Culinary talk |

When Art Meets Cuisine

Culinary Talk | 3 August 2016

Petty Elliott enjoys some of the finest contemporary Indonesian Food in the heart of Ubud. Some like-tradition, others seek change. The classicist favours preservation using salt, crunchy deep-fried protein, from chicken to tempe, strong sambal and the contrasts between fiercely hot chilies and creamy coconut. Alternatively there are those who welcome new ideas employing modern cooking techniques and added sophistication in flavour and presentation from a rich heritage. This contemporary style is the world of award-winning chef, Mandif Waroka at Blanco Par Mandif.

[caption id="attachment_33207" align="aligncenter" width="492"]Cakalang Cakalang[/caption] He is part of a small but growing group pioneering exciting developments in modern Indonesian food. Namaaz restaurant is a pioneering force in establishing Indonesian molecular gastronomy, thanks to the efforts of the talented Adrian Ishak in the heart of Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta. And in my humble opinion, the more Indonesian chefs there are to promote both modern and classic Indonesian cuisine, the better. I have known Mandif since his time at Ju-ma-na in Banyan Tree, Bali and also Teatro Gastronomique in Seminyak. It is very encouraging that he has chosen to focus on contemporary Indonesian dishes these days. [caption id="attachment_33208" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]Octopus Octopus[/caption] Ubud had provided beautiful weather, a perfect Bali blue sky with fat clouds when I arrived  for lunch with two other friends at Blanco Renaissance Museum complex on the hill of central Ubud, where the extraordinary works of the late genius Antonio Blanco and his son Mario are displayed.  We were lost for a while as no clear sign indicates the location of the restaurant, but a kind parking guy pointed out some stairs leading down to the entrance. A small table with a crisp white tablecloth and a vase of flowers would not be out of place at the head of the stairs to indicate one has arrived at this fine restaurant, a year since opening. It’s offers an intimate venue with just 10 seats but lots of pleasant surprises. Blanco features an open kitchen with minimalist décor and a tranquil view over one’s shoulder through the trees. The degustation menu ranges from 7 to 13 courses catering to the curious who want to explore our archipelago of flavours, textures, colours and tastes. I chose the 9-course lunch, but without wine pairing while my companions, both vegetarians, were well catered for on the spot with some intelligent adaptations over 7 courses – so nobody was left hungry. [caption id="attachment_33209" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Sambiki - Pumpkin dessert Sambiki - Pumpkin dessert[/caption] Our waiters brought a contemporary wire sculpture with a piece of tempe goreng (fried soya cake with thin batter) and paper thin squid crackers as a delicious opener, the texture of the fried tempe could have been a little more crunchy, for my taste. Asinan as the first course was perfect. A recognized and well-established Jakarta street food of pickled vegetables and fruits, it was served with tangy, spicy dressing featuring with a touch of ground peanut. The tanginess was from vinegar, not lime, and presented with different colourful vegetables providing a delicious balance between the dressing and giant amaranth leaf tempura. [caption id="attachment_33210" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Snack, tempe and black squid ink crackers Snack, tempe and black squid ink crackers[/caption] My next course continued the Jakarta theme in the Kerak Telur, style omelette with spices, roasted coconut and rice served in modern way with slow cooked eggs, spices and foam on the top and without classic ‘kerak’ which means burnt chewy, dry rice on the bottom of a pan. I adored the simple, natural presentation but wished for more layers of ground spices and roasted coconut. The third course was comforting Manadonese cakalang angel hair pasta, a classic fried-noodles dish. Cakalang is smoked tuna with a distinctive aroma from using coconut husks and shells. Mandif has perfected the combination of classic flavours and a totally modern presentation. [caption id="attachment_33211" align="aligncenter" width="525"]Asinan Asinan[/caption] Successive dishes including prawn curry, sorbet, lamb, sambiki and jajan pasar all were mouth watering. Sambiki is pumpkin in Manadonese, and in this case served as dessert.  The jajan pasar, small snacks and sweets were ideal to take home and familiar to those who visit traditional markets or street vendors. It was presented in a beautiful box filled with kue lumpur, lapis legit, lepte, kueku and semprtong, alllooking so adorable. I really enjoyed the creativity and innovation dishes of chef Mandif. He is indeed one of rising names in Indonesia and his establishment is well worth a visit.  Sadly I was not able to compliment CHEF Mandif as he was not there at that time, but I will! Quick Facts: BLANCO par Mandif Blanco Renaissance Museum Complex Jl. Raya Tjampuhan, Ubud, Bali T: (+62-361) 479 2284, (+62-812) 7777 3000 Reservation: Essential Price (in Rp +000 not included 10% government tax): 7 courses: 850 wine pairing 1.650 9 courses: 950 wine pairing 1.850 13 courses: 1.100 wine pairing 2.100