2016 Updates and Surprises!

Hi Guys! It's been a while!

What's new with Epicurina? Well we encountered a significant turning point around the mid of 2016 and decided to relocate to Jakarta! As even though we love Bali, and many of our friends think it's a loss, actually there's a bigger challenge awaits in The Big Durian.

As a debut (comeback?) we're happy to share the reasons why we should be proud of Indonesian Cuisine, and why it's important to actively promoting them as our heritage, because it's part of our identity!

You can view the full video at this link, and participate in the contest through this link: bit.ly/BanggaIndonesiaKarena


Kedai Kopi Gayo in Bali

While I did notice their sign from a while back, I didn't really become interested to find out more, thinking like, oh, it's another cafe with so-so food that I've seen too much.

It was only after getting tagged on Instagram post about Mie Aceh, and it's been a while since I had any, I made the effort to turn my car toward the street where Kopi Gayo resides, and wow I was impressed!

Turned out it's an actual Warung Kopi, sits right next to the street, set in a very casual setting with a long boat that used as the main table, neat minimalist design and lots of light! Immediately we made a plan to visit them the next night.

Scouting the menu we discovered that they're quite serious. After some conversation with the owner we also found out that he's coming from Aceh, and just been living on the island for about two months. Surely as Bali Food Blogger we become more interested in what Kopi Gayo has to offer.

To start our journey we ordered Kopi Sanger which is a favorite in Banda Aceh: it's the mix of 3 parts black coffee with 1 part condensed milk, where the coffee is filtered using conventional cloth coffee filter (pictured above). The result is a bitter sweet coffee drink carrying both the traces of Gayo coffee and sweet condensed milk. A good company for long conversation.

As the main dish we ordered both Nasi Rempah Ayam Tangkap, and Mie Aceh Sapi Goreng. I was aiming for the more lavish variation, Mie Aceh with Crab, or with Prawns, but they're already running out of stock for both items. Should try it next time when the day is still young. Turned out they're open from early morning at 6:30 am for breakfast.

The Mie Aceh combines thick udon-like but softer yellow noodles, with savory sour and spicy thick sauce that bathe the noodle like a spaghetti sauce.

Comparatively while we love how the flavor stands out, we think it's a bit spice shy compared to the rustic smokey specimens we usually have from our favorite vendor in Pemogan, Rumoh Aceh.

For the other main menu we choose Nasi Rempah Ayam Tangkap which on first look resembles Nasi Goreng with heavy dose of spices put in. The taste however, was not as wild as I first suspected, and on a food diagram it would be grouped more with Nasi Hainan and Nasi Kuning, than with Nasi Kebuli. The addition of whole cardamom help adding the exotic nuance, however it wasn't really blended into the rice to create the true rustic feels.

As with prices, they're very affordable and worth every rupiah you spend. Have a look:

We did also try their Teh Tarik, and Martabak Aceh, but was too involved with the food to take a shot. Martabak Aceh differs with the usual Martabak Telur, as it's an "inside-out" martabak where the fillings is outside and its crusty skin inside.

Since we love their place, and the people hospitality, we surely points out our thoughts above to the owner as feedback. You guys should also give it a try and let me know what do you think? (byms)

Kedai Kopi Gayo
Jl. Tukad Musi V
Opens daily 06:30 - 00:00

Nutrilicious stay at The Leaf Jimbaran Bali

While Bali is better known for its lush green scenery and its beaches, for this staycation we choose to try something new: The Leaf Jimbaran, which is a villa compound with wellness and health conscious food and activities.

Away from the beaches, and the bustling tourist areas we usually look for, The Leaf Jimbaran sits in the hills of Jimbaran area, accessible through the same road that leads to Ayana and its marvelous Rock Bar. While the premise can be reached through its alternative route which exists nearby Garuda Wisnu Kencana, it's advisable to use the main entry instead.

How to NOT have your Uber ride in Bali

Uber is a revolutionary application that connect passengers with drivers in a way that's never been happened before. Through the app, Uber users can easily order their ride, rent out a car only for the duration and distance they need.

More than the ease in ordering, Uber users also have the comfort of knowing how long their ride will arrive, who the driver is, along with the driver's reputation. Uber users also get the cost estimation of the trip, and how long approximately will it take to get there. Something that exists only in the wildest customer dreams in the past, despite the abundance of similar rent-based car already in service.

Rejection of Uber service in Bali

Outside of all the service and customer experience advantages, to local Bali cabbies Uber and other similar services like Grab Taxi poses a threat to their operation, which mostly prefers a haggle based pricing scheme despite having the mandatory argo meter installed.

To the government, Uber operation also raises issue since it provides similar service with taxi, but doesn't have a legal entity to operate in Indonesia. Uber's self-established pricing also violates the government rules that require all taxi tariff must undergo government review to ensure its fairness, which includes it wont severely hurt other taxi companies operating with their current pricing scheme.

Awaiting for a stricter government regulation, a zone restriction is applied by the local Balinese authority, hence the many "No Uber allowed" signs sprouted up on Bali's popular tourist destinations, and discreetly on many hotels as well.

Hotels as well? Yes, because in Bali, most if not all of the hotels must sign an agreement with local Banjar (Balinese authority village) that guarantees employment of local workforce up to certain percentage of hotel staffing, along with rights to provide specific services like hotel security and transportation for the hotel guests.

Foto: Kalangan sopir taksi di Bali menolak taksi berbasis aplikasi beroperasi di Bali (Liputan6.com/Yudha Maruta)

In Uber's defense, they repeatedly states that Uber is not a taxi service, but they're a technology company that offers way to rent and rent out car in convenience, in cooperation with registered Uber partners to provide the cars. To prove the difference, Uber don't have a taxi armada, or have even a single car they operate as taxi.

Outside of the definition and legal battle, it's still quite possible to use Uber service in Bali as the government itself still figuring out what they want to do with modern day internet based service like Uber, Grab Car, Gojek, etc. hence no stricter action has been taken yet.

With the zone restrictions happening in Bali though, getting your Uber ride could be tricky, especially if you're in the hot tourism destination zones like Airport, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Batu Belig, Canggu, and Echo Beach.

Uber drivers worst case scenarios

Having some riding experience myself with Uber, traveling between venues and meetings related to my Bali food blog activity, I got to learn about the different stories different drivers have, including their worst ever experiences.

Here's what the Uber drivers explained as worst case scenario they have faced related with the local cabbies and authority sentiments, where on most of those occasions they prefer to step on the gas and cancel the order from their side. It's just not worth risking a broken window glass or dents and nasty scratch marks on your car over a cancellation penalty.

Scenario 01 - The Haggler

You finished shopping at the local shop, then haggle price with local cabbies with no satisfying agreement. Instead of walking away, you then proceed to open your Uber App and order your ride, right there beside the now insulted local cabbies.

Scenario 02 - The Innocent

You finished eating in a hip restaurant, politely reject local cabbies offering their service, but right there proceed to open your Uber app and said "Yes" when they ask "Are you ordering Uber?!" despite noticing tenseness in their voice.

Scenario 03 - The Unsure

Walked out of your Hotel, doesn't haggle price with local cabbies, but order your Uber ride right there near the local cabbies parked their taxi, and constantly cross-checking the plate number of every car passing with the number shown on your Apps, thus getting all the attention from the now insulted local cabbies.

Scenario 04 - The Big City Tourist 

You walked out from the arrival gate at the airport, ordering Uber, then go to the nearest passenger pickup zone patiently awaiting for your ride... but waves frantically while yelling out loud "You're from Uber right? From Uber right?! Uuubeeer?" upon your ride arrives, attracting unnecessary attention from all the insulted local cabbies, informal cabbies using private cars, freelance tour agents, and security guards.

Some thoughts about Uber endangering local Balinese businesses

While I acknowledge the reasons local Balinese taxi drivers (and associations) about Uber operation hurting Balinese Taxis, and that all Uber cars are operating without taxi license, here's some of the interesting findings discovered from using Uber and interviewing the Uber drivers:

  • On my numerous rides with Uber in Bali, surprisingly most of Uber drivers in Bali are Balinese! They're using Bali registered cars with special tourism permit from the government, that took months to process, and costs at least 6 million rupiah to obtain.
  • Many Uber drivers are only utilizing Uber in between of their regular business of renting cars, or tour guide, meaning they're already doing the business anyway before Uber comes to Bali. 
  • Some Uber drivers are even "graduated" local Bali taxi drivers that switching to Uber for a more humane working hours and better income through the guaranteed passengers, especially during low tourism sessions.
  • Some Uber drivers are turning to Uber to come out of their hardship, e.g.: Pemutusan Hubungan Kerja (PHK), in between jobs, slow going business, etc.

Outside of rejection and legality issues, the most notable differences I experienced as passenger upon riding Uber is transparency, and consistency, which in turn establish the sense of fairness, something that most local taxi companies failed to give, for example:

  • There's been numerous cases where I arrived in Ngurah Rai from business trips outside Bali, ordering the official Ngurah Rai Airport cab, and find out that the cost of the trip varies each time, as it's determined not by a price table but by someone "official" who remembered the pricing in his head. 
  • What's consistent though is the Airport taxi price is always about 30% to 50% higher than using regular taxi like Blue Bird. Compared to airport extra charge in Soekarno Hatta Airport for example, this is quite high as taxi companies there usually charge only 15-30 K IDR for a 150K worth of taxi ride. 
  • When your Bali Airport taxi broke down, there's rarely working contingency plan. They don't provide replacement car so you have to wait until the driver fix his car, or order another taxi by your own cost.
  • When you arrives really late in Bali, the official Ngurah Rai Airport cab has officially closed down their service for the day, and what's left are haggle based unofficial taxi that has this shady "Jakarta in the 80s" aura, and even shadier condition car.
  • Ordering Bali local taxi on the street usually mean you have to prepare to haggle for the fare. As even though they're all equipped with Argometer/Taximeter, most drivers prefer the "guess your price" method, which poses real issue for visitors as they usually don't have idea how far their destination is, and what the fair fare would be. 
  • Most discussion about fairness and transparency happened online rarely ends in brainstorming on what we could do to improve the quality of Balinese taxi service, or its attractiveness, instead they're mostly ended with "Pulang saja jangan tinggal di Bali" classic closing.

From years of living in and visiting various cities in Indonesia, I do recognize that this haggle based pricing and syndicated protection is nothing new, as it also applied in various cities across Indonesia.

What I also learn from the history though, rarely the forced protection survives. In Jakarta for example, there's no more thing like Airport Official Taxi company, only regular taxi that has special permit to receive passengers from the Airport.

In Bandung the same thing happened, but on much later years. What used to be a service orchestrated in monopoly by Koperasi Angkatan Udara, are now replaced with regular taxis with special Airport permit.

While forced options or protections like the zone restriction sometimes work, however in the modern days, it's usually the customer demands that dictate the market, and shaped the future. If we failed to listen to the customers voice, sooner or later we'll be abruptly forced to change, and usually in the least convenient ways. (byms)


01. "Uber Taxi Dilarang di Bali, Grab Car Kok Boleh?" - http://bali.tribunnews.com/2016/01/22/uber-taxi-dilarang-di-bali-grab-car-kok-boleh
02. "Bali Akan Hentikan Taksi Uber dan Grab Car" - http://regional.liputan6.com/read/2444084/bali-akan-hentikan-taksi-uber-dan-grab-car

Nyepi Day Experience at The Trans Resort Bali 2016

What it feels like to be isolated from the world for a total 24 hours? Nyepi is the only time Bali shuts down, and it feels both eerie, and amazing at the same time.

Continuing our Nyepi Day coverage, this year the four of us will be sharing our Nyepi Day experience from Trans Resort Bali.

Follow our Instagram, and stay tuned to watch how one of the busiest spot in Bali transformed into a place of tranquility for a whole day.

The Trans Resort Bali
Jl. Sunset Road, Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali, Indonesia
+62 361 8981234

Tips for taking great food photos in dark environment

Among the biggest concern we Bali food bloggers faced upon dinner invitation, is whether we will be able to capture good food photos or not, as there are situations where even a modest DSLR couldn't cope with, like extremely with dim lighted dinners. What are the options that food bloggers have on such ocassions?

Pushing the light sensitivity

Most of modern day DSLR provides a wide range of ISO option. Ranging from the usual ISO 100, into the super sensitive ISO 1600 or 3200. Pushing camera's light sensitivity with using a very high ISO however, usually resulted in a too grainy photos. While it might look artsy for B&W pictures, it is not so stunning for food shots.

The maximum ISO with acceptable grain for a food shot differs with each camera models. My Samsung NX 300 for example, despite its impressive maximum ISO 25600, can only take good details and acceptable noise for food shots until ISO 800.

A glass of Kombucha and steak sandwich shot with ISO 800. Can you  notice the fine grains on photo's the lower part?

Spending Hari Nyepi Day of Silence in Grand Nikko Bali

When Bali island shuts down

Hari Raya Nyepi will fall on 9 March 2016 this year, where for 24 hours long the island shuts down. No flights in or out of the island, no ferries operating, no cars or motorcycles passing, not even people walking on the street.

Nyepi gives off quite an eerie feeling at first, to imagine there's no way to leave the island for almost two days long. Despite the fact that we rarely travels outside Bali, or often in needs of quick getaway from the island. It's a sort of claustrophobia, but after several Nyepi spent in Bali we can (almost) outgrow the worries.

During Nyepi there's a very worthy trade off to get though, that can hardly recreated anywhere else on the planet: the silence and time-stopping experience.

As during Hari Nyepi the Balinese are prohibited from lighting fires, working, having entertainment or pleasure, anything that might interfere with the purpose of self-reflection is prohibited, hence the island's shutting down.

Only some critical facilities like hospitals, and tourism businesses like hotels are excluded from the prohibition, however the activities must also adjusted in a way that it wouldn't interfere the practice of Nyepi for general Balinese population.

Understanding Customers - How to tap into people's emotion and influence their choice

Hi Guys! Some while ago I found an article at Business Insider about people tendency to try something new, vs sticking with what's familiar. It addresses (one of ) the reason why people choose what they choose, including upon choosing what food to eat:
You Want What’s Familiar – A series of research studies by Marieke de Vries of Radboud University Nijmegen, in the Netherlands, shows that when people are sad or scared, they want what is familiar. When people are in a happy mood they are not as sensitive to what is familiar, and are willing to try something new and different.
Related to Fear of Loss — This craving of the familiar, and a preference for familiar brand is probably tied to our basic fear of loss. In de Vries's book, Neuro Web Design: What makes them click? I have a chapter on the fear of loss. When people are sad or scared, our old brain and our mid (emotional) brain are on alert. We have to protect ourselves. And a quick way to be safe is to go with what you know; what you are familiar with. A strong brand is familiar. A strong logo is familiar. So when we are sad or scared we will reach for a brand and logo we know.
It’s Easy to Change Someone’s Mood – It turns out it is remarkably easy to affect someone’s mood, especially in the short term (like long enough for them to make a purchase at a web site). In Marieke de Vries’s research they showed video clips of the Muppets (to instigate a good mood) vs. the movie Schindler’s list (to instigate a bad mood). People reported their mood as significantly elevated after the Muppets and significantly lowered after Schindler’s list. This mood change then affected their actions in the rest of the research study.
Related with food internationalization, I believe the article plays an important part in designing the food experience that would make someone new to try out Indonesian food -- or any other foreign cuisine -- which moves them further on the Food Experience Journey from Discovery into Onboarding stage.

Practically the article also gives a hint that people might give foreign food a try, if it looks like, or somewhat resemble familiar food they have already know.

Which reminds me of this recent encounter with a delicious sandwich from Chef Theodorus Immanuel at Vin+ Bali that looks like ordinary sandwich, but it actually contains something very traditional: A Balinese Ayam Betutu.

Unlike classical Ayam Betutu though, which its flavor spectrum leaning heavily toward savoriness and spiciness, the sandwich capped the heat, while also introduces mild acidity by using pickles, to gives off a "rounder" taste to the Ayam Betutu sandwich. The result is something that in a glance taste quite western, but with a kick of local taste.

For someone with Western upbringing, pairing the Ayam Betutu Sandwich with wine would even make the dish easier to accept, as it mimic the wine and dine culture. Creating a positive ambiance through comfortable room temperature, upbeat music, and uplifting fragrance would make the adoption journey even easier, and more pleasing.

How well would this works? Let me know what do you think. (byms)

Read the complete article here: http://www.businessinsider.com/100-things-you-should-know-about-people-2010-11#24--you-are-most-affected-by-brands-and-logos-when-you-are-sad-or-scared-24#ixzz1AFHTEe2r

Family Staycation at The Westin Resort Nusa Dua Bali

"Let's go in and check out their resort, pretend we're going to held an event here" said my boss smiling before turning our rented car to enter The Westin Resort Nusa Dua front gate. Judging by Nusa Dua's reputation as the staying place of movie stars and presidents, this invitation alone gives a sheer feeling like we're doing something forbidden.

But that was about ten years ago, when the image of staying in one of Bali's top resorts is just a distant dream, especially for someone with entry level salary in an IT startup company.

Our perception of Westin changed however, since the early years of us moving to Bali. Westin has been a highly supportive venue, and a close companion for our Bali food blogging activity. Starting from the numerous invitations to Prego's Family Brunch, participating in charity shows for Unicef involving nation's rising stars, invitation to annual appreciation dinner, and last but not least, a staycation chance!

Just a fresh reminder, "staycation" is a form of vacation where we focus on experiencing the whole offers that a destination hotel have, to take advantage of the hotel's included amenities and facilities. Recently staycation has also been recognized as the sustainable tourism way to make our travel more eco-friendly. With the huge size of Westin Nusa Dua, and lots of entertainment options, we eagerly started our journey.

The Westin Nusa Dua Bali Experience

Westin has one of the largest hotel lobby on the island, definitely, with high ceilings all the way to the roof. The interior emits the conservative luxurious feel, dominated with dark brown solid woods and white marbles. This condition alone helps setup the feeling that we're starting something grande.

After a smooth check-in, we're escorted to our room in Westin's new hotel wing, right above Prego Restaurant, which has becoming quite familiar for us as one of the island's top family brunch destination. More on it later, as our staycation includes Sunday Brunch at Prego!

Our room exist almost at the end of the alley on the third floor. While it's not the biggest room we ever stayed in, it comfortably fits two huge beds, a couch, a receded desk, and there's also a comfy balcony with garden view.

By the way, please don't mind our kid's expression, it's something he caught from his friends at school which seems to be their smiling standard now, and he's been practicing this style constantly in every picture we shot that day. So this is his happy face, for now, please bear with it. And no it's not contagious, not to adults at least.

On the bathroom, beside of the large bath tub, we were also pleased to find the scented soap and bathroom amenities ready to help us refresh after our long travel.

Kids Activities at Westin Resort Nusa Dua

After we settled down, now it's time to scout around the resort for facilities that we can enjoy. Our kid surely love the pools, and there's even an artificial cave with waterfall that feels like you're on a treasure hunt.

The biggest draw for our kid attention though, was the resort's Kids Club, and beside the pools, that's his benchmark to determine if a resort is cool or not. After taking a long walk passing the lobby and the restaurants, we finally arrived at the Kids Club at the other end of the resort.

The first kids club

We're there just in time for a kite coloring session, and our boy thinks it's cool, so I left him there with all the small people. Outside there's also a lot of physical activity facilities, so if he ever get bored with the all the drawings and kite flying, he'd have a lot of options.

The second kids club

What's interesting with Westin's Kids Club is that it's a complex made up from three different facilities organized by age. The one that my kid in, was for children whose in early school years. For even younger children under 5 years old, there's a separated facility right next door. It was less populated than the main one though.

The third kids club!

If you think the two grouping is already impressive, turned out that Westin has a third section which devoted for teenagers! Here you can find youngsters enjoying their time watching movies, playing Playstation, or simply reading books from the library. It was set as a lounge, so it has this nice relaxing feeling.

Pinky White Beach and Interconnected Swimming Pools at Westin Resort Nusa Dua

Outside nearby, Westin has a pinkish white sandy beach complete with sheltered and non sheltered beach bunks. It's an ideal space to laid back and enjoy the serene beach with gentle breeze, something that Bali is best for.

Not ready to jump into the salt water yet? Westin's interconnected swimming pools is the one you should be at then. It's made up of several swimming pools with close distance from one to another, together creating a huge swimming pool complex, with the water that still feels fresh, despite its closeness to the sea. Something hotels in Kuta area are now struggling with, due to the sea water abrasion.

Breakfast at Westin Resort Nusa Dua

On the next day, we eagerly rushed down to Seasonal Tastes restaurant to have our breakfast. Staying truthful to our epicurean nature, breakfast is certainly something we're looking forward to.

We were quite surprised to see there's a Halal Food station set up during Breakfast. Beside of some hotels targeting domestic tourists, we almost never seen such feature, especially in a five-star resort like Westin.

Other than the halal station, most of breakfast items in Westin are clearly labeled whether they contains pork or not, vegetarian or not, that help the guests to quickly recognize which food matches their dietary rules.

Outside of the traffic and the commotion of breakfast, we found food at Westin was good, very well catered, heap of menu choices to pick, and we especially love their Indian food station, it was awesome! One of the best breakfast we ever had in Bali hotels.

Temperature is a bit challenging though, as we're staying in Westin during one of the hottest seasons in years, we found the heat is quite high, even on the corners of the restaurant which have air conditioners. As basically the restaurant is open spaced, make sure you dress lightly, and come early to get the coolest spot on the venue.

After we've done with the amazing breakfast, now it's time to try the waters, so we heads down to the swimming pools which located right outside of the restaurant. Sadly we found most of the ideal spots have been reserved, but this is something we now realize as a common happenings in Bali hotels: mark your ideal pool side bench by leaving something of your personal belongings, before you go for breakfast. This way you can ensure to get the best pool experience later after you eat, which usually meant shaded benches, and this is important as Balinese sun tends to be unmercifully hot. Good for skin tanning, but not for someone already on the dark side like me. The skin, not the force.

Family Sunday Brunch at Prego

To close our staycation experience in Westin, we're thrilled to end it on a high note with Westin's Family Sunday Brunch at Prego.

Prego is an Italian restaurant that focuses on "fun dining not fine dining" and it's Family Sunday Brunch is designed to entertain the whole family.

As Bali food blogger, my focus lies on enjoying the treats that Prego have:

My favorite part of Prego are their fresh pasta station, where I can order any kind of pasta Prego have, and it's a lot, cooked upon our order. Next is the cold seafood table where prawns, crabs, and mussels are lying down gorgeously on the ice rocks. The rather new grilling station is responsible for the delicious seafood bbq and meats, including steaks and kebabs.

There are special of the week's menu which revolves between fish or other type of meat, some options for soups, grilled vegetables, a long table of antipasti, lots of delicious cakes and gelato, and last but not least, the cheese station. Well in fact it's among my favorite stations in Prego, as they have a good selections of both young mellow soft cheeses, and old mature strongly flavored ones. I usually comes to this section first and assemble my plate of cold cuts, grilled vegetables, cheeses, seeds, nuts, and even fruit jams from the nearby bread station.

As a father however, I want to also ensure that my kid is having a good time as well. As he's quite picky with what he eats, he find the fresh pasta station as the only choice, and he always go with the Bolognaise.

Pancakes and chocolate cakes are also his favorite, but we don't usually let him roaming in those stations unless he finished his plate of pasta first.

Outside of the food, we find the activities in Prego Family Sunday Brunch really engaging. Whether it's playing Playstation games with newly met friends, outdoor activities like face painting or ball games, Prego has cute mini stations to cater for our kid's sweet tooth, like popcorn stall, ice cream cart, and cotton candy corner.

They even have magic shows that made our kid both entertained and curious.

Westin Staycation in conclusion 

It's been one kind of a stay, a little bit hectic due to the high season, but we find the quality service made up for what Westin might lacked. Our concerns are promptly addressed, the food was good, and our room was comfy. Nice surprise for the halal section on breakfast, and everything else creates memorable impression.

As a blogger with two kids, the availability and quality of kids activities sits high in our checklist, and with the three kids club which includes outdoor activities, kids friendly selection during our breakfast, large bath tub, and huge swimming pool, our kid was surely entertained.

Thank you Westin, until we meet again! (byms)

The Westin Resort Nusa Dua

Kawasan Pariwisata Nusa Dua, BTDC Lot. N-3,
Nusa Dua,
Kuta Selatan,
Kabupaten Badung,
Bali 80363

+62 361 771906

+62 361 771908