A Flavourful Duet

Bali is in the perfect position to introduce the flavour of Indonesia internationally. PASSION talks to the Executive Chef and Executive Sous Chef of The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa, Nusa Dua to learn about their dedication for Indonesian gastronomy.

For almost 25 years, the Balinese Executive Chef I Made Putra has overseen the operations of The Laguna’s three restaurant venues, in-room dining, banquets, and events that often have to accommodate 600 guests. His vast experience also includes a successful term as the President of Bali Culinary Professionals Association which aim is to support locally trained chefs, develop the culinary industry, and encourage participation in international competitions. 

His wingman, the rising Executive Sous Chef Aris Supriyanto is an inseparable part of the resort’s culinary success. Leading Arwana Restaurant which is renowned for its seafood and Pan-Asian cuisine during the last four years, he has been known for his creativity and throwing memorable wine pairing dinner. His recent creation with an emphasis for Indonesian cuisine on the recently revamped menu is an innovation on how Indonesian cuisine can be represented on a five-star establishment. Both of the industrious chefs agree to take some time off to talk at the resort’s elegantly furnished Two Bedroom Laguna Pool Villa.

Can you tell us about the Indonesian gastronomy delights at Arwana Restaurant?

Aris Supriyanto (AS): Our brand, The Luxury Collection, focuses on providing its guests with authentic experience with a strong link to each destination. The Laguna, being in Bali, aims to do exactly that through our indigenous gastronomy riches. At Arwana, we present our Bali and Indonesia’s dishes with a Western technique and presentation without losing the flavour and authenticity of the dish.

I Made Putra (MP): Yes, take for instance, our Butterfish Carpaccio with Sambal Matah, Tasmanian Salmon with Balinese Base Gede crust or our guests’ favourite, the Angus Tenderloin Rendang. We have been receiving positive compliments for our guests who relish in discovering Indonesian flavour in their dishes.

When we talk about Indonesian flavour, traditional street food usually pops up as the authentic benchmark of the real flavour. How do you translate it to a restaurant with a five-star resort standard?

MP: Well, we have to adhere to the standard and providing the best quality for our guests. Our aim is to make Indonesian cuisines on par with the other cuisine we have on the menu and to achieve that, we have to make sure that it is true to its real flavour. I have often found Indonesian chefs who still think that Indonesian cuisine is not as prestigious as the other type of cuisine. The quality of Indonesian food that they serve suffers as the result. I say, enough of that. The era of dumbing down Indonesian flavour is over. 

AS: The thing about Indonesian cuisine is that some of them are simply too spicy for Western palate. But it doesn’t mean that they can’t appreciate the complexity of our spices. As long as you lessen the amount of chillies but make sure to retain the flavour, it’s good to go. I had an experience when a guest was so shocked with the spiciness of a dish, he said ‘this is not food, this is a bomb’. Surely, we don’t want that! 

Any last word on how to present Indonesian cuisine to the international guests?
MP: I have two suggestions: personal engagement and storytelling. As a chef, we have to be able to tell the gastronomic aspect of a dish. Often time, our guests here have no idea about Indonesian cuisine. They can appreciate it more after they learn about it, where the dish comes from, what are the ingredients being used, etc. They need the story behind the flavour.