[Editor’s Note: Rachel Malaguit is an associate editor at Coconuts Manila. She was recently in Bali on a visit, and though she was mostly intent on spending her meal times stuffing her face with Indonesian food, she headed to Ubud for a taste of something different. Here’s her take on that experience.]
Dumbo is a vegetarian restaurant that bills itself as an ethical, farm-to-table dining spot serving wood-fired Italian dishes. There’s been quite a bit of social media love going around for the place, so here we are, weighing in on the buzz.
It’s been open for three months now, but since the grand opening is slated for later this month, June 22, it’s actually still under “soft opening.” Three months in.
Anyway, first impressions: The first floor has plastic-covered aquamarine seats situated opposite a bar and a coffee-making machine. Lattice-covered lights hang from the ceiling, giving off a warm, cozy vibe that also illuminates its green-and-gold tiled walls.
The second floor is a high-ceilinged space marked by a huge oven and carefully placed tropical plants. It also offers good views of Ubud’s forest, which, thankfully remain free of hotels and other manmade eyesores (for now).
While the place was gorgeous, I was more curious about the food itself. Farm-to-table vegetarian restaurants operate according to values that are definitely commendable. But, it’s still a restaurant. The food has to taste nice. It’s basic science. Right?
So, with that, let’s take a look at the food.
I ordered the Bianca Jagger (IDR80,000/US$5.74), a pizza topped with potato slices, rosemary, black olives, roasted garlic, dried chili, and rocket leaves, which I paired with a freshly-made drink which they called lemongrass and lime squash (IDR45,000/US$3.23).
My drink was refreshing, and that mixture of lime and lemongrass does wonders to perk up the senses. It wasn’t good enough to boost the mediocrity of that pizza, however.
The pizza crust had a nice crunch to it, with the right kind of bite from outside to in — and it carried some of that great, fragrant aroma characteristic of pizzas coming out of a wood-fired oven. But, as a whole, it was unbelievably bland. Some more salt and spice? Yes, that would have been nice.
Look, it’s pretty apparent to anyone who’s ever stepped foot in Indonesia: This country has a love affair with spices. But though this pizza had a dusting of chilis on it, it did not deliver the heat, or at least the umami factor, that I’d hoped to get. I asked one of the staffers to hand me a bottle of chili flakes, which I spread all over the pie in an attempt to wake up my tastebuds.
I finished one slice before considering whether I could fairly give my take on this food. I had spent the past few days eating the spiciest nasi goreng and creamiest Soto Betawi I could get my hands on. Perhaps I just couldn’t go from one extreme to another, but for others who aren’t hunting for that smackdown of spice, a pizza like this would suffice?
I thought back to all those highly enthusiastic reviews I’d seen online — the ones that made me decide to come try Dumbo in the first place. I decided to write my take on my (admittedly limited) personal experience, if only as a caution to others like me who have limited time in Bali and are searching for the kind of flavors I was on the hunt for.
And so, I finished off some more slices, and ordered chocolate mousse (IDR75,000/US$5.38) for dessert. It was fine — but most likely not made with the Indonesian palate in mind. Unlike the conventional desserts in Indonesia, which see generous helpings of sweeteners mixed in, this mousse was only slightly sweet, and interestingly, paired with a pear, which actually worked to bring down the overall sweetness of the dish.
Dumbo is a design-driven venue inspired by Balinese art, and I can imagine people visiting just to have something showy to post on their ‘gram. Their staff is super nice, which is par for the course in Indonesia, especially in Bali.
When I was back in my hotel room, I seriously considered going back to Dumbo to try their other dishes. Maybe I should have ordered their breakfast burger, which has egg, onions, and chili jam. Or maybe I should have stuck to my original choice, their pasta al forno.
Maybe I just need to give it another shot, I thought. But, as I dug into my babi guling, I decided against it. There’s truly something for everyone in Bali’s food scene, and perhaps this one just isn’t for me.
Dumbo Bali is located at Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Kedewatan, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia. It’s open every day for lunch at 12pm–3pm and dinner from 5pm–10pm.