Nusantara is the place you are sent when its big brother Locavore is full, and this is indeed how I ended up there the first time.
The second and third times were absolutely on purpose though, as this place may actually be my favourite restaurant in Ubud.
By now familiar with the Bali food scene, I know an opening cocktail is a must. Even on the night when neither me nor my Bali-belly compromised companion are drinking, we go for a mocktail and discover that the booze is an unnecessary addition, at least in terms of taste. Mine contains muddled chillis and lemongrass and both heats and refreshes simultaneously. Other concoctions include rosella and other local ingredients. I’d recommend any of them to kick off your dining experience.
The wine list was quite international, offering three whites and three reds by the glass. The whites were surprisingly (and pleasingly) not the usual Aussie-targeted holy trinity of Chardonnay, Sav Blanc and Pinot Grigio, but instead featured a Spanish Verdejo, a very pleasing French Pinot Blanc and Australian Chardonnay (well, two out of three ain’t bad). All the wines were 98k a glass which is not too excessive considering the international selection, and a small Bintang is a very reasonable 35k.
Once you’re happily sipping away on your drink, you are served with a big tray of complementary goodies.
Included are pickles, fish wrapped in banana leaves, marinated tofu, deep fried courgette with rice crackers with sambal and other delicious sauces to dip things into.
The menu is divided into small dishes, main dishes, vegetables, rices and sambals and next to each item you are told which part of Indonesia it originates from. Choose a selection to give your palate a tour around the archipelago, then check out the cool map on the wall to see where you’ve been.
The selection of sambals is a nice thing to have on the menu but, in reality they were almost surplus to requirements as all the food was so well-seasoned, so we ended up eating the sambals on their own. I guess it’s a cool thing to try if you don’t know sambals very well and allows you to try some different ones.
As starters, the smoked fish and squid in its own ink were both delicious, with the smoked fish probably the highlight. My dining companion was a big fan of Spanish black rice and confirmed the tastiness of this dish done Indonesian style. The banana blossom didn’t go down quite as well, we found it a bit greasy.
For mains, we hit the non-meat dishes; chilli crab and fish cooked in banana leaf. Now, I always go for fish in banana leaf when I see it in a menu but this was the best by far I’ve ever tried, with flavours just out of this world. It is cooked outside on the BBQ over coconut husks and infused with all the lovely Indonesian flavours of lemongrass, chilli and ginger. Our waiter unwrapped it at our table, which was a nice touch.
The crab was served whole but was conveniently pre-severed so we didn’t have to put too much work into the main job of actually eating it! The sauce was tomatoey, spicy, rich and decadent.
The second time I went, crab wasn’t on the menu so if you do see it, take my advice and grab it with both claws!
We couldn’t manage dessert after our huge meal and the limited options were not very inspiring, but we did have coffee which should not be missed. The Sumatran pour-over is prepared at your table with a full explanation of each step of the process. The chemex glass and filter is placed on the scales while the waiter weighs out the coffee, then slowly pours over the water once and then twice. The whole procedure takes about 5 minutes and then he serves us the most exceptional coffee I’ve ever tasted. The beans are from Ubud coffee institution Senimans, naturally.
The service overall was fantastic, although we had a long wait for coffee due to the fact that there was only equipment to make one at a time.
This is casual dining with a trendy vibe, from the cuddly uniforms (which look a bit like pyjamas), to the cool decor, and the great BBQ area outside where you can wait for your table.
So whether you go because Locavore is full, because you were walking past and got drawn in by the smells of BBQ’d meat or just because you want a really good feed, it doesn’t really matter, Nusantara might just become your favourite spot in Ubud as well.
- Take some friends so you can try lots of dishes
- Start with a cocktail, or a mocktail if you’re not drinking
- End on a coffee
- Bitch and moan that you didn’t get into Locavore, you might just be pleasantly surprised