Sarah Douglas swims with the fishes to sample Koral restaurant at the Apurva Kempinksi. Images: Lucky 8.
You have to love a restaurant with a view. At Koral at the Apruva Kempinski in Nusa Dua, you don’t have to go far to get deep – deeply immersed in an underwater world that inspires this fascinating themed restaurant.
The monumental Kempinski resort has set out to impress from the start. From their central restaurant Pala, home to extensive breakfasts, gourmet lunches and intimate dinners as well as the abundant and generous brunch-cation every Sunday. To Izakaya by OKU, which daily delights guests with seductive Japanese dishes from their open kitchen and bar. Reef delivers gourmet beach classics to be enjoyed around the pool or on the beach and last but not least there is Koral, possibly their most anticipated opening.
Housed one floor below ground, Koral is surrounded by a huge aquarium, Walk underneath it, get up close with colourful tropical fish and black tip sharks, and watch as two divers add a human element to the underwater scene.
It’s a first for Bali and the restaurant itself is a picture in black and white, gleaming wood and glass walls. Bali’s first underwater restaurant offers a sophisticated mix of locally-inspired seafood dishes and French bistro favourites with a definite nod to Asian flavours.
Dive into this menu with some of their à la carte starters like the gorgeous fresh lobster salad, simply dressed with siracha mayonnaise, Parisienne-style seasonal fruit and orange and lemon coulis; or perhaps the house-made salmon gravlax smoked with dubarry and dressed with local basil and celery jelly served with cauliflower puree, beans, radish and cress. Locally sourced seafood gets a French twist with many of these small plates.
Travel on to enjoy another lobster dish on the mains menu. This one is poached and dressed in a Thai curry sauce, the lobster meat meltingly soft and loving the spice. The squid risotto is another star on the menu; the creamy black rice soaking up the squid flavours with extra texture provided by crispy chicken and heavenly black garlic.
Meat eaters will also love dinner here with a signature Beef Rossini paying homage to the best of France. The 9+ marbling on the beef tenderloin means this will melt in your mouth, served with foie gras, truffle beef jus brioche and braised shallot, there won’t be a lot of room left for dessert – but you can always steal your partner’s.
This dish and many of the others on the menu are crying out for a good glass, or bottle, of wine and Koral’s carefully curated list doesn’t disappoint. The list is a great collection of local and international wines chosen to pair perfectly with food.
With the gentle sound of a pianist, the constant movement and colour provided by the fascinating aquarium, there is something other-wordly about dining underwater, appealing to a myriad of senses. To ease yourself into the experience, enjoy a cocktail, mixed at your table by the roving bartender.
Dessert is the perfect finish and there’s a host of international flavours to choose from. For my money the strawberry crème brûlée is a brilliant finish, made with fresh Bedugul strawberries, served with a buttery sable biscuit and caramelised walnuts, it’s burnished to a crisp finish and the intense flavour of the strawberries is an incredible way to end this gourmet experience.
If that doesn’t rock your sweet tooth, a tangy tangerine tart is on offer, pandan profiteroles perhaps? Or settle into something rich and satisfying like the banoffee Valrhona with caramelised banana and coffee mousse praline and a rich chocolate ganache topping.
Kempinski plays to the classics beautifully with richly detailed interiors that take you on a journey of discovery. A host of great dining experiences, a glorious beachfront, a truly incredible spa and the architectural references to Indonesia’s heritage make the resort a destination in itself. Adding yet another fascinating layer to the experience is Koral, Bali’s first underwater restaurant and a culinary experience you will want to write home about.