Blue Bali (previously known as Villa Bali) was one of my favourite Indonesian restaurants that my family and I used to visit some time back at their former location in Gillman Heights. For a long time, I thought that the restaurant had ceased operations with the National redevelopment of the Gillman Arts precinct.
Four years ago, British owner Robin decided on a name change, found an alternative location and decided to move to its new spot with no fanfare and without hesitation. Set amidst green lushes on elevated grounds atop the Botanic Gardens in an elegant colonial Black & White, it is in no doubt one of the most beautiful places to dine in Singapore.
Central to Blue Bali’s grounds is a gigantic wooden Balinese pavilion that could easily house hundreds, if not more. The intricacies of the wood carvings were a sight to behold, and it took me a while to examine before we were ushered to a small but resplendent courtyard adjacent to it.
We were first presented with a platter of Asian starters which included all the three signatures of Blue Bali. First, the Avocado Prawns ($18) which I would liken to the cocktail prawns we have at Chinese banquets except the version here uses bigger, juicier prawns and with the addition of diced avocados. The Gado Gado ($13) was itself a brilliant presentation. Like a Popiah, bean sprouts, morning glory and carrot silvers are wrapped inside a huge cabbage which laid on a nicely pan fried golden piece of tofu. All we have to do is just to halve the wrap and drizzle the peanut sauce over before eating, potentially minimising the risk of causing any mess, especially when eating Indonesian, which is huge on sauce. My favourite item would be the Spicy Chicken and Pomelo Salad ($16). Taste profile wise, this is probably more a Thai or Vietnamese dish with two key Indochinese ingredients, the pomelo and Nam Pla fish sauce used. Mixed with sambal chilli, fried onions, shredded chicken, this fiery hot appetiser is just the ideal introduction to bring in the mains.
Blue Bali is one of the few restaurants in Singapore to carry the Rijsttafel, a Dutch-Indonesian “Rice Table” creation by colonialists in the 19th century that were used to impress guests with great details spent on presentation, plating and cutlery. Traditional Rijsttafels tend to tone down the spice level to cater for the threshold of Westerners, but Robin decided to keep the rempah intact for spice-seeking Singaporeans. Two variety of Rijsttafels are available here: the more popular Indonesian Rijsttafel Platter for 3 pax ($80), which is essentially a luxurious Tumpeng (Tumpeng is the turmeric rice tray eaten with hard boiled eggs and beef Rendang during Indonesian weddings) packed with Chicken Sambal, Sate Lilit, Fish Pepes, Lawar Kacang, Perkedel, Chicken Curry, Chicken Sate and of course Beef Rendang. The whole ensemble was nothing to fault, and the Pepes Ikan which is similar to our Otah Otah except this was steamed, was sublime. To cherry pick, I just wished there would be a little bit more more turmeric in the Nasi Kuning and more spice in the Chicken Curry.
If you are a seafood lover, then The Bali Jimbaran BBQ Seafood Platter for 3 pax ($90), which contains one whole whopping Grilled Snapper, Sambal Sotong, Grilled King Prawn, Mussels and Nasi Merah is the one to have. The generosity not just comes in quantity but also by judging the quality of the seafood which were fresh, juicy and succulent.
By the time dessert arrived, I have barely ample stomach space to hold but the Blue Bali Dessert Platter ($28) looks way too tempting. Four different items juxtaposing on one white plate! The green Pandan Creme Brûlée first caught my eye while the Sticky Rice with Mango & Coconut Ice cream and Deep fried Banana Spring Roll with Vanilla ice cream proved too much of a distraction. The Lemongrass Pannacotta, the icing on the cake was also good. I could pick a favourite but I wouldn’t do so because they are simply all part of an integral experience.
Robin also acquiesced to our request to visit their on-site brewery which does small batches of beer for the restaurant. While the price of the beer ($22.50 for a pint) is a little steep, one will definitely appreciate the beer more after
learning more about the brewing process and the challenges in fighting bureaucracy to install a brewhaus.
After the tour we each decided on a glass of refreshing Pink Mamba beer, made of wheat, infused with red dragon fruit and admire the Botanic Garden’s flora and fauna which was what Robin sought for his guests to experience when he decided to move here. It was magical.
One D Cluny Road (behind NUS Bukit Timah Campus oposite Law Faculty Eu Tong Sen Building) Singapore 259600
Tel: +65 6733 0185
Operating Hours: Brunch 11am – 3pm (Sat, Sun & Public Holidays)
Dinner 5pm – 10pm (Tues – Sun)
Closed on Monday
The above article is written by Guest Writer @ramenking2016. You can find him on instagram where he shares his love for food and travel.