The Unstoppable Chef

Spaghetti vongole, ikan bakar, fried coral trout and bakmie ayam – this is hardly a menu one would expect from local celebrity chef, Mandif Warokka – the man behind Seminyak’s boutique fine-dining spot, Teatro Gastroteque, and Ubud’s ultra-gourmet, 10-seater restaurant, Blanco Par Mandif. But these scrumptious, comfort food signatures from around the world are indeed the work of the unstoppable chef, and Moringa – Mandif’s latest venture – is already proving to be his hat-trick venue that sends Bali’s foodies into a culinary frenzy. Unlike its uber fancy sister restaurants, Moringa serves up an interesting mix of international and Asian street food in a bistro-style setting. Set on Jalan Dewi Sri – a busy avenue that is rapidly morphing into a popular middle brow eat street – the focus at Moringa is on fresh, healthy and local ingredients that are then transformed into homemade Asian-international treats, without the fine-dining, special-occasion-only label.

Reading like an adventurer’s culinary trajectory, Moringa’s menu is a dynamic grazing feast of gastronomic samplings. Though each dish is a humble nod to the world’s signature dishes, no recipe simply relies on the bog-standard. Instead, Moringa’s tour de force injects a special essence and zest into this country-hopping smorgasbord, with a few of Mandif’s unmistakeable signature touches. For example, the street food element to Moringa’s offerings is indeed prevalent, yet each item on the evolving menu is prepared according to fine dining principles and uses modern cooking methods like sous-vide and curing. Asian herbs, spices, sauces and marinades predominate, whilst food texture – the characteristic quality that Mandif believes amplifies taste and brings a sensory expectation to the palate – is a fundamental component. The standouts here then are unsurprisingly Mandif’s local Asian interpretations. The fried coral trout is perhaps the most fragrant fish we’ve ever tasted, fresh from Kedonganan market and served with a mango salad, nam yum sauce and white rice, whilst the corn fritters, as simple as they sound, are astoundingly complex in their flavour profiles, and perfectly satisfying.

Other highlights include the horenso salad, a firm favourite from day one according to the chef himself, as well as the pappardelle and veal ragout with slowly braised veal cheek, and the gorgeously silky capellini pasta with squid, prawn, squid ink, bird’s eye chillis, green tomato and grana padano. Yes, Mandif makes pasta, and it’s as sublime as you can imagine. If that wasn’t enough, the décor at Moringa is equally as impressive, lavishly decorated with Asian murals and plush seating; casual and colourful with soft banquettes lining the walls, cosy table arrangements and snug chairs. Moringa certainly has all the markings of becoming a favourite gathering point for brunch, lunch or dinner time get-togethers, and we’ll definitely be coming back again and again, even if it’s just to say that we dine at Chef Mandif’s restaurants on a regular basis.