Add Some Spice To Your Life
With its “Gastrobar – Local Flavours – Funky Drinks” mantra, SPICE by Chris Salans has now burst forth in Ubud, already living up to its promise of bringing an exciting new culinary experience to this tourist destination with an unabashed gastronomic homage to the archipelago’s dazzling flavours and produce.
Launching his third restaurant in Bali this July, Master Chef Chris Salans is already contributing to Ubud’s increasingly sophisticated development as the island’s hot new culinary destination, with an innovative “Gastrobar, Local Flavours, Funky Drinks” concept and progressive servings of a casual and affordable eatery fit for foodies, infused with a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere. Hardly surprising, given that the American-French Chef Salans is arguably Bali’s top culinary ambassador, the recipient of awards that include World Gourmet Summit’s 2014 MANITOWAC Restaurateur of the Year and the creative force behind the prestigious Mozaic brand.
First impressions of Salans’ latest venture hint at a deviation from his other restaurants: a gourmet all-day eatery with a more affordable, accessible cuisine concept for the masses — positioned right on central Ubud’s main street, a striking standout with its ultra-modern, hip café-format encased in glass.
Within this surprisingly intimate restaurant (seating a maximum of 35) SPICE promises diners an eclectic and exciting culinary odyssey of taste, touch, smell, sound and sight, immersed in Bali‘s environment, culture, ingredients and aromas — yet in a contemporary, informal space.
SPICE challenges conventional dining experiences in several ways. Its small space is dominated by a gleaming, open kitchen edged by a bar counter that dissipates any barrier between diners and chefs (and is great for express dining and singletons). Diners sit up at the counter directly facing an interactive culinary theatre, watching the Chef de Cuisine and his kitchen team at work. Alternatively, several sleek wooden tables alongside the floor-to-ceiling glass frontage offer voyeuristic street-side views of Ubud life.
Referencing the name and inspired by Balinese and Indonesian traditional markets and abundant bounty, spices such as black peppercorns are presented in bowls as table-top centre pieces; shorn bamboo trunks double as cutlery holders, while rustic-style terracotta pots hang upside-down from the ceiling. Nighttime SPICE emanates a pretty glow courtesy of suspended light installations made from recycled wine and liquor bottles. The cutting-edge menu, born from Salan’s exceptional creativity, presents amazing Balinese and archipelago ingredients and flavours — a key focus here — seared with Western modern cooking techniques and presentations, plus Asian influences. SPICE utilizes practically all quality, locally sourced fresh ingredients and produce — where possible, organic and sustainable. The select, simple menu is divided into self-explanatory sub-sections, wherein each dish highlights a native ingredient, showcasing the superb range of flavours and how these ingredients can be presented in diverse ways even to international gastronomic levels.
Dishes come plated-up in small portions designed for sharing; diners are encouraged to order several plates — two to three dishes are recommended per person — off a tick-box order form handed back to waiting staff. Presented on locally crafted Kevala tableware and wooden platters, the dishes arrive in fluid sequence as soon as they are whipped up in the kitchen, contributing to a casual grazing experience.
Constantly adapting to produce availability and seasonality and changing tastes, menus are liable to evolve and change. On our visit, we sampled dishes from all sections, starting with “Raw” and its wafer-thin Beef Carpaccio, with an east-west hybrid of mushrooms, parmesan and rendang and a small bowl of tangy, tuna tataki, diced in sambal kecicang with tempeh crackers. Among “Breads & Sliders”, the Breaded Red Snapper with sambal matah and wakame bread stood out, while “Fins & Shells” indulged with a luxuriant slipper lobster with tempeh, infused with curry leaf butter. My favourite tastes, however, came with “Harvested & Farmed” and the crunchy goodness of the Seasonal Organic Vegetable Salad, with quinoa, finely sliced shallots and fresh spring vegetables drenched in suna cekuh dressing, and from “Two Legs + Four Legs,” with Beef Brisket, fat noodles and local herbs swimming in tasty kluwek broth (the rice-flour udong noodles, alone, worth the drive to Ubud); equally tender, Crispy Pork Belly in turmeric dressing and dukkah spice also deserves a mention. Not-your-standard Sides cover Tapioca Root Fries, while funky beverages cleverly showcase local flavours and fresh Indonesian ingredients for an exotic kick. Signature cocktails cover refreshing Kemangi-Cucumber Gin & Tonic, while Young Coconut Glass and artisan coffees are some of the softer options.