WoHA, is strikingly chic. All clean lines, bright colors, and natural materials, Alila Villas Uluwatu is the kind of place you’d expect to see movie stars and billionaires sunning, sipping cocktails and trading secrets.

The Warung is one of the property’s two restaurants. The other is Cire, an ultra-modern Western restaurant focused on using organic regional produce. While Cire is (from what I understand) the pride and joy of the hotel’s Executive Chef Stefan Zijta, formerly from two-Michelin starred Vermeer in Amsterdam, I was much more excited to try The Warung on my most recent trip to Bali. Some foodie friends had raved about it, applauding the way that Zitja and his culinary team have been able to update local dishes through new and novel ways of both presenting the food as well as playing with the recipes themselves.

The restaurant is spread out across a main dining room with an open kitchen and a really cool, long communal table, as well as many other tables (small and large) both in the courtyard next to the dining room and on the patio in front of it, facing the ocean. The clean modern groove of the interiors is complimented by the great tunes being piped out around you.

Sadly, because I stopped off for a bite on the way to the airport, I couldn’t stuff my face as much as I usually do. I was only able to nibble on a few dishes, but all of them were super and good enough to make me both put The Warung on my Bali Must-Eat List as well as rave about it on this blog.

My colleagues and I were greeted with a lovely long platter of local dips and two different kinds of keropok (fried prawn crackers). The dips were all super-fresh, and ranged from 3 different kinds of sambal to a refreshingly zingy corn relish. We were then served a range of marinated satays. We had prawn satay, fish satay (made into a paste and molded around lemongrass before grilling), chicken, and the most unusual but my favourite, snails! Kakul (the local term for snails) are a very traditional food for the Balinese. These snails were delicious, rich, earthy and really something special. The satay was served with a really yummy dip (not that we needed it), a fresh vegetable relish and some molded rice cakes. Next up was a green papya soup. This was amazing (and I normally hate papaya) and I’ve been begging the resort for the recipe since returning to Singapore.

Our next two courses showed off how Chef Zitja has been pushing Balinese cuisine in slightly new directions. First we had a babi guleng burger. This was awesome. I’ve made no secret of my love for the Balinese roast pig. Regular readers also know I am a burger-fanatic. Having these two great dishes combined into one simply made my day. Zitja told me he takes the babi guleng, which his team makes on property, and then minces up the meat and skin with more herbs in order to make his small but flavour-packed patties. He served the burgers with a nice spicy sauce and, surprisingly, pickled ginger.

After the burgers, we tried some roasted lobster. The lobster is actually marinated, then poached, then rubbed with more spices and roasted quickly. It’s then plated with some microgreens and served under a pillow of coconut foam. The dish didn’t look anything like traditional Balinese food, but all of the flavours, even some of the techniques, draw heavily from the island’s culinary history.

Sadly, I had no time (nor room in my stomach) for dessert. Which wasn’t really a problem because I know I’ll be coming back to The Warung any and every time I’m in Bali. It’s the perfect spot for catching the sunset with some cold cocktails and great sounds, followed by some of the best local food I have ever had on the island.

The Warung
Alila Villas Uluwatu
Jl Belimbing Sari
Banjar Tambiyak, Desa Pecatu 80364
Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 848 2166

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Kevin Bell December 14, 2009 at 11:12 am

    In fact another Alila property has been specialising in not only Balinese cuisine, but that of East Bali, for the past 3 years. Their brillinat young chef Penny Williams has explored the local villages, sharing the preparation and cooking responsibilities with the women of the village at weddings, and other festive occasions, learning about the sort of tradition that is only handed done, never found in books. She has also encouraged the local farmers to grow real original Balinese rice, not the quick turnaround imported Javanese varieties and many other local original vegetables and fruits that can be grown organically, without chemicals. She cooks and conducts her cooking classes at Alila Manggis, near Candi Dasa. See:
    http://www.balieats.com/full.cfm?id=159

  2. Herb December 18, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    If you get to Ubud try Fly Café in Lungsiakan where you can feast on the cheapest and best quality local, international, and vegetarian cuisine. Specialties are BBQ Ribs, and grilled Seafood local style.

  3. Floh December 22, 2009 at 6:25 am

    Hi there!
    I’m Singaporean and I currently work and live in Antwerp. I miss the food culture back home and I’m really drooling at these pics from Bali!

    I’m hoping to see if there’s any food club/gourmet club/food bloggers club in Belgium or Europe that organizes food events which perhaps you know, and I will like to join.
    Cheers,
    Floh

  4. Gourmet Traveller August 12, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    We were there for dinner just last week and have to agree with you. The food was fantastic and the atmosphere was sophisticated. Great local cuisine in a fantastic setting. Looking forward to go back soon for lunch.

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