A Valentine’s Day Restaurant Tour in Bali, Indonesia

Food is love. And, boy, do we love each other!

It’s always interesting to celebrate special occasions while you travel. We were in Bergen, Norway, for my birthday, and Mike celebrated his 50th in Petra, Jordan. We spent Thanksgiving in Hungary, Christmas occurred as we visited Macau, and we rang in the New Year with Ben in Korea.

For Valentine’s Day, we happened to be in Bali, Indonesia, and Mike promptly christened it “Balintine’s Day.”

We spent the “day of love” walking around Seminyak, the coastal beach resort area of southern Bali where we were staying. We dined on small plates and enjoyed cocktails from some of the trendiest local restaurants, taking in the colorful scenery along the way.

Our first stop was Sisterfields, an Australian brunch cafe just around the corner from our boutique hotel. The décor and the dishes are all Instagrammable, which can be said for most of Seminyak.

Sisterfields’ menu is a page straight out the millennial playbook: smashed avocado toast (avocado, sumac labna, cashew zaatar, pickled onion, and oregano on rye bread; gluten-free, of course) and an açai berry bowl (blended frozen blueberries, bananas, almond milk, cocoa nib and goji berry granola, and coffee honey) are two of the best sellers, along with the restaurant’s polenta fries.

The servers seem appropriately over. it. when they bring you your bill for 550,000 Indonesian rupiah (approximately $40 USD) for breakfast for two. Trust me, kids. We’re over it, too.

After such an auspicious start so early in the day, we felt the need for a classic cocktail in a quieter atmosphere with far fewer selfies being taken.

Just around the corner is Chandi, whose sign boasts “a gastronomic twist on Pan-Asian cuisine.” We decided not to hold that against them.

It was after noon, which meant two-for-one happy hour specials. I had a glass of champagne, and Mike went with a mojito, both of which were the no-frills refreshment we were seeking. We also ordered black pepper pork dumplings and chili butter shrimp balls, both of which we regretted.

We were beginning to sense a theme in Seminyak. Beautiful surroundings, gorgeously plated food, and a noticeable lack of flavor or substance. You know, Instagram worthy.

Flamingos, cacti, and hashtags. None of which is native to Bali, but you’ll find them everywhere in Seminyak.

We regrouped with a bit of live music on Seminyak’s main thoroughfare, Jalan Kayu Aya, which is also known as “Eat Street,” before proceeding to our next dining destination.

Chinese food always does right by us, so we headed to Ginger Moon, led by the chef voted Seminyak’s best in 2018.

I was worried when the slogan claimed that it was a “modern Asian canteen,” but I hoped to find something good on the extensive menu.

Mike enjoyed his fried pork dumplings. I ordered the “Bali nachos,” which the menu described as “spiced chicken with sambal [chili sauce], herbs, lime, avocado, and crackers.”

What I got was a plate piled high with those things plus beetroot chips, pork rinds, and something that might have been sauerkraut.

Now, the fault is mine for ordering nachos of any description at an Asian restaurant. I’ll take the blame for that one.

I ate a few bites before calling it quits. Mike happily ordered vanilla and espresso ice cream for dessert.

Despite the bizarre food, we were having lots of fun wandering around Seminyak, which was festooned with hearts and flowers for the holiday.

While I was ready to head to a convenience store for cheese and crackers, Mike wondered if perhaps we were just craving something different than what we’d had thus far. Since I’d mistakenly gone with the nachos at Ginger Moon, maybe my stomach was sending my brain a subliminal request for Mexican food.

We gave the day one last shot at Lacalaca, yet another highly-Instagrammable restaurant a few blocks away, just past the Snapback Hat Shop and the WE-AR Yoga Clothing boutique, with its $385 feather cashmere scarves displayed in the window.

We eased ourselves into the menu with a Lacalaca margarita. So far, so good.

We attempted an appetizer with the queso fundido, a “hot pot of melted cheese, chorizo, tomato, and jalapeño served with tortilla chips.”

The chips were just right: thin, crispy, and salty. The fundido, on the other hand, was such a rubbery blob of cheese that the chips broke when you tried to scoop it. I ate a couple of bites with a fork and gave up.

Mike had the steak tacos, which looked beautiful but had too much slaw sauce and too much gristle. I thought I was playing it safe with the sopa de tortilla, but I wound up with something akin to pasta sauce.

At this point, the food experience was so disastrous that it was laughable, and we agreed to call it a day.

On our way back to Room & Vespa, which was the actual name of our hotel and which did not include the use of a Vespa, I spotted something on the sidewalk: an ace of hearts.

When all else fails, especially on Balintine’s Day, it’s best to snuggle down with the one you love.

And stop by the convenience store for cheese and crackers.

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