Two years ago today, I arrived in Bali, flagged down a taxi at Ngurah Rai Airport and handed the driver a paper with directions to the place I was headed to in Ubud. It was a restaurant on Hanoman Street (aka Jalan Hanoman) called Clear Café. I thought it odd at the time that my first stop was to be an English-named place; I was in Bali after all, where were the Balinese or Indonesian languages?
When we turned the corner and spotted the sign, the driver hauled my bag out of the trunk and up the stairs. I found T and her friend sitting at a table by the front windows, and I joined them there, squatting on the cushioned banquette. I looked around, got my first taste – and sights – of Ubud.
But, after the drive up from the airport, when we passed countless temples, family compounds, warungs and local stores, I felt like I’d been transplanted back into Western civilization. As if I’d been transported to southern California or a trendy Mediterranean tropical hangout. An oasis indeed…
T and her friend continued to work from their laptops while nibbling away at nouveau-cuisine-looking freshly grown, picked and barely cooked organic dishes. Was THIS the Ubud that my friend (and her friends) in KL had raved about?
Well, it took me less than these 2 years to discover that Clear Café is the home-base of some expats living here, as well as a gustatory ‘safe-house’ for travelers seeking to pad their taste-buds with familiar flavors from home. But, despite its tantalizingly titled dishes and drinks, it’s a place that I rarely frequent. It’s a tad too posh, occasionally emitting an air of pretentiousness, and on the pricey side. I’ve probably eaten there less than a handful of times; and even then, I’m known to stick to my favorite dish, Sunshine Tuna. Same with the drink: Lemon Drop. Warmed up, please.
I usually shy away from the sleek ‘n sanitized restaurants and watering holes on Monkey Forest, the gelaterias on Jalan Raya, the ubiquitous Kafé where everyone knows your name (especially if you’re a yogini or hoopini or NIA-convert).
Turns out that I prefer hanging out at the warungs, where the locals go, where the food is simple but tasty, affordable – and I have a front-row seat to the daily unfolding of Balinese life, with all its dramas, rituals, ceremonies, preparations, sniffing dogs and whiny kids.
But today I made an exception; I returned to celebrate the 2nd anniversary of my landing in Bali – and at Clear (as long-time expats refer to it). It was a no-brainer, of course I would indulge in my favorite dish: Seared black pepper tuna steak & wasabi mashed potatoes with a sweet tamarind sauce…topped off with a Green Hornet nutritious smoothie with cashew nut mylk, mint and spirulina. How sweet (and sun-shiny) it was…
I can see clearly now, the rain is gone,
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright)