When Restaurant magazine released their prestigious list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2013, Spain slaughtered the competition with three restaurants in the top ten, including the number one spot (El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, in case you were wondering). No other country managed to grab more than one spot in the top ten, which is perhaps a testimony to the ingenuity of Spanish chefs and the superb produce that comes out of this incredibly diverse Latin country. With this in mind, is it any wonder that some of Bali’s finest dining establishments are Spanish or Latin inspired?
Nothing beats the stylish digs and picturesque location of El Kabron, resting high atop a cliff in Uluwatu and overlooking the swells of the Indian Ocean far below. By day, the place is part Mediterranean-style beach club with a freeform infinity pool overlooking the ocean and comfy blue and white bean bag chairs surrounding the pool. Come sunset, it’s all about signature cocktails at intimate tables, authentic Spanish tapas and laid-back grooves by live bands and DJs.
Spanish-born Executive Chef Marc Torices inherited his passion for cooking and love for the natural flavours of Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine from his grandmother, and he brings his gastronomic flair to El Kabron’s tapas, paellas and sweet treats. Small plates include imported Spanish Bellota ham and cured Manchego Cheese served with toasted bread sprinkled with fresh tomato and olive oil, Pulpo a la Gallega, Sliced Octopus with Potatoes seasoned with smoked paprika and olive oil, and Montaditos de Butifarra Catalana, Grilled Homemade Catalan Sausage with toasted bread. If it’s sweet treats you’re after, indulge in some of the best Crema Catalana this side of Barcelona.
Torices recently revealed his ‘Rustique Dining’ menu, which features dishes made with fresh ingredients that are loyal to what the ground can deliver at different times of year and prepared simply, avoiding unnatural approaches. This way, the true flavours of the ingredients come out and are celebrated in their essence. The a la carte rustic menu is available from 7:30pm to 9:30pm daily.
When the sun has well and truly set and the stars are twinkling above, El Kabron heats up into a stylish and sophisticated nightlife venue, with live music every night of the week, including smooth jazz bands, acoustic sets by talented local and international crooners and DJs from around the world. Head mixologist, Carlos Gutierrez, keeps the good times flowing with his special version of sangria served by the pitcher, cool cocktails and an enticing selection of international wines and beers.
Tel: 0361 7803416 www.chiringuitoelkabron.com
Just as you would expect from a vibrant Latin restaurant, La Finca offers heaps of character in their beautiful open-air setting with soaring bamboo beams, rustic wooden chairs and tables and outdoor garden seating amid lanterns and fairy lights. The vibe here is easy-going yet lively, and no attention to detail is spared, right down to the bright ceramic plates and beautifully presented Basque and Mediterranean dishes. The owners at La Finca work under the philosophy of ‘Alimenta El Alma’, which means ‘food for the soul’, so each and every dish is made with soul to feed the soul, using fresh organic ingredients and artisan methods and recipes.
Besides the usual tapas suspects like Jamon Iberico, Patatas Bravas, and special selections of Spanish cheeses, La Finca thinks outside the box with creative dishes like the Paquetito de Foie Gras con Salse de Remolacha y Estragon, Wrapped Foie Gras in creamy red beet tarragon sauce, Paquetitos de La Finca, artisan pasta pockets stuffed with sundried tomatoes, feta, and basil and complemented with capers, olives, rocket and butter sauce, or their famous Carne a la Piedra de la Finca, hot stone-grilled Australian rib-eye steak served with fresh spices, herbs and sauces. Keep an eye out for their weekly croquette specials made with various fillings like truffles, roast chicken and jalapeno, and squid with squid ink.
For those looking for a midday fix, La Finca also recently open for lunch with light bites like authentic Basque Pintxos—bite-sized tapas from the Basque region, and heartier fare like the Fideos Torcidos con Gambas Trufadas al Ajillo, hand-twisted noodles with garlic truffle prawns, as well artisan sandwiches and burgers made with fresh bread prepared in house. Refreshing sangria makes for the perfect liquid lunch, and if that isn’t quite doing the trick, try the Nieve de Leche, an icy dessert made with mint, condensed milk, lime juice and vodka and topped with shaved ice. La Finca is conveniently located between Canggu and Seminyak, just minutes from Batu Belig Beach.
Tel: 0361 2740088 http://www.lafincabali.com
Bali’s first Spanish-Argentine restaurant is the brainchild of chef Lino de Zordo and Gonzalo Sanchez, who have been tantalizing palates with their contemporary tapas, tender BBQ meats and creative Latin-inspired specialties since 2005. Here the culinary concept of good food paired with good drinks and good company reigns supreme in their breezy al fresco dining area decked out in warm wood tones and surrounded by frangipani trees, and in the covered dining room with intimate white tables and soft lighting. The space is conducive to long leisurely dinners with friends and family over a few bottles of wine, and La Sal’s unwavering attention to detail in cuisine, ambiance and service makes it no surprise that La Sal is the recipient of the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence for 2013.
La Sal works on the philosophy that ‘Life is no life without salt’—a statement that calls into question blandness and mediocrity in food and in life. This philosophy manifests clearly throughout their menu, which features a healthy mix of hot and cold tapas, innovative salads, hearty mains and decadent desserts with an Argentinian twist. Complementing the culinary creations, the drinks list features classic Spanish sangria, fine international wines and creative cocktails made with top shelf spirits.
The tapas at La Sal never fail to impress, as they are made with the only the best imported and local ingredients and are a mix of both traditional and modern culinary construction. Cold tapas include the Carpaccio with Foie Gras grass and a Manchego cheese cloud, Marinated Spanish Olives, and the fresh and vibrant Bruschetta with vegetables and goat’s cheese. If calientes is more your style, you can choose from Calamari deep fried and drizzled with white and black aioli, Grilled Garlic Prawns with truffle oil, or the sailor’s style Clam Casserole. Fresh salads can also be shared and are hard to resist with offerings like the Soft Shell Crab Caesar Salad or the Warm Goat’s Cheese Salad with a sweet and crunchy honey-walnut vinaigrette.
For those with bigger appetites, the main course menu offers an abundance of savoury meat and seafood dishes. Try the rich Crispy Pork Belly with casserole lentils and chilled mango, or the Slow-Cooked Lamb Shoulder, roasted for 72 hours so the meat is soft and buttery, and served with a two-pepper sauce and steamed vegetables. The Paella Mixta also gets rave reviews for its generous portions of chicken, vegetables, fresh seafood and subtly seasoned saffron rice. Finish the meal off with a sinfully smooth white chocolate and dark chocolate mousse or the Helado de Dulce de Leche, caramel ice cream prepared in true Argentinian style.
Tel: 0361 738321 www.lasalbali.com
A welcome addition to Beachwalk’s already vibrant dining scene, Tapeo Gastrobar is both cutting edge restaurant and sleek rooftop bar serving up chilled sangria and Iberian fare in a contemporary setting overlooking Kuta Beach. After a long day of surfing, shopping and sun worshipping, head to their second floor location and grab a seat outside on the expansive wooden deck with oversized day beds adorned with comfortable cushions, or head indoors for a more intimate vibe. Soak up the tropical breezes, ultra-modern decor and chilled beats playing in the background as you dine on rich and flavourful fare prepared by Barcelona-born Chef Victor Taborda.
Taborda’s innovative menu features a mix of traditional Spanish flavours mixed with modern creations. Take for example, their sangria list, which includes six different options to choose from made with either red, white or rose wine. Throw in a creative tapas list, and you’re simply spoiled for choice. Try the wildly popular Queso Brie Frito, fried Brie served with mango marmalade, Atun Marinado, Marinated Tuna with soy sauce and seaweed salad, or the Mini Hamburguesa de Oxtail, which is exactly what it sounds like—a mini hamburger with a oxtail patty, seasoned to perfection and garnished with mayo and rucola. Mains include six different types of paella as well as fresh salads and a wide selection of fish and meat dishes.
After the feast is done, stick around to rock out to live bands or groove to the DJs hitting the decks on the rooftop patio under the stars. The drinks list here is impressive to say the least, with refreshing mojitos, international wines by the glass, draft beer on tap, and the super strong Ibiza cocktail made with eight different types of booze. Check with the staff to see if there are any specials on, as drinks specials and food promotions are almost always running.
Tel: 0361 8465645
Serenity Spanish Restaurant & Bar
With an unassuming facade and simple red and white sign reading Serenity Spanish Bar & Restaurant, you might be tricked into thinking that this is just another run-of-the-mill dining venue. However, like so often is the case, the modest exterior belies what lies within. Drive past it on the Sanur Bypass, and you would be missing out on one of Bali’s newest hidden gems—a temple of opulence, romance, space and muy delicioso authentic Spanish flavors.
A quick tour of the restaurant reveals two levels, with the main dining room and al fresco terrace on the ground floor and a swank cigar lounge, private party room and intimate tables hidden in cozy corners on the upper level. The lavish decor carries throughout each of the rooms, and the sense of light and space is compounded by large windows and a wide balcony that looks down onto the main dining room.
Serenity Bar & Restaurant comes to us from Singapore, where it has a long-standing reputation for Mediterranean-style ambiance and delicious Spanish fare, including tapas, paella and their famous Cochinillo Asado, which has often been referred to as the most succulent roast suckling pig in the city, possibly even giving Bali’s babi guling a run for its money. In traditional Spanish style, the tender pig is carved with a plate at the table (proof of the superlative tender texture of the meat), and the plate is smashed on the floor afterwards for good luck.
Popular tapas choices include the Patatas Bravas, golden chunks of potato drizzled in a mildly spicy romesco sauce and smooth aioli and the Rollito de Bacon y Esparrago for its crisp green asparagus wrapped in warm salty bacon. The Crema de Mariscos, a seafood soup with a rich velvety tomato broth laden with tender pieces of fresh dory, squid, prawns and scallops in the shell is another winner, and of course, the paella and suckling pig is not to be missed. Wash it all down with a red sangria made with smooth Spanish Rioja or a white sangria made with a fruity Australian Sauvignon Blanc.
**This article was previously published in the Yak magazine Sept/Oct/Nov 2013 issue. To check out the latest articles from the Yak, go to www.theyakmag.com.