A favourite haunt of long-term expats who have been permanently drawn to its laid-back allure, Ubud is home to an eclectic and varied culinary scene. French, Thai, Italian, Japanese, Mexican – there’s no shortage of international influences spilling out onto crowded laneways or tucked away in luxurious resort restaurants.
What can be surprisingly difficult to source, in fact, is authentic Balinese cuisine served in a modern context and high-end style. Indeed, bar from Will Meyrick’s Hujan Locale, there’s little in the way of Ubud restaurants that dedicate themselves not only to serving up Indonesian cuisine, but doing so in a way that modernises, refreshes and importantly, places international value on it.
Enter Mr Wayan, a new restaurant fronting Wapa Di Ume Resort. Tucked five minutes from main street along Jalan Suweta, Wapa Di Ume itself is now coming on almost 20 years, one of the most established resorts in the area. At the beginning of this year, the restaurant was revamped to align with the increasingly modern and artistic style of Ubud (think exposed, high ceilings and warm, rustic browns). Amongst the new look-and-feel of Mr Wayan, however, is a commitment to serving up traditional Balinese cuisine using fresh, high-quality ingredients and a healthy dose of fragrant spices.
Andrew and I popped into Mr Wayan for dinner last weekend, having been asked by NOW! Bali Magazine to check it out. As we walked in, our eyes were immediately drawn to the restaurant lookout, where the 6:30pm sky was fading into a beautiful silhouette of pink and turquoise. Whilst there’s definitely no shortage of places to enjoy the sunset in Ubud, I’m forever marvelling at just how many gorgeous vantage points around the village are tucked away into the most unassuming of locations. Indeed, from a fairly standard street-view, Wapa Di Ume houses some seriously beautiful scenery, from the veggie patch where they grow their restaurant ingredients, to their second restaurant for in-house guests over the river and down amongst the rice paddies.
We sat down to enjoy a glass of wine (local, as per the theme) and peruse the menu, which contains an extensive number of Balinese dishes, ranging from the more familiar bebek betutu (slow cooked duck) and chicken satay, to combinations of flavours I’m yet to have tasted, such pork belly stew with star anise and braised pork ribs with jack-fruit. After a short period of deliberation, I settled on potato and corn fritters, followed by grilled barramundi with ginger. Andrew opted for the spiced lamb in coconut milk, which he graciously agreed to let me sample (in the name of food blogging, of course).
Our meals were served, in true Balinese style, in quick succession, with barely a chance to let our entrée settle before the mains were plated. Two things struck me most about the dishes; one being the freshness of the ingredients, which had clearly been sourced fresh for the day’s menu. Secondly was the depth of the spices, from a sweet cinnamon palate to a deeper nutmeg flavour. There was a complexity to the flavour often missing from Indonesian cuisine, or perhaps often too subtle for my Western tongue to distinguish. Whatever the case, I enjoyed working my way through each mouthful and finding something different each time.
We finished with another glass of wine which is, unfortunately, limited to Hatten when ordering by the glass. There is a good range of other Bali brands, however, and should it not have been a school night I would have definitely opted for a bottle of Two Islands shiraz. Andrew and I both agreed that as a concept, Mr Wayan houses a lot of potential, and occupies what is an ironically unique space in the Ubud food market. We made sure to note the best sunsets seats in the house for next time we swing by for some traditional Balinese fare in contemporary Ubud style.