It was a night to remember. During my stay at the Tanah Gajah hotel in Ubud, Bali, I was lucky to be able to immerse myself in the Farm to Table Experience – an exclusive culinary journey guided by Executive Chef Dean showcasing house-grown fresh ingredients as well as premium produce sourced from neighbouring islands.
Always one to up the ante, Executive Chef Dean (who hails from Singapore) conceived a farm-to-table experience for guests in 2019 after sitting on the idea and working out the logistics of it for a number of years before then. Using ingredients harvested from the resort’s very own organic garden and sourced from the Indonesian islands, everything that is plated for decoration or meant for consumption all come together in beautiful symphony to create an unforgettable slow food extravaganza in the middle of Ubud’s rice fields. Except for one ingredient used for dessert – Valrhona chocolate – because there’s simply no homegrown substitute, as Chef Dean explains.
The experience can accommodate up to eight people.
The Food and Drinks
The 5-course dinner was exquisite from beginning to end. First up was Balinese pork belly with betel nut leaves, medan silverfish and cured duck egg yolk on baby romaine lettuce – an appetiser of sensorial proportions, thanks to the range of textures and flavours delivered by each ingredient.
Next, a seaweed and rocket salad featuring otoro, avocado, local edamame, organic cherry tomatoes and gomadare dressing drizzled on top. I must mention that the tuna servings were extremely generous and juicy. If there had been less, it would have still been more than adequate.
Our third course was a slow cooked grilled octopus accompanied by pomelo, ulam raja (a local herb) and purslane citrus dressing. At this point, it was evident that Chef Dean had a talent for bringing together unexpected textures into each and every bite. Every first mouthful of each course was a surprise.
By the time we arrived at our main course – a slow cooked smoked duck breast (smoked onsite) with eggplant puree sauce – our bellies were getting full. Fortunately, Chef Dean asked us how much more we could eat before plating the meat and we were unabashedly honest. Still, it was the best smoked duck we’d ever had.
Finally, it was time for dessert: a flourless Valrhona chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream (made in-house) and tropical fruits. Chef Dean treated us to a pot of his own blend of roselle tea to accompany our dessert, which I subsequently requested for for the rest of my stay. As a tea drinker, I found it sumptuous, sweet and smooth.
The entire 2.5-hour gastronomic journey was simply memorable. We couldn’t stop gushing about it even days after and look back on the experience as one of the key highlights of our stay.
From the moment the experience began, it was nothing but complete attentiveness and professionalism from Chef Dean and his staff. Guiding us throughout the journey, from a tour through his garden – picking leaves and handing them to us to smell or chew – to explaining the conception of the experience, how the foods were prepared and the inspiration behind the dishes, the conversation was seamless, the laughter was genuine, and the passion was palpable. We really felt like each and every one of Chef Dean’s staff, from his sous-chef to his chef de partie and our dedicated waiter, were there just for us – and happy to be.
Dinner took place in a purpose-built cosy structure covered in Thunbergia creepers and fairy lights on a flattened part of the fields. Surrounded by tiki torches and visiting fireflies, it was surprisingly cool and comfortable. The organic garden was just steps away. Chef Dean also informed us that he was working towards building a permanent kitchen setup in the area as the experience offering was growing in demand. As my friend and I were the only two guests to enjoy dinner that night, it was a true privilege to have the place all to ourselves.
For Your Consideration
Mosquitos, but that’s no surprise. The repellent worked like a charm.
Almost every ingredient used was prepared, smoked, harvested or cooked in-house or on-site. There was an acute sense of celebrating local ingredients and produce, as well as showcasing Balinese and Indonesian culinary traditions and recipes – both of which Chef Dean is extremely proud to uphold.
Diners also depart with a farewell gift – a bag of Balinese palm sugar and house-made roselle-infused sea salt.
Absolutely worth it, from the setting to the hospitality and the food. It’s a must try experience for all.
Where: Tengkulak Kaja, Jl. Raya Goa Gajah, Kemenuh,
Sukawati, Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia
Phone: +62 361 975685
Note: The critic was invited by the hotel, but all views are her own.
Gracious and accommodating
Food & Drinks
Healthy and innovative