22 restaurants in 22 days. A smorgasbord of Balinese dining experiences.
Bali is famous for any number of reasons…beautiful weather, fabulous scenery, idyllic beaches, age-old traditions and the world’s friendliest people. It is also famous for food, a unique combination of Indonesian cuisine and traditional Balinese fare. And one of the best places to sample this cuisine is Sanur. Located on the southeast of the island of Bali and a 40 minute taxi ride from the international airport, Sanur is a seaside community, its long stretch of beach offering shallow waters ideal for swimming. Colourful jukung fishing boats rest on the sand awaiting the incoming tide. The waters of Sanur are protected by a string of offshore coral reefs creating large warm shallow lagoons that are ideal for all forms of water sports. And as a bonus, the offshore reefs produce some of the best waves in the word.
Sanur is one of the original tourist destinations in Bali and is a favourite of expats and those looking to avoid the hustle and bustle of the tourist hot-spots of Kuta and Seminyak. As the place where tourism first flourished in Bali, Sanur has some of Bali’s most historic hotels. It is also arguably the best place to dine on the island, with literally hundreds of warungs (local Balinese eateries) along the main thoroughfares of Jalan Danau Tamblingan and Jalan Cemara, as well as along the 5 kilometres of paved beachfront offering every conceivable variation of traditional and contemporary Balinese fare at very palatable prices. The paving is new since our last visit and replaces a rather dodgy footpath system. Wide decks have also been built out onto the beach so restaurant tables and chairs now sit perfectly upright, as opposed to sinking on a 30 degree angle into the sand. No more spilling the wine!
A food lover’s paradise
As well as being a holiday paradise, Bali and specifically Sanur is a food lover’s paradise. What a challenge for Dinah and I during our 22 day stay in Sanur – sample the best this island has to offer! So, let’s get started, and I should add here that I am no food connoisseur. I am simply scoring the restaurants: “Good”, “Very Good” or “Outstanding” providing a comparison point across all those we visited.
Day 1: PAON Restaurant
Our first day back in Sanur after an almost 3 year COVID-enforced absence. We arrived at our accommodation, Natah Bale Villa located at the southern end of Sanur Beach at Jalan Cemara No. 32. We’d originally booked this fully self-contained villa 3 years previously in September 2019, a wonderful place to stay and an excellent base for exploring the island. Now, 3 years later we were finally here. We arrived at around 3.30pm and checked in. Flying with a budget airline meant very little to eat throughout our 6 hour flight from Brisbane, so we were ravished. We were also tired, so opted to enjoy our first dinner at an adjacent warung, PAON Restaurant on Jalan Cemara.
A simple choice – Tom Yam Goong, a traditional soup made using seafood and noodles. Tasty and spicy. Very spicy. Bring on the Bintang! Good service and good food. I’d score this restaurant “Good”.
Day 2: Ari Putri Restaurant
Our first full day in Sanur. Time to reacquaint ourselves with this beautiful seaside community. The main street, Jalan Danau Tamblingan runs pretty-much the full length of Sanur, with around 5 kilometres of market stores selling mainly inexpensive tourist goods as well as craft and art outlets. There are also a number of quality retailers selling clothing, jewellery and genuine Balinese artefacts. And there are eateries, or ‘warungs’. Literally dozens of eateries offering mainly traditional Balinese fare with some Japanese, Thai, Italian, Korean and Vietnamese restaurants as well.
In the evening we dined at ARI PUTRI Restaurant on Jalan Cemara, a beautiful small restaurant adjacent to the Ari Putri Hotel. The décor is pure Balinese, with imposing stonework and traditional Balinese sculptures. A medium sized black dog, similar to just about every other myriad black dogs you see in Sanur, greeted everyone who entered the restaurant When we asked his name we were told “Blackie”. This is a quality establishment with immaculate presentation. And the food was to die for. Dinah ordered Balinese Nasi Campur and I ordered the Cashew Chicken. The food was delicious and the service excellent. There was also live entertainment. I’d score this restaurant “Outstanding”. As an aside, we checked out the adjacent Ari Putri Hotel. Very impressive and, according to booking.com, very well priced.
Day 3: Bali Izakaya Restaurant
We were starting to get a feel for this place. Or should I say, get reacquainted with fabulous Sanur. Time to check out the beach-front warungs. There are literally dozens of restaurants on the kilometres of walkway with decks extending to eating space out onto the beach. This is a delightful pace to dine during the day, but the evening presents the Sanur beachfront at its best with the setting sun end glittering lights and signage. Dinner here is the best way to end your day.
Our first beachfront restaurant was the iconic BALI IZAKAYA Restaurant on Sanur Beach. One of the original beachfront establishments, it remains one of Sanur’s best. Our first evening meal on the beach, Dinah ordered the Chicken Satay served on quaint pottery coals warmers (two of which we have at home, courtesy of a previous visit), while I ordered the Izakaya Curry. While beer is famously inexpensive in Bali, wine can be costly. Best to order wine by the glass. On average, 70,000 Rp (or $7 Aussie dollars) a glass. Still cheaper than our local at home! The food and service were very good. Nothing fancy, just good, honest Balinese fare. I’d score the Bali Izakaya “Very Good”.
Day 4: Me Vui Hanoi Restaurant
A break from Balinese food. We dined at the ME VUI HANOI Restaurant on Jl Cemara, about 100 meters from where we were staying. As the name suggests, this is a Vietnamese eatery, and a very good one. Dinah and I have spent time in Vietnam and have come to love the food. This restaurant certainly fulfilled our expectations. The décor modern, the service fast and friendly, and the Pho Ga and Roast Chicken Wings, delicious. It was nice to find a restaurant in Bali offering other forms of Asian food. I’d score this restaurant “Very Good”
Day 5: Italian Riveria Restaurant
And now for something completely different! You don’t expect to find Italian in Bali, yet here was the Italian Riveria Restaurant on Jl Cemara. I had Pizza Diavola while Dinah enjoyed the Ravioli di Pesce. This is an excellent Italian restaurant on the main street with friendly home-style service and lively entertainment every evening. Judging by the number of diners each evening, this is a very popular evening destination. I’d score this restaurant as “Very Good”.
Day 6: Restaurant Jepun
Back on Jl Danau Tambligan, Restaurant Jepun is a beautiful casual dining restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating amid lush Balinese gardens and stonework. If you love Indonesian cuisine, this is the place for you. Well-cooked tuna, lamb shanks and chicken sate are the hallmark of this establishment and the cosy atmosphere allows diners to relax. We had Hokan Chicken Noodle, Pad Thai, and Spring Rolls. And we celebrated our 52nd wedding anniversary here. “Outstanding”.
Day 7: Sananda Restaurant
The end of our first full week in Bali and Sanur, so we treated ourselves to a visit to the ‘cultural capital’ of Bali, Ubud. We’d been to Ubud on previous trips to Bali and liked the cosmopolitan atmosphere, bustling streets and myriad local craft shops and restaurants. On our way, we had visited a traditional cultural dance performance at Kesiman Petilan re-telling the history of the local area and the amazing Bali Bird Park with its amazing collection of exotic birdlife and reptiles, including enormous Kimono Dragons. On to a tour of a silver factory producing amazing jewellery and a visit to the spectacular Tegenungan Waterfalls. This was a day-time trip, so lunch was on the agenda. No shortage of places to eat here. We chose an intimate restaurant, Sananda for Mei Goring and Nasi Goring. Very adventurous, considering we are in Bali! My rating “Good”.
Day 8: Baby Monkeys Restaurant
Time for a little ‘monkey business’ at the Baby Monkeys Restaurant. A real change from the traditional Balinese eating establishments with their statues and stonework, the Baby Monkeys is old wooden tables and chairs painted in garish colours in a street-side eatery. And the nice thing is that it is on Jl Karangsari, just around the corner from our bungalow. Make no mistake, what the restaurant lacks in traditional visual appeal, it makes up for in popularity. It was packed every time we walked past. We really needed to book, but we were lucky on the night we decided to dine there. Dinah selected the Beef Rangoon while I enjoyed the Seafood Curry, accompanied by local red wine and the mandatory Bintang beer. A great night out, I’d score the Baby Monkeys “Very Good”.
Day 9: Ryoshi Japanese Restaurant
I would argue that it is hard to beat good Japanese food. And that’s exactly what we discovered in Sanur at the Ryoshi Japanese Restaurant. From the red paper lanterns that you greet you, to the superb and simple Japanese décor, this is an excellent way to spend a quality evening. Located centrally on Jl Danau Tambligan, this restaurant will not disappoint. I enjoyed the Nabeyaki Udon while Dinah ordered a mixed grill served on a wooden platter. This is a must visit on your Sanur restaurant adventure tour. For food, service, and ambiance, I’ll give Ryoshi “Excellent”.
Day 10: Bamboo Restaurant
From the high street to the beach. Amid literally dozens of warungs that dot the foreshore of Sanur Beach, Bamboo stands out. Sitting watching the sun fade in the evening sky while enjoying a Bintang is the best way to end your day in Bali. Bamboo is a simple restaurant with very good food and a location on the promenade that simply can’t be bettered. I ordered a seafood laksa, my first for this trip, not too spicy, just right. Dinah ordered a green prawn salad with curried beef. With a glass of wine, this was a great way to enjoy a Bali evening. “Very Good”.
Day 11: Tapha Restaurant
On the beach, again. When in Bali, dinner on the beach is almost a given. This evening, we chose Tapha Restaurant, a small warung that is literally right on the sand. Here we watched families enjoying the last vestiges of the day, children on swings and paddling in the warm waters of Sanur Lagoon. In all, pretty relaxing. For dinner, I ordered Cordon Bleu Chicken while Dinah ordered the signature dish, Tapha Pho. The local wine is Hatton. Not quite as good as Australian wine and more expensive, but when in Bali… I’d rate Tapha Restaurant “Very Good”.
Day 12: Oomba Restaurant
Again, back to the beach. You flip a coin…heads, dinner on the beach, tails, dinner on the main road. Heads wins a lot! Check out the pics to see why! Tonight, our restaurant of choice is Oomba Restaurant. A table for two overlooking the light fading on Sanur Lagoon waters. For dinner, Beef Cheek Pasta, something a little different, and Chicken Parmigiana. Delicious. Washed down with the mandatory red wine. Super evening. Super meal. I rate this restaurant “Very Good”.
Day 13: Ganesha ek Sanskriti Restaurant
Welcome back to Jl Danau Tambligan and the Ganesha ek Sanskriti Restaurant. The restaurant offers traditional Indian cuisine in surrounds that reflect a tasteful mix of Indian and traditional Balinese décor. Truly one of the best aspects of dining in Sanur is the variety of culinary cultures one can enjoy. Tonight, the sub-continent at its best. I ordered the fish curry while Dinah enjoyed the spicy pancakes. The restaurant also offers an excellent selection of wines. Difficult to rate. I’d suggest “Very Good” to “Outstanding”.
Day 14: Cocos Bistro
While Cocos Bistro offers a comprehensive menu of multi-national dishes, we opted for traditional Italian pizza. How cool. Pizza Supreme for me and Pizza Sausage for Dinah, washed down with red wine while enjoying the last vestiges of daylight on Sanur Beach. Does it get any better? We both agreed, excellent pizza and rate Cocos “Very Good”.
Day 15: Lilla Pantai
This is one of our favourite Sanur Beach warungs. Maybe it’s the logo. I love the simplicity of Lilla Pantai’s chilli logo. This is a very nice restaurant right on the beach. A great place to sit and enjoy the end of the day while watching the world stroll by. For Dinah, the choice was Beef Rangoon while I selected the Green Curry with just the right degree of spiciness. We try to ensure that we enjoy at least one meal at this warung every time we visit Sanur, and it never disappoints. “Excellent”.
Day 16: Gardenia Restaurant
There are dozens of restaurants on this five kilometre stretch of road through the heart of Sanur, and Gardenia is right up there with the best. This is a beautiful restaurant set in lush tropical garden surrounds and adorned with the traditional Balinese stonework. You can dine inside under the natural bamboo canopy roof, or outside in the garden. Either way, the ambiance is cool on a humid tropical evening. The BBQ dishes were our choice. Cooked on the spot using fresh ingredients, I ordered the BBQ snapper while Dinah enjoyed the BBQ prawns. Don’t even ask what dishes like this would cost back home in Australia. “Outstanding”.
Day 17: Surya The Grill Beachside
Back to the beach and back to traditional Indonesian dishes at Surya Restaurant. I ordered the Nasi Goreng. Believe it or not, this was my first and only traditional nasi goreng during this visit to Bali, and it didn’t disappoint. Dinah enjoyed the sour squid. Absolutely fresh squid, cooked to perfection. A glass of wine and, for me, a Bintang – just to keep with the authentic Bali feel. “Very Good”.
Day 18: La Playa Restaurant
I guess one never tires of dinner by the beach. La Playa Restaurant is yet another excellent warung right on the foreshore where you can dine, ponder the last rays of day, and watch the world go by in sarongs and boardshorts. Char Kway Tiaw with Beef (rice noodle, garlic, egg, beef, spring onion, bok choy, chilli, red cabbage, slaw, bean sprouts, pickled onion and cucumber) for me, and Sapi Yada Hitam (stir fry slices of beef with onion, paprika, garlic in homemade oriental honey black pepper sauce) for Dinah. We’ll leave it for you to discover these dishes for yourself. “Very Good”.
Day 19: Seagrass by the Beach
As the name suggests, Seagrass Restaurant was our final dinner of this trip by the beach. We both selected Ayam Lengkuas (Japanese-style fried chicken with sautéed vegetables and rice). An excellent choice as this was a great dish. Looking out over the peaceful waters of Sanur Lagoon, we toasted this place and promised to be back. And the restaurant? “Excellent”.
Day 20: Beach Breeze Restaurant
The name suggests a beachside warung, but not so. Beach Breeze Restaurant was located adjacent to our bungalow complex, Natah Bale Villa on Jl Cemara. Simple, home-style furniture but excellent food. I enjoyed beef in gravy while Dinah ordered shrimp tomato. A photo to remember the restaurant by? Yep, with our waiter photobombing it! It raised a smile of Facebook. “Excellent”.
Day 21: Trattoria Restaurant
Our last evening, but one. We decided on something European. Trattoria Restaurant, as the name suggested offered a selection of excellent pizza. Greco pizza for me, Du fungi pizza for Dinah. We agreed, these were some of the best pizzas we had every eaten. Located on Jl Danau Tambligan, this is an excellent choice if you are looking for a change from Indonesian. And the pizza? “Outstanding”.
Day 22: Three Monkeys Restaurant
One of our favourites, the Three Monkeys Restaurant. We discovered The Three Monkeys on our first visit to Bali some years ago when we were staying at the fabulous Griya Santrian Resort Hotel on the beach across Jl Danau Tambligan from the restaurant. We now tend to gravitate to ‘the Monkeys’ at least once when we are in Sanur. This is a fabulous place to dine in style. While not necessarily the least expensive restaurant in Sanur, it is definitely one the best. Great menu, great food, great décor in innovative bamboo, and superb service. A great last meal to remember before heading home. “Outstanding”.
So that’s it. 22 restaurants in 22 days. A smorgasbord of Balinese dining experiences.