The Naughty Nuri’s legend continues its homage to founder Brian Aldinger with the opening of a new spot in Seminyak that pushes all the right buttons. Words: Stephanie Mee. Photos: Lucky 8.
SOMETIMES it’s the simplest things that turn out to be the most legendary. This was certainly the case for Brian Aldinger and his wife Nuri when they opened a humble warung on the side of the road in Sanggingan, Ubud, in 1995.
Their aim was to serve simple dishes and drinks to wandering backpackers, but what they ended up with was Bali’s most iconic BBQ institution lauded in The New York Times, frequented by visiting celebrities, and recreated all over Southeast Asia in franchise form.
Naughty Nuri’s Seminyak is the most recent incarnation of the warung, and while they stay true to the original recipes for Nuri’s killer ribs, twisted martinis and laid-back vibes, they’ve also got a few new tricks up their sleeve.
No story about Nuri’s can begin without paying homage to Brian, the magnetic personality who made the original warung what it was. Holding fort at his bench overlooking the street, Brian would welcome expats, locals and tourists of all sorts –often pulling people in straight off the street – to join him for good food, bucketloads of drinks and great convo that would range from philosophical musings to ribald rhetoric all in one sitting. Sadly Brian is no longer with us, but his inclusionary spirit still prevails at Nuri’s and its branches.
Seminyak may seem like the antithesis of Ubud and perhaps an odd location to carry on Brian and Nuri’s easy-going vision, but as you pull up to Naughty Nuri’s Seminyak and glimpse inside, the rustic tin roof, wooden bench tables and aroma of smoky grilled meat wafting through the air are definitely reminiscent of the original. And much like the original locale back in the day, you will most likely be greeted by a charismatic character who will welcome you into the fold. In our case it was the effervescent and entertaining manager Debbie.
Debbie immediately offers us a cocktail, but we decide to forgo a few of Nuri’s killer martinis, even though they were deemed the best martinis outside of New York City by celebrity chef, food writer and TV travel show host Anthony Bourdain. For those who haven’t tried them, these monster libations come in 125ml pours of pure legitimate-label-only booze. One will get the conversation flowing, two will have you wobbling, and three will get your name carved onto ‘Nuri’s Wall of Fame’. We opt for a few civilised lime margaritas instead. It is lunchtime after all.
As the servers shake up our margaritas tableside and pour them into massive glass bowls on stems, Debbie fills us in on the Nuri’s Seminyak story. The four franchise partners decided to stick with the original BBQ shack concept and add a few modern touches like a sun-dappled stone garden filled with pink piggie statues of all sizes, and a wide variety of seating like high-top chairs at the bar and a counter overlooking the street, long wooden tables with benches, and intimate four-seaters. Worthy of a mention are also the gorgeous washrooms with cool air-conditioning and pristine fixtures.
Prior to opening in August, the Nuri’s team was working closely with Nuri’s sister to learn how to recreate the famous BBQ ribs that put Nuri’s on the map, as well as classics like the Grilled Pork Chop (helping to save millions of innocent plants killed by vegetarians every day), the Filet Mignon, Sausages (your choice of Spanish chorizo or German bratwurst) and the Grilled Chicken. While these recipes stay the same, Debbie reveals that they do have their own supplier for the steaks and sausages, which come straight from Australia.
The Seminyak team also cooked up a few new creations like the Pork Fun Buns with slow-cooked pork slathered in Asian BBQ sauce and piled high on a soft brioche bun, the Nuri’s Fish Wings, crispy golden triangles of tender Barramundi with the fins intact, and the Umpa Lumpa Shake, the ultimate Instagrammable treat of a creamy chocolate milkshake drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with whipped cream, brownie chunks, pretzels and a toasted marshmallow.
Of course we have to go for the ribs, and they come just like we remember them from the original Ubud spot with tender, falling-off-the-bone meat kissed with hints of charcoal, Balinese spices and Nuri’s signature tangy sauce. Squeeze some lime over top, dig in with your hands, and we can pretty much guarantee you’ll lick every finger clean. Like your ribs a bit more fiery? Ask for their tear-jerkingly spicy extra pedas sambal.
At Debbie’s recommendation we also go for the Double Whammy Cheeseburger with two juicy patties stacked on one another, smothered in melted cheddar cheese and topped with just enough pickles and lettuce to add a bit of greenery and crunch. For sides we go for the Coleslaw with a creamy guilt-free cashew dressing, the Mixed Bag of Fries with crinkle-cut, straight and wedge fries, and the Pork Poppers, succulent balls of minced pork with a smoky dipping sauce. FYI – Nuri’s BBQ sauce tastes amazing on pretty much everything on the menu.
Much like in the old days at Nuri’s, our meal segues into more drinks and free-flowing conversation, and we find ourselves hours later suitably sated, a little bit tipsy and surrounded by a slew of new friends. While we definitely suggest coming here to get your rib fix, we also recommend allocating a few hours to linger over martinis or margaritas and chat with the amiable staff and ever-rotating crew of new and regular patrons. After all, we’re pretty sure that’s just the way Brian would have wanted it.