Itâs the colours that grab you, hypnotic, intense, almost inducing a trance like state of wonder. East Bali is a place of powerful greens, the deepest blues, jet black rocks, and rising above all this is the mighty Agung, ever present, ever watching. Have no doubt, this is,the island of the gods and Alila Manggis is nestled right in amongst it all.
The charming and humble hotel offered something pretty special for my family and I. Solitude, qualtiy family time and a chance to experience some very old Balinese culture.Nyepi Day, the day of silence, Balinese New Year. It is a day that shuts down an international airport annually, itâs a day were lights are turned off, and the citizens and guests of Bali retreat to their houses and sit in silence.It is also deeply relaxing. Try an imaging your city or townâŠ erm off, not a thing on. Just silence. No cars, no background noise whatsoever save mother nature herself.
Nyepi day goes like this. The night before the day a parade of giant monsters, the Ogoh-Ogoh, graces the primary meeting points of practically every village in Bali. Fireworks, music and monstersâŠand one hell of a lot of noise. We do this to let the spirit world know we are hereâŠand then the day of silence. You see, when then spirits come to find the source of all that racket they discover Bali is empty, quiet and clearly not the source of their concern. The little ruse works every year like a treat, the spirits move on and all is well in Bali for another year. Yes its completely bizarre and loads of fun.
So here we are, Alila Manggis, Candidasa, east coast Bali heading off to see the ogoh-ogoh parade. Its starts with a bunch of 5 years olds and a 45cm monster â 9 little boys in traditional clothes and wrap around sun glasses. Gnarly dude. Gradually we move onto man sized beasts and with each passing creature from the nether world not only do they become larger but more gruesome. Think Freddy Kruger and your starting to get it. The boys parading are in in a trance like frenzy and you donât want to get to close as bamboo and limbs are whirling all over the place.
Do you remember that scene from Jurassic Park where the kids are in the car and the cup of water starts to shakeâŠits that old saying âsomething big, this way, comesâ. Just as you felt festivities had reach their end a troupe of ninja like musicians appear out of the shadows. There is a lull, almost as if the universe itself is breathing in, a breathe held in anticipationâŠ a rhythmic beat punctuates the air, the cacophony is warlike and upon us is a mighty ogoh-ogoh, well over 15 ft in height this behemoth owns the street, buildings are dwarfed and 20 men, heave and sweat as they bring this lurching beast into the main areaâŠ.naturally my kids freak outâŠ and so endeth my time to check out monsters and men. So we made like a hungry family for the food, its eaten time.
Santika, Chef Santika, he gait is reminiscent of Master Yoda. Born of Bali, his skills at executing Balinese food are unparalleled. In four years of living in Bali I have never, ever, ever been so blown away by Balinese food as I was for those 6 days. I eat Indonesian meals 70% of the time, when I holiday I donât eat IndonesianâŠ. This time I would order two mains just to ensure I got to sample the menu. Do eat until your eyes pop, its highly recommended.
At this point you may think I am going over the top..and I am .. and it deserves every letter, vowel and ! that I can throw at it. We were positively delighted by our experience. Please understand itâs a humble, charming hotel, no bling here, just authenticity. You see the secret to Alila Manggis is the colours, they are rich and deep, and they beg you to stare in wonder. And like all great art works their colours, their visages grab you by the soul, your spirit is touched, replenished and sent smiling onto the bright new day.
PHOTO BELOW – My girls â like tigers ready to pounce:-
It doesnât take much for a man like me to travel a few hours for food, so when the offer from Chef Dwayne to join him, and Guest Chef Moon, at Alila Villas Soori for a Japanese/Korean fusion fest replete with a naked sumarui and a black samurai.
IâŠ., wellâŠ not even the tardis could get me there quick enough.
Alila Villas Soori. Think exotic villas, private pools, ocean views, volcano views, lustrous green rice paddies, and endless Bali sunsets. Now put that thought to the side, lets talk food and the people who make it awesome.
Chef Moon, Korean by descent, now living in Singapore leads one of the finest Japanese restaurants in town – Mikuni. The man is a master when it comes to refining the ingredients, extracting the optimum amount of flavour, exquisite textures and a visual journey true of a fine Kaiseki meal. Savouring the mouthfuls, one at a time, and savouring the presentation, is what itâs all about.
Its hard sometimes, to find the expressions that capture the experience. Words can and do fail us from time to time. They are powerful things though and so we invent new ones periodically to capture the set of experiences that are occurring for us. Eating this food was one of those moments where the food literally existed outside the language that I have. Sea Urchin was mesmerising, the sashimi just plain stopped the table talk, all 8 of us savoured the moment and then resumed conversation. Food does not always do that, nor should it for that matter, however, when it does its genuinely brilliant. So I invented a new word, the food was dwoon
Chef Moon, the mad food master from Korea smashed out plate after plate of intricate and engaging intricacy. It was however his final dish that sealed the chefâs victory for me though. Sure the Wagyu steak Â was simply incredibly, flaking before your folk even touched. Apparently it was marinating for a decade, further the story goes that the fatted, massaged cow that the steak came from was of exceptionally lineage. Its rump was royal. But no, it was not his royal cowness that closed the meal with a kapow..no it was a green tea ice cream served with a hot pistachio soup. Total dwoon.
Chefs love to play with texture, juxtaposition in a dish is not difficult nor necessarily originally, but when it comes to fire v. ice, spice v. tea, nut v. leaf, red v. green âŠ this little dish reigned supreme.
Throughout the meal we were presented with remarkable concoctions â all sake inspired. The Naked Samurai a sake/blood orange combination, the Black Samurai â sake/sashimi and the oddly healthy feeling Sake/Cucumber martini. And when itÂ wasn’tÂ an unusually journey with was a selection of very fine Sake. I discovered Sake some years ago, a trip through Japan taught me much, and on this night we got a great little selection.
It was most assuredly my wife that took me home, the draw of more sake was almost too much. Alas thatâs how my night finished some form of samurai sake bliss. Iâll be back Alila, I hear you are doing a Vodka/Food menu late April, consider me an attendeeâŠ
To make the fundamental bumbu spice paste, the base of so many Balinese dishes, a coarse granite mortar â more like a dish than the familiar bowl â is used and the candlenut, kencur root, tamarind and dozen or so other ingredients are gently mashed together rather than pounded. Pounding bruises and makes the paste brown rather than the desired rich golden yellow.
Balinese food is a regional cuisine, with particular techniques like the bumbu preparation, and it is not only different from other islands in the sprawling Indonesian archipelago, but it changes throughout the island.
Yet amazingly few tourists go beyond the famous roast pork babi guling and it is not always through lack of taste buds for adventure. The Indonesian Tourism Industry Association says fewer than one in five of Baliâs 3 million annual tourists sample the local cuisines.
Hotels often do not have authentic local dishes on offer and many tourists, understandably with the ubiquitous âBali bellyâ, donât trust the roadside warungs offering genuine authenticity.
The association says part of the challenge is cooking and hospitality colleges are usually equipped to teach only international menus and the local dishes, though the students and chefs know them well, havenât been adapted for restaurants.
Itâs a challenge Nyoman Santika, executive chef of Alila Manggis on Baliâs east coast, knows first hand. The resort offered some Balinese dishes on an international menu when Santika was promoted to head chef, but he has since increased the offering. Alila Manggis has also established its own organic garden, where chef Santika runs a cooking school.
âOur guests love the chance to try a lot of our local dishes and many have said it was the first time on their trip they had the chance â even if they have been elsewhere in Bali,â he says.
âThere are lots of regional differences in Bali. The spices are different in different locations, the chilli or turmeric can be different â and it is completely different to other Indonesian food.â
The east Balinese rice dish often had for breakfast is nasi jinggo, cooked with chicken or vegetables, and the local fried bananas are often on the menu too.
But at Alila Manggis, in the open-air Seasalt restaurant, surrounded by a lotus-planted moat, a full east Balinese celebratory banquet or megibung is available.
Santika says the dishes are typical of those prepared for family gatherings or festivals and include turmeric-flavoured rice, fish steamed in local leaves, snake beans and chicken poached with bumbu paste and a sour salad of young jackfruit, green papaya and red bean dressed with a fragrant coconut sauce. The sate sticks, in a local spice mix, are subtly different in flavour and braised duck with banana stem is another favourite of the east coast.
Those signing up for the cooking school can start the day either fishing or visiting a nearby market â a quarter of which is given over to the leaves, flowers and fruits used in the daily offerings essential to Balinese Hinduism.
The market stalls are a visual clue to the variety of the cuisine: the turmeric store has several different baskets of the ginger-like rhizome, each a different colour and flavour. Dozens of chilli varieties are offered at another stall and garlic comes not only in different varieties but different ages â young shoots, new garlic that hasnât fully formed and the familiar dried heads.
âOf course, even the same dish will be different if you use different varieties of the same ingredient,â Santika explains.
The bumbu paste we made in May will be different to one made in the wet season, but it is the base of our pork sate, our spiced chicken parcels â wrapped in banana leaves and grilled â and even a long pepper leaf salad.
As with many regional Asian cuisines, the dishes rely on the freshest of herbs and spices and are adapted for what is in season â or harvested or caught that day.
Santika is always saying âif you canât get this, use thatâ or âthis works just as well with seafood or porkâ.
Sadly though, back in Melbourne, even if the ingredients can be approximated, there are few opportunities to eat in an open pavilion in tropical humidity with the smell of the herbs and spices in the dishes wafting from the gardens nearby. The batik shirt doesnât look too good in Collins Street either.
Source :Â http://nonchalantgourmand.com/alila-diwa-goa/
Nonchalant Gourmand was accompanied by team mate â ace photographer Nikita Modi. Nikita is a freelance photographer who has her interest in food photography grounded for such exciting opportunities but also dabbles in exclusive Advertising and Fine Art Photography. She has completed her Masters in photography from Speos,Paris,France. You can see her works at:Â www.nikitamodi.com andÂ http://blog.nikitamodi.comÂ All copyrights of the photographs are exclusive Nikita Modi PhotographyÂ©.Â All images are copyrightedÂ Nikita Modi PhotographyÂ© any reproduction, copying or usage of these images will require a link back to this site and / or a request to Nikita Modi PhotographyÂ© as mentioned about.
Blogging from home ground about home ground has always been my forte, this is probably the first time I am talking about a place which is away from home, but still falls under the category of âA home away from homeâ. Yes, I speak about the much adored holiday destination of India âGoa. I call it home away from home not because of some strange affliction to the place which people associate with fun, holiday and drunken stupors, but because my mother was a native and the maternal side of the family are still housed there.
Visits to Goa were predominantly restricted to the various homes we have scattered in the main arteries of the city and our association with hotels and touristy places were limited and only selected for an outing over the weekend. I have stayed at many hotels in Goa from five stars with families for special occasions to old school resorts with associates and the food world association to upscale boutique hotels located on the tourist spewed beaches of North Goa, and am always thirsting to discover more as many hotels mushroom faster than you can pop a can of beer.
One such location in Goa is widely ignored and underrated, which is the South of Goa. The beaches are pristine and virgin, the waters clearer and the flora and fauna untouched except by nature. Housed near Majorda beach and pretty close to the airport, this paddy field surrounded luxury boutique hotel which has its branches spread worldwide is like a breath of fresh air. Alila Diwa, a name which resounds luxury and comfort with every possible facility made available to you, itâs imperative you donât need to move out of that comfort zone.
Alila Diwa boasts of a quintessential Goan dĂ©cor theme which runs across their vast plot of land and the resort is split into two areas, the main resort area with its infinity pool (overlooking the paddy fields, a fair change from beach facing properties) and a host of cuisine specific restaurants such as Spice Studio, Edge Bar (the well stocked bar by the pool) and VIVO the buffet styled dining space offering a wide variety of cuisines ranging from local to south east asian. The second wing is the Diwa Wing, this is ultra luxury, close to their exclusive in-house spa and has its own pool (albeit not an infinity one but on the bright side has a Jacuzzi) and a fine dining restaurant called Bistro.
I not only had a chance to explore all the restaurants but also meet with the individual chefs who control each of these spaces, what was exciting is that each of them had imbibed the restaurant they were controlling as their own and gave me a perspective of interacting with them at a less commercial level and coercing them into spilling out local secrets and their signature dishes which were synonymous with their space. Meeting with Alila Diwaâs Executive Chef â Chef Ashish Deva who brings with him 17 years of experience in the food and beverage sector, was an exciting opportunity. Young, passionate and over and above being talented he exuded the vibe one expects of anyone working (or partying) in Goa. He controls the restaurants along with his team of chefs who are each, individually responsible for the dishes in the restaurants and he indulged me in a one to one cooking session at the end of our stay which has been given justice too by being captured on video, for the first time on Nonchalant Insider. A true treat at the end of this post so watch out for it.
I will go on to introduce some quirky, some homely and some really cool chefs as per the signature dishes in their respective restaurants, it truly was an experience worth looking forward to and being stated visually and by palate.
We started off at the Edge Bar, overlooking the enchanting infinity pool which is a haven for tranquil and relaxation. It was curious when Alila Diwaâs GM (Vikram Aditya Singh) himself learnt about my preference for gin and the fact that I kept mooning over how the clear blue waters of the pool merged with the speckled blue sky, within minutes I was sipping on his signature hand stirred cocktail, which he proudly names the Glacier Blue Martini. It reflected his style, the ambience I was currently parked in complete with the colors we associate a holiday with, this was one cocktail which turned out to be my favorite. He was kind enough to part with the recipe, quite simple a well stirred, Bombay Sapphire Gin, Martini Bianco, Blue Curacao and Vodka. The key here was to add the right amount of blue curacao to it to make it look an azure blue and not candy blue.
The Edge Bar turned out to be quite a hangout place with fantastic appetizers and a chilled out menu and two of the coolest chefâs who truly belong in a place like Goa.
Chef Sharad Saurabh and his colleague Ankur Gulati conjured up this delectably plated Foie Gras lollipop appetizers which were served in unique gunny bags filled with rice (from the paddy field maybe?) and garnished with the flora and fauna of the place, served up conveniently with truffle popcorn, this dish was a sheer gourmet experience.
Moving on to VIVO where Chef Ashish Deva once again displayed his culinary expertise by putting together a Mediterranean flavored dish, wholesome chicken legs with apricots, raisins and dry fruits and served on a bed of mild flavored couscous, this dish was enough to set you back at some level â nirvana or as the Goanâs say â Susegad.
VIVO overlooks the paddy fields and their pool and serves up authentic Goan cuisine. Here you can also indulge in an elaborate breakfast spread of Western and Indian dishes are complemented by delicacies brought fresh from the bakery, fresh fruits, gourmet teas and Alilaâs special blend of coffee. Vivo offers an extensive a la carte menu during lunch and dinner presenting light, healthy meal choices. At Dinner, âliveâ interactive buffet counters engage and excite your taste buds with varying themes each night. American style barbeques, Asian night market food, rustic Italian dishes, rich Indian cuisine with a regal touch and Portuguese influenced cuisine are on offer.
I would dine at the Bistro everyday for breakfast out of sheer convenience, but for an indulgent in-room service ordered in one fine morning.
Luxurious rooms interspersed by large balconies with seating to enjoy the view and coupled with bathrooms half the size of the room (especially in the Diwa Wing) with a stand alone tub in the middle of the bathroom and Victorian style was matched with western style brekkie of waffles dripping with maple syrup and fruit juices served up with the Breakfast Sausages, which were cooked to perfection.
Well the room does speak for itself and no matter what whether you eat in the restaurant or in the room, it still makes you feel like not stirring from your comfort zone.
We move onto another favorite restaurant in the premises, though the thought of having north Indian in Goa was a bit of a turn off, I could not help being smitten by one of their staff, well technically Chef Edia Cotta who everyone fondly calls aunty and who demonstrated a true blue Goan delicacy of tendered meat with local ingredients like balacal (a local vinegar) and spices, this dish, the Rechado was made lovingly just as you would expect at a Goan home, this is what going the extra mile does to place which believes in hospitality and extending it with a personal flavor.
The looming personality of Chef Shubham Dhar who is Chef De Cuisine at Spice Studio, an elegant, contemporary setting for a dining experience centered on the authenticity of Indian spices, was located in a unique setting â an elevated platform that spreads naturally around a banyan tree and surrounded by a water body. Chef Shubham features a menu celebrating the spice traditions of the five regions in India. From fresh produce and spices to the serving styles unique to these regions, every meal immerses you in a rich experience of Indiaâs culinary traditions and spice history.
Shubham did change my opinion about North Indian style food in a coastal region once I had bit into his signature melt-in-your-mouth Galouti Kebabs which eventually were localized with some fantastic port wine which Shubham generously poured out to enjoy with the meal.
Last but not the least, my culinary experiments with the menu at the Bistro was every gourmets dream come true with a host of dishes carefully selected to the discerning palate of every possible type of guest, it needed more than a lifetime to go through various courses or dishes. So apart from the breakfast which was a dutiful indulgence every morning, I did manage to drag Chef Ashish into his temple and cook up a storm with him. The video speaks for itself as Chef Ashish shows me how to dish out fantastic Chilean Sea Bass lightly griddled and served on a bed of Saffron Risotto with citrus scented olive and bacon soil. Apart from this, Bistro serves up Rabbit, Beef and Chicken with as much gutso and innovation.
Alila Diwa truly lives up to culinary expectations with the perfect team of dedicated chefs spearheaded by the right talent, and the list is endless as far as their culinary track records grow with everyday added innovations and signature dishes, this is by far the most I have eaten on a holiday.
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