The Dining Room is a pleasant open bamboo rotunda in Candi Dasa. Managed by the Watergarden Hotel it displays all of the professionalism of that connection. It is a level above the usual warungs and cafes of that area.
Over the past few years a number of international chefs have had some input to this menu, and it now presents an interesting mix of cuisine.
The Dining Room is on the site of the ill-fated Kedai, once the shining light of Candi Dasa, amazingly let slide into oblivion, empty and decaying for years. It was fully restored in similar style but far grander and classier than the original. It is at the southern entrance to Candi Dasa, with views across to Nusa Penida.
Even though the new menu is impressive I am still drawn to the earlier dishes of the Middle East, always yearning for something different and appreciative when that option is provided.
The Turkish Boreks [thin 'ulka'pastry] are filled with a mix of feta and parsley, a dip of yoghurt and mint on the side. They are light and crunchy, very good. Hummus with Khubz [wheat flour flat bread] is chicken pea puree flavored with tahini, olive oil & lemon, served with that Arabian flat bread.
From the Mediterranean there are some refreshing starters. Bruschetta with Tomatoes & Basil are on toasted Ciabata bread which has been topped with diced & peeled tomatoes that were tossed in virgin olive oil, basil, garlic & balsamic. Potato Skins with Tzatziki Dip, roasted potato skins served with Tzatziki yoghurt-cucumber garlic dip and that favourite at all Spanish restaurants around the world, Garlic Prawns, simply deep-fried in olive oil, served with a garlic-coriander-thyme & tomato concasse, accompanied with flour tortillas.
The Lebanese Fattoush is a refreshing salad, romaine lettuce tossed with diced tomatoes, cucumber, onion, mint, parsley, za?atar spice [mainly oregano and thyme], lemon juice & chunks of dry roasted flat bread although I quite like the simple Breaded Bocconcini,a semi-soft, white and rindless un-ripened mild cheese that was once made from water buffalo milk, a specialty of Naples. This unique cheese is melted slightly for this dish which makes it far more edible and the small rounds are dunked in crunchy breadcrumbs before deep-frying.
Soups can be the Mediterranean Seafood Soup with shrimps, squid, baby clams, scallops and fish. All of which are poached in a white wine and tomato broth enhanced with fresh basil. Something different is the Soup of Pistou, a mix of red & green beans, celery, tomatoes and pasta blended with a tomato, basil, garlic and parmesan pesto. A vegetable soup that actually has a defining taste, not the usual blandness of nothing!
It is the main courses here that have changed the most of late. Although the great Turkish Tavuk Gogsu Sarmasi has survived, it is in za?atar & olive oil, the marinated chicken breast stuffed with saffron rice, cashew nut & currants, served on sautéed spinach and topped with a white wine tarragon sauce, accompanied with steamed rice.
My main, almost every time, is the Moroccan Tangine. It is a rich chicken broth with chicken cubes, carrots, baby eggplant, spinach, olives, potatoes, zucchini, dried apricots, raisons, apples, cashew nuts & Ras el hanout spice [an incredible mix of spices, usually including cardamom, cumin, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dry ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn, sweet and hot paprika, fenugreek, and dry turmeric, very Moroccan] the tangine is served in the traditional ceramic bowl. Excellent!
Chicken Parmigiana is now on the menu as is a very subtle Chicken Scallopine with Sage; the fillet is seasoned with clove, pepper and garlic then layered with sage, red pepper and ricotta cheese, rolled and cooked in a herb and tomato sauce. A recent French influence has seen Chateaubriand added to the menu, béarnaise sauce and all. There is also now a Bouillabaisse, that famous seafood stew from Marseilles.
The new international dishes include a selection of pies [beef, chicken and vegetarian] and all those standards necessary to cater for a tourist market that comes from all corners of the globe.
Then there is the wood-fired pizza oven in its specialty position between the restaurant proper and the street-front, a round colourful building sitting almost like a mid eastern shrine, with a range of pizzas that includes all the standards plus a few specials; Mushroom, Cheese, Olives and Ham, the Chicken Supreme [chicken, spinach, sage, bell peppers, mozzarella, parmesan & cheddar cheeses] or a Meat Fest [minced beef, chicken, ham, salami, mozzarella - cheddar & Parmesan cheese & mixed herbs] or The Dinning Room Special [bacon, baked onions, salami, mushrooms, thyme, cheddar & goats cheese]. Although I am a Pepperoni freak, can't get enough of it. Here the Pepperoni Feast is with red & green peppers, chilli flakes, baked onion, garlic and oregano, wonderful!
The dessert list retains a couple from the old menu; Turkish Om Ali, crumbled puff pastry sheets, layered with raisons, coconut, cashew nut and tossed with sweetened milk, covered with cream and flambéed in the oven and the Greek Ekmek, a moist rich cake made from shredded phyllo paste, custard and cream. However there are international deserts here too, a Crème Brulee [vanilla and pandan, a French/Asian mix], Chocolate Mousse and Apple Cake. All in all a rather amazing dining experience for Candi Dasa. A lunch or dinner at The Dining Room tops off a relaxing day trip to Candi! It also provides a good reason to stop, and relax, if passing through.