Reviews of a Gourmet Snob: Kafe Warisan, Seminyak, Bali

When I booked Kafe Warisan for a friend’s birthday dinner, I couldn’t help but snigger at their slogan of “World Famous French Mediterranean Cuisine in a Classic Rice Terrace Setting” — surely a little pretentious for a small restaurant in a podunk town in rural Bali, no? And thus I was expecting mediocre, somewhat overpriced food in a cheesy Balinese setting… only to get way more than I expected. This was easily among the best Western meals I’ve had in Asia, or anywhere else for that matter.

First a word about the restaurant: it’s been around for a good 15 years now and looks quite unremarkable from the dusty main street outside, but everything changes once you’re inside: it turns out to be a sprawling colonial-style house, with the sun setting over the rice paddies in front — bought and maintained by the restaurant to make sure they stay there! — as you settle down for dinner.

We had dinner on the patio outside, which certainly has the best views in the place but, being open-air, can be kind of hot. (Once we’d settled down, though, it was fine.) Service is excellent, with staff always there when you need them, but not in your face like they are in most of Singapore’s fancy Western places. The restaurant offers both set meals (which should be booked in advance) and a huge a la carte menu, along with a lengthy wine list, but alas, due to Indonesia’s silly tax policies, a bottle that would set you back $10 in the US was selling for $40 here. We picked an interesting-sounding bottle of Costieres De Nimes Domaine de Perrieres 2001 from the cheaper end of the list, which turned out to be a decent choice: a fairly dry, strong red that was a good fit for the mains.

On to the food!

Artichoke Ravioli, Grilled Scallop and Prawn, Lemon Butter Sauce

We shared this appetizer. The artichoke ravioli (all three or four of them) were a little limp in texture and muddled in taste, but the scallop and prawn on top were both outstanding: huge, fresh and juicy, and the mild lemon butter sauce just accentuated the taste.

Hers: Duck Leg Confit, Cêpes Mushrooms, Garlic and Parsley Sauté Potatoes

This was just spectacular. Duck is a Balinese favorite, and I thought I’d had some pretty decent entrees elsewhere (esp. bebek betutu, the local “blackened duck” rubbed with spices and cooked in a banana leaf). However, these guys managed to cook it perfectly: the skin had crystallised into a crispy layer that just burst with fatty goodness as soon as it hit your teeth, while meat inside was so rich and moist that it literally just fell off the bone. On the side, I found the cepes a little astringent, but she liked them as well.

His: Pan Roasted Black Angus Tenderloin, Braised Oxtail with Shimeji Mushrooms, Black Truffle Sauce and Potato Galette

I’d asked for my steak medium rare, and while it came back rare by any measure, I was glad the chef overruled me: I’m usually not a huge steak fan, but this was just out of this world. Cooked to perfection, grilled on the outside, marbled smooth as silk on the inside, not even the tiniest hint of stringiness. The side dishes kind of faded in comparison, but the mushrooms were inoffensive and sauce was a good fit.

Passion Fruit Sherbet

To top it off, a shared scoop of their homemade sherbet, which really did taste like the Indonesian markisa passionfruit: crisp, acidic and refreshing. The perfect ending to a meal.

And the bill for two with a bottle of wine after one of the best meals of my life? About $100 — a month’s wages in Bali, to be sure, but for a meal of this caliber it was excellent value by Singapore standards.

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