As you’d expect with such a fishy name, Sardine restaurant specialises in fish and seafood. It’s bloody good quality stuff too, and our dinner was the highlight in a week filled with brilliant foodie experiences. From the moment you enter this Balinese-styled eatery, the service, the food and the drinks ooze style and class. If you’re savvy enough to book (we weren’t) you can request a table facing the rice paddy field that the back half of the restaurant looks over. This area gives reasonable respite from the heat, with the benefit of a gentle breeze wafting from the fields. Sadly for the patrons who didn’t have the sense to book (guilty as charged), being seated on the front side with a massive bamboo bar virtually cutting the restaurant in half, is akin to being placed in a sauna with no air flow and absolutely no respite from the heat. For some unfathomable reason, Sardine has elected to let its patrons swelter here without providing fans. I’m all for open-air restaurants that reflect the culture and architectural traditions of the host-land, but sometimes you just have to throw some mod cons into the equation to ensure your customers are comfortable. Sardine doesn’t do this, and sitting al fresco on a steamy night with 79% humidity and nothing to stir the still air, well, it’s almost too ridiculous for words. A few discreet electric ceiling fans would do wonders for the comfort of customers, and wouldn’t detract from the building’s visual appeal.
Anyway, on to the fabulous food. Fish features prominently on the menu, and although there are a few daily meat specials, it’s really all about the seafood. We three decided to share a few entrees and have a fish dish each to ourselves for our main. We were served a basket of delectable bread with butter, and this was quickly followed by an amuse bouche of tender seared tuna with roe.
Our plate of kingfish and long-nosed emperor carpaccio was meltingly tender and beautifully complemented by mild chilli strips, citrus and black bamboo salt. Wow. Enter the Mediterranean grilled octopus salad with the softest octopus you’ve ever tasted, and a very generous serving to boot.
We each selected a different fish dish, with my choice being pan-seared kingfish on a bed of saffron risotto. I loved all the elements of this dish and the mild flavoured fish was perfectly paired with the parmesan-infused risotto. TJ’s dish of pan roasted sea bass with blue crab ravioli was visually pleasing and another perfectly executed dish. Cam’s choice of barramundi steamed in a banana leaf with ginger and julienne vegetables paid homage to the flavours of Vietnam.
We sipped on our glasses of Cape Discovery Chardonnay at $55; a Balinese produced wine that we were very happy with, and one of the better quality local offerings.
The dessert menu looked oh so appealing but we couldn’t fit in anything rich or heavy, so opted for the in-house sorbets and ice-cream. Mercy mercy, we were asked if we wanted to move to the lounge area in front of the paddy field, and lo and behold, immediate relief from the heat. As we lounged around on the cane chairs we supped on our icy treats, marvelling at the exquisitely full and fruity flavour of the passionfruit sorbet. Made with the Balinese yellow passionfruit known as Markisa, this fruit is lushly perfumed and sweeter than the dark purple varieties we grow at home. Sitting in the breeze and gazing over the rice field, we couldn’t have been more content.
Sardine was a fabulous dining experience and one I recommend you savour for yourself. If it wasn’t for the issue of lack of fans – and I gather that is for reasons of aesthetics – it would have been the perfect experience. Sardine is also open for lunch and you can choose from the main menu or the small tapas menu while gazing over the green paddy field in the daylight hours. We tried to get back there again to do this, but alas, there are only so many restaurants you can fit in a short trip.