Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
It doesn’t seem much sense to wonder where to eat sushi in Bali, an island heaven to all sorts of traditional culinary delights. But from time to time, I forget that travelers or expats look for a little taste of home, or something familiar and international to cleanse the palate. In this case, sushi and the fusion kind. Our pop into Ji, to be fair, is based on a recommendation by the Tugu Group, and it’s a bit shady considering it’s part of their job. But knowing the group, I know that parts of the employees do love their brand and speak many truth when talking about their brands. So, when Ji came along as a recommended place to eat fusion Japanese food, we prepared to be hungry!
Photo by Tugu Hotels.
Ji, is part of the Tugu Hotel complex in Canggu. It’s located in front of the property, accessible to the public. Now any Tugu Group restaurants can easily distract you from food. It’s extremely hard not to be overwhelmed by the interior of the restaurant, as I was. As a food lover but not a foodie, and as an easily distracted girl, I was mesmerised (yet again) by the interior of the restaurant, before even tasting the food. I even think that it’s worth mentioning up front.
Photo by Tugu Hotels.
Entering Ji from the hotel, we stepped through the side double-door. First thing I saw, and is a signature Tugu Group item, was the structure within the restaurant. A black worn-out structure decorated the inside and the ceiling. It is said, it was an original ancient Kang Xi temple from 1706. It was found in Java and looked fairly intact.
Like all Tugu Group properties, there are many other antiques spread around the venue, all of which I would love to touch (I actually love touching antiques, because it’s the feeling off the past, in my opinion). And also like many of its properties, the restaurant is a bit dimly lit.
What was pretty odd for me was the decoration that seemed dominantly Chinese, despite the menu being mostly Japanese. Japan only invaded Indonesia for about 3.5 cruel years, so possibly the culture didn’t have time to blend in. Not saying the décor wasn’t impressive, it always is, but it’s a bit odd, but possibly it was part of the fusion concept, which could be sketchy if we said it’s the best Japanese restaurant in Bali. However, I’ve come to learn that it’s a Japanese, Balinese, and Chinese Peranakan eras reflecting the fusion of the cultures. Neat! I gave myself time to marvel at the wonderful 310-year-old structure.
You know that moment when you put food in your mouth and split second your world pauses for that flavorful taste? I had a few of them!
Honestly, I didn’t expect much from Tugu Group’s fusion food. Granted, they did a great spin on Peranakan food in Dapur Baba, but somehow I didn’t keep my hopes up.
In the blur of work, having Skype meeting at the time, and worried about Vira as she was possibly hungry thus cranky, the taste of the Kobe Style Black Angus Tenderloin really caught my attention. There was a pause. A ‘so good’ pause. The beef was juicy and had zest to make it interesting. A little bit of sauce kept the taste a true fleshy protein. The meat was served in little cuts which was perfect for a good chat, because we didn’t have to be busy cutting our food away.
The next pause was when we tried the Dragon of Ji. Looking like a dragon, with the green of avocado covering its body creating an illusion of green scale and a face that reminded me of dragon from Mulan, the sushi was entertaining to see. It could be the beady eyes that kinda gave it a cute appeal, but I didn’t expect much. Yet, it tasted WAY BETTER than it looks. It was the right amount of avocado to prawn tempura, and the spicy mayo was delicious. It was probably our palate, liking rich taste with a little kick in it. We both agreed from our first bite that the Dragon of Ji was really good. And although we were super full half way eating a dragon, we couldn’t just let it go. We had to brown bag it for the night. And it turned out to be satisfying snack, even though it had rice and should be considered a main course.
Granted, that Dragon of Ji was on the house as a compliment dish. However, it was so good and we were just too tired to explore much beyond the Tugu Hotel walls, we decided to have another go at it the second night there. We just had to have it again! Just have to! It was as good as the first time we tried it. That night, on the super comfortable Tugu Hotel beds, we dreamt of Dragon of Ji.
Another dish that was worth mentioning was dessert. Oh, dessert! As a sweet tooth, it was so my thang. It was the Mango Chocolate Mousse. I truly regret being full that night, and that is on a very rare basis, because I could have chowed down that dessert with the happiness of a kid in a candy store. Let’s start with the beautiful plating, it was decorative and meticulous. Gorgeous, the kind you don’t know which to destroy first. Then the taste? The mousse hit home run. I can remember it was a good portion of bittersweet from the chocolate. The bitterness and a scoop of vanilla ice cream actually neutralized the candied pistachio. The mousse also had an acidity to it, from the mango fragrance. The dish was something that you need time to digest, certainly good company along with girl talk, or a good closing to your meal. It was hard to say good bye to the unfinished plate. It wasn’t bag-able.
I think there should be an honorable mention to the cocktails of Ji. To be fair, we had mixed feelings for Sayuri, one of the signature cocktail (bottom picture, right). For me, it was delicious, with just the right amount of sour and sweet and still that signature coconut taste. Vira, on the other hand, found hers to be more sour the next day, which I concur. Coco Sexo was Vira’s drink and she enjoyed it much.
The restaurant itself is joined with the hotel, but anyone can visit for a good meal, doesn’t have to be the hotel guest. There are three floors of the restaurant, the very top being a roof-top-like scene, facing the ocean in the distance. The second floor was really green and set more like a garden meal. What was more interesting was within the two nights we had dinner there, Ji apparently interest some fashionable good-looking people, which are possibly people going to hang out later in the evening, are on a date, or enjoy to dress up in the presence of good food. Felt very sophisticated. And the food wasn’t that extremely expensive, on a average of IDR 100k per dish. As for drinks, well it’s pretty much the same in bars, but again have a go at their signature cocktails. Always delicious, like the time we ate the Rijstaffel banquet at Kunstring.
Should you eat sushi in Bali? Maybe. Should you at least know where to eat sushi in Bali? Probably. Is Ji recommended for that sushi crave? Hell yeah! For that nice Japanese food in an exotic restaurant. It’s a nice foodie exploration too, considering it’s fusion Japanese food in Bali, an unlikely choice but it could just surprise you, especially for where to eat it Canggu.
Hotel Tugu Bali, Canggu Beach
This post was supported by the Tugu Group but the opinion is my own.