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Local Splendour at Kunyit, The Anvaya

Ondy Sweeting heads to The Anvaya Beach Resort to sample true local fare at Restaurant Kunyit. Photos: Lucky 8.

Tuban is blessed with an exquisite beach, a village atmosphere and a sensational restaurant when getting down and delving into the world of Balinese cuisine.

Placed at the street front of the beautifully renovated Anvaya Beach Resort, Kunyit restaurant is the place to explore the wonderful world of Indonesian – Balinese specifically – cuisine.

As an open-air choice, Kunyit has a mellow vibe, a central sunken bar and many tables with a premium position for people watching, perched just enough above the street to remain anonymous.

Candles twinkle in the nightlight and the tropical breeze flows through the lush gardens.

There are no chilled hand towels on arrival. Rather, Kunyit delivers a hand washing ritual usually found only in a day spa. Fragrant lemon grass oil infused water is poured from a hand-crafted earthenware kettle over your hands and into a perfectly placed wooden bowl, then towel dried. The perfume is heady and divine and a clear sign of what is set to come.

Opulent traditional dining is the theme of Kunyit beginning with the Bali Aga – the island’s indigenous people – moving on to the Hindu Bali and more contemporary cooking that reflects the fusion of global Indonesia.

Expect a sensory experience that starts with a herbal ‘welcome’ drink that is loloh cemcem – blended of Cemcem leaves, palm sugar, tamarind. It actually feels like it is good for you.

Expert staff talk through the menu and explain the dishes that will pique your interest. The advice was singing for the megibung – a chef’s speciality. In fact, it descended from Eastern Bali where less than a century ago the royal family of Karangasem would trot out their very best dining choices for visiting dignitaries from Europe, Java and Lombok.

And what a stroll through history this amazing feast of many dishes is, beginning with Balinese rice crackers and sambals from the fiery to the lusciously simple. Then comes a large platter bearing culinary treats from across the island in true royal form. This is no up-scaled version of the daily delicacy of nasi campur where a mound of rice is surrounded by a spoonful or two of meat dishes, curries, tofu and veggies.

This is the bomb when it comes to sampling true Balinese flavours. Skewered succulent prawns with a hint of clove, organic chicken satay in a rich peanut sauce, the spectacular chicken betutu and a traditional fish curry plus the crunchy lawar – a mix of green beans and sprouts plus seasonal vegetables lightly dressed with shaved coconut and chili – lead the way.

There will be white local fish minced with secret spices and wrapped around a stick of sugar cane then fired, to add flavor, or wrapped and cooked in banana leaves.

Slow cooked crispy duck stuffed with local vegetables and spices are a sumptuous addition and the sensuous flavours of the wonderful water spinach – or kang kung – that is paired with garlic, eschallot and chili coupled with its opiate-like quality that will relax any diner down. Then there is the pork belly.

The Balinese have a way with pork that commands an audience. Either stuffed with exotic spices and herbs like the traditional roast pork dish of ‘Babi Guling’ or slow cooked pig with crackling skin and succulent meat. This small but outlandish part of the megibung was reordered. Twice.

The royal feast continues with sacred rice – both are local, organic, red and white from the Bali hills – through to desserts of fresh tropical fruit and traditional jellies that are slightly sweet and sprinkled with fine, fresh coconut.

Megibung is demonstrably connected to seasonal availabilities – which is why it’s so good. So expect what is at its finest and most delicious.

The wait staff is clearly up to speed with the kitchen and will happily guide the novice or expert through this unique menu. It can be a fabulous learning experience or simply a great dining moment. The options are there.

Kunyit has a well thought out series of handcrafted cocktails that take their inspiration from local Balinese flavours to honour the rare seasoning of the dishes that are delicacies for the 4.2 million Balinese worldwide plus its wide following of unique cuisine hunters. But not without a cool cocktail.

Kunyit has six signature cocktails curated to match the menu.

A meeting of bumbu Bali – or local spices – is a collision with a classic martini plus wild spice that compliments the many dishes. Another wonder is the match of ancient additives like nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger and lemon grass with top shelf spirits to create a contemporary cocktail that is light and incredibly fragrant.

Kunyit is a chic contemporary space that brings ancient dining traditions to join with conclusively modern mores without missing a beat.