Meals at Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku are served in a gorgeous teak house.
I’d been hearing all sorts of things, both good and bad, about Ubud for years before I finally set foot in the place. A lifetime ago, I winced through the final third of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, the memoir that almost single-handedly transformed this sleepy Balinese village into the traffic-choked tourist mecca that it is today. While there were parts of the downtown that made me cringe, I found a surprising amount to like. A quick motorcycle drive transports you away from the endless yoga mat shops and kitschy souvenir stands into a world of rice paddies and the sort of lush foliage every travel writer gushes about.
Channeling Indiana Jones on a walk through the Monkey Forest.
More importantly, while I ignored the latter two of Gilbert’s self-professed objectives, I found a whole lot of good things to eat here. The one upside of Ubud’s skyrocketing fame is a booming food scene that showcases the island’s produce and the talents of some rather inventive chefs. From unpretentious warungs to elaborate tasting menus, here's where to go on your next journey.
Some Pig. Ibu Oka 3's porker is the stuff of legends.
Ibu Oka 3
Babi guling with all the fixings at Ibu Oka 3.
When Anthony Bourdain raved about this famous barbecue spot selling babi guling, or roast suckling pig, on his show No Reservations, it instantly landed on the tourist map. The original restaurant near the Ubud Palace has expanded since the show was filmed and now boasts three branches around town. Having developed a slight obsession with the dish on my last trip to Bali, I had to see if it lives up to the hype. The verdict? It’s worth heading over to the original venue. Ibu Oka 2, on the outskirts of the town center, offers the same dish with fewer lines, but also a bit less ambiance, while Ibu Oka 1 is just a small eatery serving the pork slow-roasted on a spit up the street. Go early, as the first pigs are ready around 10 a.m. or 10:30 a.m. and the dish is best when freshly carved.
Babi Guling Cung Gung
Also delicious, but less touristy, babi guling.
Just up the street from Ibu Oka 3, this slightly less touristy spot offers generous portions of seriously delicious roasted pork with blood sausage, cracklings, and lacquered skin. There’s a nice spot to sit upstairs and despite the fact that this was my second plate of babi guling that morning (really), I ate the whole damn thing. I ultimately preferred the porker over at Ibu Oka 3, but this is a solid alternative.
Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Bu Mangku
Worth the motorbike trip for pretty perfect roast chicken and trimmings.
It may be a 20-minute motorbike ride from the center, but this chicken is more than worth the journey. During my visit to Ubud, this was the lone eatery where I was the only foreign face. Although the prices are dirt-cheap (25,000 IDK per portion), this beautiful Balinese house has a more refined ambiance than your standard roadside warung.
Coffee + rice paddy = my new favorite remote working space at Atman Nourish.
Taking boring old fruit salads to another level at Habitat.
I stumbled across this bamboo-bedecked cafe by accident my first afternoon and ended up lingering over one of the better cappuccinos in town. Although its location on a busy street choked by motorbikes somewhat undermines the whole Zen aesthetic, it’s still ideal for a breather. It’s next door to Hubud, which I wrote about here last year. I only stopped by briefly, but it’s one of the more stylish coworking spaces I’ve seen and also has a solid selection of salads and coffee.
That avocado toast though.
The Wi-Fi is touch-and-go, but this was still my favorite remote working spot. Why? It wasn’t the little gingerbread cookies that come with each coffee (although they’re nice), or the mile-high avocado toast (even though it’s terrific), or the handsome wooden interior and furnishings. What really got me is that the back overlooks one of the few rice paddies still remaining in the center. Gazing out into the field, it’s easy to imagine you’re way off in the countryside.
Fancy Food + Drink
I just stopped for drinks, but I'm sure the food at COMO Uma Ubud is equally delicious.
Presentation is on-point at Hujan Locale.
I’d been meaning to go to one of Will Merrick’s places for a while and this didn’t disappoint. Best part: fish steamed with sambal in banana leaves and a bamboo shoot. The staff crack the charred shoot open tableside and serve it all with a slightly spicy corn relish.
After the grand finale comes yet another sweet surprise.
If you’re going to splash out on a meal in Ubud (and there are plenty of ways to do so), this is the one you want. Your only options are four- and six-course tasting menus, but unlike many fine dining restaurants, these degustations feel improbably generous. Before my meal even started, I counted nine amuse-bouches, ranging saline tomato consommé with a scoop of tomato sorbet to oyster and shiitake mushrooms with homemade kimchi grilled in a banana leaf with candlenut-raisin sauce. Even the dessert included a pre- and post-sweet, the latter of which involved passion fruit and brûléed marshmallow goodness presented in an eggshell. Chef Ray Adriansyah and Chef Eelke Plasmeijer’s food is often clever, but never self-consciously so, and even if you manage to forget the fact that 95 percent of it is locally sourced or made on-site, it’s immensely enjoyable in its own right. No wonder it’s done so well on the World’s 50 Best List.
Raka puts his mixology skills to good use.
When the team behind Locavore decided to open a speakeasy, it was bound to be great. The result is one of my favorite little bars I’ve stumbled across in a while. I’ve already gushed about Raka Ambarawan’s cocktails here. Order a plate of the outstanding house-cured charcuterie and Ashes, a potent libation served alongside a smoldering pinecone.
Putting the finishing garnishes on a cocktail at The Night Rooster.
And here's a baby monkey. Just because.