Nestled in the foothills of Mount Agung just outside Amlapura lies Bali Asli, a restaurant renowned among foodies, chefs and culture hounds alike. Here you can sample some of the freshest, most authentic Balinese fare on the island, join in unique cooking courses that include cultural experiences second to none, and soak up unrivalled views of Bali’s most sacred volcano. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the owner and chef has experience working in world-class restaurants and is friendly, passionate and happy to explain everything and anything to do with Balinese food.
Penelope Williams (better known as Penny) got her culinary start working at The Savoy in London under master chefs like Marco Pierre White and Gordon Ramsay. After four years there, she returned to Australia and cooked for respected eateries like the Boathouse on Blackwattle Bay and Bather’s Pavilion. Throughout her career she worked with plenty of ingredients like foie gras and truffles, but chilies and lemongrass were few and far between. It wasn’t until Alila Manggis offered her the position of Executive Chef that she began to discover the unique flavours and cooking techniques of Southeast Asian cuisine.
Penny spent three years at Alila Manggis learning about Indonesian and Balinese food and culture, an experience that allowed her to realise her dream of opening her own restaurant. She says, “During my time at Alila I fell in love with the amazing freshness and vitality of the produce available at my doorstep and the way the Balinese work with it to create a unique tapestry of flavours. Bali Asli is my avenue to share my new-found knowledge that so many Balinese people shared with me.”
The name ‘Bali Asli’ means ‘original Bali’, and this concept is what shaped the restaurant from day one. The produce and ingredients for the dishes here come from the surrounding area—either from the traditional market or the restaurant’s own organic garden. The dishes on offer are traditional Balinese or Indonesian recipes made with local tools like mortars and pestles, charcoal grills and mud brick ovens. In fact, you won’t find a single electrical cooking appliance on the premises.
The menu here is inspired by a Balinese dining tradition called megibung, which began with the kingdom of Karangasem in the 17th century. At that time, Balinese warriors in Lombok were joined by the king of Karangasam, who insisted on sitting with his soldiers during meals and sharing food and drink all around. This helped the men to bond, deepened their sense of loyalty to the kingdom, and sparked a style of eating that continues on today. At Bali Asli, the dishes are meant to be savoured together with friends and family in a relaxed and casual setting overlooking the spectacular views of the volcano and rolling green valleys.
Bali Asli is also renowned for its unforgettable cooking experiences that allow students to get out and explore the island and see how the local people farm, forage and fish. A typical class may include bartering at the local market, ploughing the fields with oxen or fishing at sea in a traditional jukung boat. After the excursions, students head back to the restaurant where Penny explains each of the ingredients and cooking techniques, and students get to chop, grind, steam and grill their creations to produce a delicious spread of authentic Balinese fare. And of course, the class ends with a communal feast so that students can sample each of the divine dishes.
Jalan Raya Glumpang, Glumpang village, Amlapura, Karangasem, Bali
+62 828 970 30098