Ubud is a foodie haven. With an array of cookery schools, restaurants and authentic local warungs to choose from you could literally eat somewhere new every day for years on end. Add in a big cultural movement, forests full of monkeys and it’s surrounding ring of bright green rice fields and we were all very excited about stopping off in Bali’s expat capital.
As we drove down Monkey Forest Road our eyes were caught by a beautiful restaurant filled with glowing lamps, twinkling fairy lights and very contented looking customers. With tummies rumbling after a day of diving (mum and I) or getting pedicures (Dot and Nicole) after a quick shower we were straight back out the doors of our cute rooms in search of dinner.
It turned out that the restaurant we’d spied from our car was called Ibu Rai something of a legend in Ubud. of course we had no idea and had chosen our dinner location based entirely on the fact that it looked really pretty.
Not as pretty as my dining companions though!
Ravenous, we all ordered entrees along with our mains and almost fell off our chairs when they arrived.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen such pretty food, and for around $3 for each starter too.
Luckily it tasted even better than it looked proven by the fact that all of our massive gobby mouths were taken up with eating and not talking.
If anything eating my starter only made me feel more hungry and I almost fell in to my duck curry when it arrived. To celebrate it being a Tuesday I’d ordered both a BIntang and a glass of wine (what? I don’t have a problem) and it was very strange to think that I’d spent more on my alcohol than on my food.
For any foodies (or, actually, anyone who likes to eat) I can’t recommend Ibu Rai enough. It might be a bit pricey by Bali standards but in the grand scheme of things paying $25 for a meal like this is nothing. We were still talking about it for the rest of the holiday. Hell, I ate there in May and I still think about it.
The next night we decided to go a bit local. Trusting the Lonely Planet guide we set off in search of Mama’s Warung. It was a bit of a mission to find and involved lots of very dark back streets and almost slipping over in some mud, but the end point was worth the journey.
Not quite a restaurant, it was mostly just tables in someones living room where the whole family is pitching in and every item is served with a smile and a question.
Eating somewhere that felt more authentically Indonesian was great. I didn’t even mind when I found that the toilet, in lieu of a flush, had a huge bucket of water and a jug to pour it in to the bowl.
We each had a Bintang, satay and noodles which was waaaay more food than we needed. All up it cost us less than 50,000rp ($5) each including the beer. Oh and di we mention that the food was delicious and that we even got to meet Mama herself? Or that we got super fast free WiFi?
The highlight of the meal however was a little item listed for 7,000rp ($0.70). We’d been told about ‘Arak’ on our cookery tour that day but had been informed that it was illegal to sell. Either Mama is running a racket or our guide was misinformed! Made from brewing rice and coconut palm flowers it has a typical alcohol content of 50% and so obviously came served in a wine glass.
It tasted exactly how you’d expect bootleg Indonesian rice spirits it to taste. I did however enjoy the jazzy lime slice on the glass.
As much as it was nice to eat at a fancy restaurant it’s sometimes great to try something a bit local. Although I don’t know how brave I’d have to be to try satay from stalls on the side of the road… You might want to have some immodium ready if you do!