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The Sweetest Thing

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Old Java meets Bali at Kayumanis Resto Jimbaran.

Like a whisper of a breeze, Kayumanis in Jimbaran seems to dance lightly on its palm studded property. An elegance born of the sophistication of Java combined with the breezy familiarity of Bali, it is the perfect example of a new breed of Indonesian boutique resorts that are carving out a niche all their own.

Therefore it is no surprise to arrive at the new Kayumanis Resto Jimbaran to discover that Indonesian food has a new home that offers a culinary journey through Bali and Java and hints at exotic islands beyond.

Indonesian food is currently being reinvented all over the island, with varying results. Absolute authenticity is at the heart of this Resto, the dishes are so intrinsically linked to village life and yet they translate beautifully to a restaurant setting. Through the menu, we visit regencies, villages, temples and palaces in a culinary journey that is every bit as interesting and intricate as the dishes served.

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The Resto is housed in a graceful new joglo, built on a wide green lawn amid the swaying coconut palms, the smell of new teak is like a tonic as you enter. To say it’s pretty is an understatement. Whitewashed, large, airy and surrounded by windows leading out to terraced verandahs, it’s like a little piece of old Java transplanted here. With the characteristic tiled floors, elegant rattan furniture, hanging glass lamps under a soaring carved ceiling, it’s lovely in so many ways.

Our culinary journey begins with a hybrid dish of sorts, Lumpia Bebek Jamur or deep fried spring rolls, filled with duck and shitake mushrooms and served with a sweet chili dipping sauce, they are crisp and delicious. Served alongside are fresh spring rolls, similar to Vietnamese spring rolls, in a nod to the health conscious.

Together with these we are served a dish called Ayam Dabu Dabu, which is an instagram picture in the making. A light salad created with shredded chicken, raw vegetables and a splash of chili lemongrass sauce to interrupt the swirled pattern on the plate. It is light, fresh and complex, despite the very simple plating.

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As is often the case with Indonesian food, the dishes keep coming. Next, a spectacular dish that includes half a smoky marinated duck perching atop a terracotta grill on a large platter that includes a clear chicken soup with hand-made dumplings, delicately spiced minced chicken sate and a range of vegetables. The highlight for me is the duck, the skin crisp and the flesh tender and full of flavour. Interesting to note that this is a dish traditionally served to priests when they visit a Balinese home during a ceremony.

The next platter to arrive finds its origins in Java. Nasi Bakar is a traditional rice dish, wrapped in banana leaf and roasted. This parcel is packed with purple sweet potato to add colour and texture. It is served with a variety of dishes that include Kare Ayam, a braised chicken in turmeric and coconut sauce; Mangut Ikan, grilled and braised fish with chili sauce and a delicately spiced Beef Rendang. The plating is truly beautiful and arranged with an eye for the artisan, delicately placed to compliment the diner and to enhance the experience.

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The menu offers a variety of interesting drinks in addition to wine, beer and spirits. Cocktail and mocktails are spiced and spiked with local flavours and a range of traditional health drinks is also offered, including the popular jamu kunyit with turmeric, lime and tamarind. Fresh juices are also sourced locally.

Dessert is an adventure full of sticky textures, icy concoctions and brilliant colours. Despite the fact that the selection in front of me looks for all the world like a child’s candy shop, brilliant in pink, bright green, purple and icy white, I am impressed by how deeply complex the flavours are, and simple really.

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The es cendol is rescued from being too sweet by a roasted banana that gleams on top adding a welcome smokiness to the worms of green flour jelly at the base. Another famous and much loved sweet is made with the local purple sweet potato rolled around palm sugar and covered in grated coconut and is a mix of sweet and slightly salty that is surprisingly good.

Wingko Tape is a traditional sticky rice cake that is baked to give a caramel effect and served with fermented rice on top, in a brilliant green. Es Pisang Hijau is as the name suggests, green. A pandan banana fritter is served with rice porridge, condensed milk and grenadine syrup served over crushed ice.

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There are a number of things that sets the Resto Kayumanis Jimbaran apart from the rash of Indonesian restaurants that have opened recently. Firstly the elegance of the venue, secondly the skill and knowledge that infuses every dish, and then the staff. Kayumanis is almost completely staffed by locals, many from the village where the resort is located.

They fill the resort and the restaurant with personality that is completely genuine. Many return guests take time out to sit with the staff they have met on previous visits. Rather than simply a holiday resort, guests can really discover Bali and the Indonesian archipelago through the staff and the food and this is where Kayumanis shines. It is authentic,  completely original and very genuine. Well worth a visit for those who seek to know more about the culinary heritage of Indonesia.