Balinese food is more comfort food than gourmet, so while it’s not winning many fine-dining awards, it’s pretty damn good (especially if you like spice). Due to the large expat scene here, you’ll find regional influences from France, mainland Asia and even America. These are the best spots on the island for a memorable meal.
Ibu OkaIbu Oka
Ibu Oka is a family-run restaurant that only locals knew about—until Anthony Bourdain gave it his stamp of approval. Now, there’s regularly a line out the door (if you don’t want to wait more than 30 minutes, get here right when it opens or right after the lunch hour rush). The claim to fame here is the babi guling, or suckling pig, cooked on the premises and served with a secret sauce over rice or vegetables. Succulent is an understatement. At the time of writing, fame has yet to go to Ibu Oka’s head: a meal here will only set you back about $6.
Ah, Mozaic. Where do we start? It’s been named one of Restaurant Magazine’s Top 50 Restaurants in the World, it won a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence, and it’s been raved about in The New York Times. It’s considered the best restaurant on the entire island, so dining here on your honeymoon is mandatory. Opened by Chris Salans (a graduate of the Michelin three-star French Laundry), Mozaic is upscale: nobody dares walk in wearing sandals. Mozaic offers a culinary adventure that pulls you into the deep regions of Bali (with French technique, naturally) and spoils you with perfectly refined dishes. The menu changes daily, but expect entrees along the lines of Javanese Quail, Coral Trout and Market Fresh Tiger Prawn. A 6-course tasting menu sets you back about $100: the most expensive meal on the island, but the best.
Naughty Nuri’sNaughty Nuri’s
Things are about to get messy. Like bring-your-own-napkins messy. Literally. Naughty Nuri’s, one of Bali’s most famed institutions, enforces a novelty BYON rule (you can buy them on the street before you go in). The barbecue ribs here are a big, bold, beautiful mess. The restaurant is no more than a rickety shack on the side of the road, but once you get there (lured by the clouds of BBQ smoke), there’s perfectly grilled BBQ spare ribs, lamb and pork chops, and even some tuna for pescatarians. Knock it all back with a dirty martini, and get wild like everyone else. You can expect to pay a whopping $8 for a plate of ribs. While there’s now a location in Seminyak, the real deal is in still the original in Ubud.
Cafe LotusCafe Lotus Bali
Sure, Lotus is a cafe, but it’s a magnet for foodies. Formerly a dive spot for backpackers, Cafe Lotus is now considered one of the best spots to have dinner on the island. There’s an eclectic Balinese menu with dishes you’ll never be able to pronounce (like be-pasih goa lawah, which is fish marinated in turmeric, lemongrass and ginger then steamed in a banana leaf), several different preparations of duck (a Balinese favorite), nasi goreng (a Balinese fried rice staple) and less Balinese dishes like pumpkin soup, seafood ravioli and tuna carpaccio. You’ll seldom pay more than $10 for a meal and you can expect dinner and a show. The seating area looks over a huge, massive lotus pond that’s surrounded by tropical trees, and a stage for Balinese performances to the tune of a live orchestra.