VEGAN can sound frightening, but it is the purest form of vegetarianism, in reality it is all about eating natural healthy food that is totally organic and devoid of any animal content, which of course includes all dairy products.
Fivelements at Puri Ahimsa is simple and majestic at the same time. An enormous bamboo structure houses their Sakti Dining Room. The overall shape of the building is that of a banana leaf, the plates are the same shape, the setting is peaceful and serene, even more so if you sit at one of the lower terraces beside the small free-flowing river. The resort is a healing centre where the residential guests go to completely re-charge their batteries, but the restaurant is open to all. Your first impression is that you have entered a fine dining restaurant situated in the middle of surrounding rice paddies. Not far from the truth! It is directly behind the famous John Hardy jewelry factory, itself also an eco-friendly building.
Some of the key kitchen staff trained in New York, and the spotless open kitchen boasts many innovative machines for processing food for this specialised cuisine. The dishes may be healthy, extremely so, but that is not at the expense of taste. Non-vegan terms are frequently used on the menu; cheese varieties, pizza, etc. In fact all are made from fermented soy products, and often you can not taste the difference.
The Stuffed Zucchini Blossom is a great starter. Inside is a mix of cabbage, bok choy, shiitake mushroom, tofu, ginger root, green chilli paste and a yuzu-tamari sauce [yuzu is an incredibly complex citrus fruit from Japan, tamari a soy sauce made from just soy beans water and salt, no added wheat]. The Raw Purple Sweet Potato Nori Maki is seaweed rolled around sweet potato, sesame, mushroom, avocado, carrot, scallions, cucumber, ginger root and lemongrass.
Most of the dishes comprise raw ingredients [referred to there as being 'live'] and are therefore served cold. However some of the soups are heated and include a Lentil Dal, a mix of lentils, coconut milk yoghurt, cilantro and lime. A simple dish that is so healthy, and so high in fibre content, yet one that tastes so good. There is also a Cilantro-Cress soup that has a sweet and sour taste with a zucchini and red pepper concasse and sour 'cream' made from crushed cashews and pine nuts.
A touch of Thai is their Live Tom Yam, but no prawns are used here. Instead it consists of marinated shiitake and white button mushrooms, with tomato and coriander leaves. An Indonesian item is their Soto Seitan, of bean sprouts, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, sweet potato, celery and corn vermicelli with a turmeric-lemongrass bouillon. On the evening dinner menu there is also an Asparagus Hill, asparagus spears with spiced tofu in a clear miso-shiitake broth.
There are no 'main' courses here just many entrees as by far the best way of enjoying this cuisine is to taste many different small options. Heading the list is their sensational Zucchini Manicotti, thin strips of zucchini wrapped around a 'ricotta' tasting lemon pine nut mousse and garlic tomato coulis with spinach, raisin and pistachio compote. Live Lasagna is layers of cashew nut 'cheese', tomato marinara, basil pesto, baby spinach and marinated shiitake mushrooms with béchamel herb sauce.
The Garden 'Pizza' is a blend of tomato, basil pesto, olive tapenade, avocado and fresh herbs sitting on thin slices of almond flax seed crackers. The Live Falafel Sandwich is based on a savoury zucchini hummus with tahini sauce, tomatoes and pickled white cabbage served between spicy crackers made from curried sunflower seeds.
Seitan Escalope is a walnut crusted caramelized seitan [Japanese name for the vegetarian's 'white meat' which is made from gluten, the insoluble protein in wheat, the same ingredient that makes bread dough elastic], with mashed nori seaweed, sweet potato and baby green beans. It is served with a cardamom kecap sambal. Trio-violi Italiano is really amazing. It is a spring onion and truffle cashew 'cheese' ravioli served on sliced marinated beetroot and fava bean puree on yellow zucchini and young coconut meat stuffed with marinated shiitake mushrooms drizzled with balsamic, puree of fig and ginger 'cream' sauce.
Pepes Cendawan utilizes unique Balinese spices with a mix of mushrooms and pine nuts wrapped in leaves of Romaine lettuce served with a cabbage-apple slaw and sambal matah. A Risotto of Brown Rice is a roll with oyster mushrooms, topped with parsley-lemongrass foam. Sweet Black Sesame-roasted Eggplant is served over a bed of lightly sautéed spinach and coconut-infused black rice with a Balinese cilantro sambal.
If you have trouble choosing what to order then start with the Sampler Plate. It includes a mini 'Pizza', Almond Curry Crackers with an olive tapenade, a 'cheese' ball that you could not identify in a blind tasting, made from the usual soy base but with a total taste of cheese, almond crackers and a slaw of cabbage and apple.
Alternatively there is a Daily Chef's Tasting Menu, variously priced to comprise 5-7 different dishes that do not have to completely set as you can include some of your own selections in this spread, the chef will come up with the rest.
Sakti offers a completely new and different dining experience that is difficult to compare with anything else. The environment is pure fine dining, and that is how it is served. The taste and the contents need experiencing before commenting about them. If taste is one of your selection criteria then come and try something completely different from anything you have ever had before! That is even without considering the health aspect of this nutritious cuisine. Bali really does provide something for everyone these days! Congratulations to the management for such an imaginative and far thinking investment.
Come, try and be surprised.