After Locavore and the next night of stuffing our faces with Bali Food Safari (another post I need to get around to, a recommended experience BTW), we opted to go for lunch (a birthday treat for Hubs) at Blanco par Mandif. As crowded as Locavore was, Blanco was empty… We literally had a private meal. I kept waiting for others to join us, but we seriously had a team of 12 working on our lunch — talk about an amazing experience. Of course, for any diner, this would almost always be the case. With only 12 seats (the location is currently undergoing renovations), this is the perfect spot for a leisurely lunch or an intimate dinner. While the relatively small (read: sort of cramped) space might be a touch close for some, I liked not only being close to the kitchen, but also the high chairs, complete with a comfortable place to rest your feet. This may sound like a ridiculous feature, but it was a detail I’ve never witnessed while dining out.
Although it turned out we also had reservations for Mozaic (sorry, team!), due to my idiosyncrasies (read: a desperate need to get to the airport early), we decided to go for long lunch, rather than dinner before rushing to the airport.
While diners can max out at 13 courses (for the dinner seating) we decided that seven courses were more than enough (as we were still full from the gargantuan Bali Food Safari feast the night before). As with Locavore, the first plates provided a number of delicious nibbles, expertly presented, before moving onto a series of main dishes. Unlike the debacle of the drinks at Asia’s #49, Blanco handles things differently — offering a much nicer mix of bespoke cocktails (literally, created on the spot in front of us) and selections of wine. As the pairing costs nearly as much as the food, I consider it an essential component of the meal, and was glad we received properly sized drinks (and pours) at Blanco.
The standout dish for both of us was the octopus, which was, hands down, the best-prepared cephalopod I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It was so tender and smoky; the plate is a must if visiting.
Whether or not the restaurant was busier than Locavore, I don’t think would matter. There were a number of comparisons where Blanco stood out in front of the other venue:
- More variety in beverages and more generous portions. Yes, I’m drilling down on this. Yes, I think it matters.
- A better balance in the kitchen. This is one of those things that might only matter to me, however, I like to see a representation of both genders in a kitchen. Blanco definitely achieved this.
- A more personable approach. While Locavore was not an entirely formulaic evening, perhaps as a result of being the only diners, we were able to interact quite a bit more with both the service staff and chefs of Blanco. There was a presentation from the chef, and the perfect level of letting us chat, but also being available for any questions. At Locavore, I felt as if we were attending a play, and the lines were simply being read.
- Less focus on broth/consomme. While both kitchens included this technique, Blanco did not rely on it for a majority of the dishes.
- For a personal touch, the staff at Blanco printed a menu of our meal (with our names, the date, and our specific choices), then they all signed it, wishing Hubs a happy birthday. If this was not enough, they also made an additional dessert in honor of his birthday (which I didn’t request — it was just something they did).
And, of course, at this point, I think I’m splitting hairs. Both restaurants offer a wonderful, memorable meal, however, if you only have one night, or the money for one fine dining experience, I urge you to choose BLANCO par Mandif.
The cost of the meal was a reasonable USD$284 — which, like Locavore, seems like an absolute bargain. While there are still a few more meals yet to be had this year, thus far, our lunch at Blanco seems to be my current meal to beat for 2016.
Have you been to Ubud? What restaurants should I check out next time?