Searching for healthy food in Canggu is like looking for fast food in America. It’s everywhere. At every turn, there’s promise of another cafe offering “avo toast,” raw food, smoothie bowls, or whatever the health trend du jour. An Instagram-friendly aesthetic is pretty much a given at these places.
So when Two Trees Eatery opened over in hipper-than-thou ‘hood Berawa last year, offering vegan options in an airy, natural, photogenic space, we’ll admit that we kind of missed it in all the noise…
Then — full disclosure — we got an invite to come down and try the restaurant. OK, we thought. We’ll give it a shot. We do like eating clean, and we appreciate a good insta every now and then. Let’s see what they’ve got…
It’s an open-air cafe with white walls, natural wood furniture and panels, with banana leaf motifs, hanging plant fixtures, and pops of yellow to embellish the otherwise minimalist setting. Soft, warm lighting overhead, with lots of bright natural light streaming in during the daytime. After the sun sets, it’s still got a nice, cozy vibe in the evening.
They’ve got a pretty decent amount of seating, but half of it has those high, backless bar stools, which we’ll never understand how and why they became such an “in” thing in restaurant furnishing. Located at the long bar and high tables in the front, they are difficult to balance on, and not meant for you if you’ve got any junk in the trunk — so maybe head for the comfy two-tops in the back to settle into something more comfortable.
Two Trees is mainly known by those in the area as a breakfast hang, but they are open until late (for a Bali cafe, at least) and they do have a complete dinner menu. We figured we’d see more range of their kitchen’s offerings and abilities by trying them after dark instead.
Plus, that way, we could order a couple of cocktails, and it would be socially acceptable. We got things flowing with their “Gin Tonic & Trees” — a gin and tonic with tarragon and lime mixed in. The cocktail was simple and refreshing, but it is priced at IDR120k (US$8), which might give some people pause.
Same thing on the tom kha swizzle (IDR120k/US$8) that we followed that up with. White rum, coconut, lemongrass, lime, coriander, and a “touch of chili” — unfortunately, the cocktail lacked depth since the fruit flavors were far too pronounced. We know it’s Indonesia and good gin and rum doesn’t come cheap, but our two cents: Here, you’re better off putting that hard-earned Rupiah towards an extra appetizer and dessert.
The whole concept at Two Trees is “something for everyone.” There are heaps of healthy choices on the menu with vegan and gluten free markings, and plenty of salads, but they also have items like crispy calamari (IDR60k/US$4), an American-style beef burger (IDR100k/US$6.70), and prawn linguine (IDR130k/US$8.71).
Skimming through choices on the appetizers list like chicken skewers (IDR65k/US$4.36), “green cakes” made up of potato, spinach, and edamame (IDR65k/US$4.36), and a nori burrito (tuna for IDR70k/US$4.69; crispy tempe or BBQ tofu for IDR65k/US$4.36), it was ultimately the “not a nachos?” (IDR70k/US$4.69) that had us the most intrigued, if not only for the rhetorical question of a name.
Having spent ample time in the American southwest and Mexico, we are very familiar with nachos. Yes, while the dish really did get its start in Mexico, it was created by a Mexican cook for Americans. Fun nacho fact aside, Two Trees got the name of their starter right, because the gluten-free and vegan dish that came out before us was certainly not a plate of nachos. But it was profoundly good and the convergence of all those textures that you’d find in a real plate of nachos was wonderfully mimicked.
The crispiness of the tapioca flour battered sweet potato chips had us shook. Not a trace of sogginess. No, we were not fooled by the BBQ jackfruit, filling in for some tender beef or shredded pork, but it mixed in so well with all the other saucy and chunky toppings: the pickled black bean and tomato salsa, avocado smash, chopped chili, spring onion, tofu tzatziki, and coconut cheese to keep things vegan.
After inhaling those not-nachos, we kept the whole theme going of let’s-order-vegan-takes-on-things, tucking into the sweet potato gnocchi puttanesca next (IDR70k/US$4.69).
Two Trees clearly subscribes to the let’s use nutrient-dense sweet potatoes as a vegan-friendly starch of choice school of vegan cooking. A taste of the gnocchi confirms that this works for them. Other than the color, it was hard to tell there was anything adrift with this potato pasta. We couldn’t fault the puttanesca sauce with its tomato, olive, caper, and basil contents, laid over with some cream spinach and activated almonds (for a little bit of crunch).
Like most plates of gnocchi (though usually at Italian and not vegan-friendly restaurants), ravioli, or any kind of stuffed pasta, you’ve got to be prepared for a smaller portion. This held true at Two Trees.
Thankfully we had plenty of other plates (like the nachos and later — spoiler alert — dessert), or else we would’ve gone to bed hungry if we had only eaten the gnocchi.
The next entree we ordered was, however — what’s that saying? Ah, right, a fail. It was a fail. We’re big believers of eating everything in front of us and not letting anything go to waste, but even we couldn’t finish this one.
The grilled snapper (IDR95k/US$6.37) had an overwhelming, pungent taste of fishiness that made us think the fish had gone bad. The fishiness even seemed to seep into the salad. Biting into a cherry tomato was like biting into a flavor bomb — of not quite Surströmming, but fish that had been left out. Also disappointing about the snapper is that on the menu, it was written that it would be served with lemon, herbs, and olive oil. That conjures an image of a light seafood dish, right? Alas, there was no lemon to be found (not on the side, nor any lemon juice flavor), and the cut was served with a green paste on top, so we had to wonder how accurately written the menu entry was. When we told the owner about the fish’s fishiness afterwards, she apologized but seemed a bit unfazed, making us think this may not have been the first complaint about the freshness of their snapper.
Our biggest regret of the night was not instead ordering either the “eat your greens, salmon” (IDR135k/US$9), which is apparently one of their best sellers (but who knows, could’ve had the same freshness issue) or, the watermelon poke (IDR90k/US$6.04). Another example of vegan-substitution, this one would’ve been watermelon standing in for the ahi tuna, marinated in soy, ginger, cashew and sesame, with sticky lemongrass black rice, avocado, edamame, bean sprouts, pickled carrot, cucumber, beef, pickled ginger, sauerkraut, and miso tahini dressing.
“Eating the watermelon is just eating the fish,” one of the owners told us. Not gonna lie, we briefly pondered whether it would be better to have things the other way around. Wouldn’t we rather fish tasted as awesome as watermelon? But we let it go. Anyway, they also have an actual tuna poke plate (IDR125k/US$8.38) with all the exact same other ingredients, if fish-eating is in your practice.
Alas, after the fish-fail, redemption came in the sweet form of gluten-free and vegan dessert.
The gluten-free and vegan “show stopper” (IDR55k/US$3.69) was a crazy combination of sticky popcorn, turmeric chai-spiced pumpkin creme, and tahini sauce that worked. Very well. It was like a pumpkin spiced latte that was transformed into a thicker, mousse-like texture and sprinkled with popcorn for some crunch.
The gluten free and vegan “say cheeeese cake!” (IDR65k/US$4.36) was even better than the show stopper. Made vegan by baking chickpeas and coconut, we were astounded by how well they emulated cheesecake. Laid out on an almond oat crust and topped with fresh strawberries, caramel, and a rich raw chocolate sauce, the best part of this supposed “guilt-free” dessert was that it didn’t taste anything like so many “guilt-free” desserts we’ve had in Bali and abroad.
You know, when the texture errs too heavy on coconut and the crust gets too flaxseed-y? None of that here. “Guilt-free” or not, this was just one seriously satisfying dessert.
Two Trees Eatery is at 99 Jalan Pantai Berawa Kuta Utara, Berawa Beach, Canggu
Reservations: 3619 077 067
Opening hours: Mon-Wed: 7am-10pm, Thurs-Sun: 7am-midnight