Words: Kirsten Durward
Photos: Monica Tindall *Photography is only permitted with a handphone at Koral; nothing larger allowed.
What could be more intriguing than a signature fine dining experience in an underwater setting? Koral Restaurant fascinates as soon as you step foot inside. The sinuous and mesmerising movements of diverse sea creatures are cleverly enhanced by mysterious, almost hypnotic ambient music. It’s hard not to stop and stare, particularly when walking through the arched tunnel, and I am grateful that we arrive early, so few diners are around to hear my gasps of delight.
As an underwater environment is not splendour enough for the Apurva Kempinski, teak wood ceilings, red brick walls, and elegant black and white tegel floor tiles lend stability and historical significance to the atmosphere at Koral. The style is inspired by the legendary Majapahit empire, which held Indonesia at the centre of the world spice trade from the 13th to 16th centuries, and somehow unobtrusively frames the underwater viewing quite perfectly.
Chef Andrea Astone and his team have crafted an imaginative menu that combines Indonesian coastal flavours, locally sourced produce and the highest quality techniques and ingredients. The concept particularly highlights the abundant fresh fish and seafood found in the Indonesian archipelago. The platings we enjoyed were all clearly internationally derived, with signature twists of Balinese flavour and style. A feast for the senses, Koral Restaurant is modern fusion cuisine at its best.
Koral Restaurant Cocktails
Koral Restaurant’s cocktail station offers a range of classic favourites and locally inspired concoctions. We are happy to try two signature tastes from the creative and talented mixologists. Jose Cuervo tequila infused with butterfly pea combines with triple sec, pineapple, moringa juice and agave syrup to create a semi-sweet, refreshing taste poured over a perfect icefall in the Sea Margarita. Dramatically presented with smoke-filled panache, the Mist Negroni, a robust version of the classic, features Bombay gin infused with rosella, pandan and cinnamon with Fernet Branca and Campari to create a powerful punch in the mouth.
Koral Restaurant Five-course Menu
Bread Box and Welcome Drink
We have our first taste of Koral Restaurant’s attentive table-side service with the presentation of bread choices. We select from a mini baguette, soft roll, focaccia with herbs and cherry tomato, and a light crispy lavosh baked with olives, seeds, nuts, herbs and spices. The attention to detail and the combination of tastes and textures hint at what is to come.
As we sip a refreshing blend of mango tea with pandan foam, a show-off blue spotted ray takes our attention as she swoops and flies through the water behind our viewing window while emperor angel fish hang behind and a black fin reef shark glides above. The natural show is impressive but not the only show in the house.
As a precursor of what is to come, the service show begins with a pouring of rose water essence to cause an effusion of steam that envelopes ‘kiss the lime’ creations balanced on wreathed seaweed with flowers. ‘Squeeze the lime and bite the fish,’ instructs our server, and so I do, marvelling at the mouthful of white snapper infused with Balinese spice and melded with mashed potato.
Crispy cones with mashed potato, salmon cream and kefir lime are next. These are so desperately cute that I don’t want to bite in. Protocol insists that I do, and the creamy snap is delicious. We nibble on a coral biscuit imbued with cheese and herbs before a sensational sweet finish with the prettiest papaya glazed tamarillo embellished with ginger and gold leaf.
Echoing the coral in the sea with soft strands and fronds, this aptly named plating offers us a delicately marinated barramundi with cauliflower puree, caviar and a little Balinese spice. The fish slides down oh so easily as we savour the divine combination of tastes.
‘Something special from the chef’
We are gazing in raptures at swirling shoals of fish when a surprise arrives. ’So pretty!’ gasps Monica, and she is right. Colourful snapper gravlax with beetroot and tiny blinis with cream cheese and caviar are offered with the compliments of the chef. Eating these delectable morsels so carefully embellished with tiny flowers is almost a crime.
An artful plating echoing a Kandinsky painting showcases a clever twist on traditional arancini topped with black garlic pasta, crispy kamali leaf and a touch of edible gold. Balinese flavours and Italian cuisine are perfectly merged in this innovative and creative interpretation. Biting into the crispy coconut rice outer, we discover snapper with Balinese spice with parmesan. The palate is extended with kemangi basil leaf sauce contrasted with the colours and flavours of chilli and black garlic.
The freshest lobster from on-site aquariums is offered on a natural plating of stones and fresh flowers. Succulent white flesh, glazed with chilli and garlic, slightly sticky and sweet, lies atop soft mashed potatoes threaded through with creamy Hollandaise, all served inside the lobster shell. A great deal of skill is involved in creating this deceptively simple dish and serving it up with panache. While Mon who prefers clean unadulterated flavours may prefer her lobster without the added pizazz, I savour every forkful.
Our last savoury dish is an impeccably presented rondavel of wagyu tenderloin topped by a sliver of Himalayan truffle. The beef is moist and tender and melts in the mouth. A tiny square of Lyonnaise potato with creamy foie gras gives richness. A triangle of brioche with pickled shallot and chicken veloute adds texture. An intricate layering of subtlety in a dish married with a deep truffle sauce.
The food is delightful, but we need a breather before dessert, and our focus returns to the live aquarium through the window at our side. Rays zoom past, so close we can see each detail of their faces and begin to smile at the cartoon like expressions we see. A lazy spotted cat shark drifts by, seemingly unconcerned when a diver appears, blowing kisses to us from his mouthpiece. He sprinkles some fish food and disappears as the whole window fills up in swirls of yellow purple and gold for a sensational table-side display.
The artistry that created this divine dessert surely knows no bounds. First, feast the eyes on the delicate construction, then crack the chocolate jasmine gel bonbon at the top of the tower and let it cascade down through the creamy chocolate mousse, sea salt caramel and sour cherry cream to the chocolate cracker base. Each spoonful delights with clever texture and flavour combinations. Not too rich and not too sweet, this chocolate concoction is a superb ending to a superb meal.
Balinese fine dining appears to be incomplete on this trip without a plethora of petit fours, and Koral is no exception. We enjoy tiny chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, soft morsels, and a crunchy coral tuile and finish with the white chocolate Valhrona bonbon, which surprises with a pop of yuzu.
Koral Restaurant Review
At Koral Restaurant, the design concept and the food enhance one another, and our fine dining experience is uplifted by the impeccable service that Kempinski is known for. Chef Andrea and his team have perfectly forged an array of original dishes from quality produce, combining Balinese and international flavours to stunning effect. The artistry in the platings is the most exquisite I have seen in years. Delicate presentation and attention to detail raise the experience to the highest level. A first visit to Koral may be for the novelty of dining underwater; repeat visits are for the quality of the food and service.
Reasons to visit Koral Restaurant: Unique underwater location with spectacular fish viewing, divinely delicate fine dining experience, and attentive service.
Jl. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan
The Apurva Kempinski Bali
Nusa Dua, 80361 Indonesia
+62 361 2092288
Koral Restaurant Opening hours
Lunch: 12:00 – 15:00
Dinner: 17:30 – 22:30
Advance reservation is required
Tables will be held for 15 minutes
- There are several menus to choose from but a minimum spend of IDR 950K is required and a deposit of IDR 500K is required to confirm a reservation.
Smart Casual. No sleeveless tops, no shorts or flip-flops.