Naughty Nuri’s Warung
Kedai BBQ, Warung Steak, dan Restoran Meksiko
Jalan Raya Sanggingan, Ubud, Bali
Often shrouded in the smoke that emanates from its roadside grill, it’s easy to miss Naughty Nuri’s Warung in Ubud, Bali, famed for its barbecued pork ribs and killer martinis.
Once past the smoke, the restaurant – which has long been a staple of the Bali food scene – looks like a wooden shack, complete with a corrugated roof and seating that extends out to the road. But that’s about as far as Naughty Nuri’s goes to imitating a traditional Balinese warung, or roadside stall.
Inside, the restaurant walls are so dotted with framed photos, posters and odd knick-knacks that one nearly misses the presence of a bar in the corner. Amongst the photos of the owners and their regulars is a picture with the words “Eat, Pay, Leave,” a cheeky take on the best-selling memoir by Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love, a self-realization novel that partly takes place in Ubud and has been said to have boosted tourism to the area. The poster is indicative of the feel of the restaurant: laid back and tongue-in-cheek; and decorated like something out of a ‘60s diner in the United States – visually exciting, colorful and homely at the same time.
The clashing Indonesian and American styles are no doubt a reflection of Naughty Nuri’s
owners: Isnuri Suryatmi, a Javanese woman after whom the warung was named, and her husband, Brian Aldinger, a New Yorker easily recognizable from the photos and usually mingling among the clientele on any given night.The couple opened the restaurant in Bali, Indonesia’s most popular tourist destination, in 1995 after Ms. Suryatmi, who Mr. Aldinger calls “Nuri
,” professed her love for cooking. Many years on, it’s obvious the couple are doing something right — they’ve since added another location in Batubelig, as well as a Mexican spinoff called Nacho Mama down the road from the outlet in Ubud.
Naughty Nuri’s has done incredibly well to stand out from the thousands of roadside warungs and more expensive eateries in Bali, including numerous write-ups in popular guidebooks and mainstream media.
The modest restaurant has become so popular that its clientele, comprising mostly tourists, have made Naughty Nuri’s a must-stop during their travels through the artist town of Ubud, about a 1.5 hour drive from the tourist hotspot of Kuta.
Part of Naughty Nuri’s appeal is its barbecued ribs. The restaurant owns but one grill, outside on the street. For the number of customers it serves a day, the grill is surprisingly small, only slightly bigger than the large metal basin of barbecue sauce next to it, in which the ribs are dunked. The ribs are then served without frills, save for a slice of lime.
While this might look oddly minimalist at first, it is soon obvious why–the generous slab of ribs doesn’t need the accompanying cabbage or tomato garnish; it can hold its own. The ribs are tender and juicy and the sauce is a clear winner — at once both sweet and peppery. Whether the ribs can stand up to standards set by more established barbecue restaurants around the world is unlikely, but it hits a sweet spot for those who want a little Western cuisine to mix up the typical Balinese diet of rice and noodles.
But perhaps the star of the show and possibly the “naughtiest” thing on the menu is the martini. No less than American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain has vouched for the Naughty Nuri’s versions, calling them “the best martinis in the world” in the Naughty Nuri’s guestbook.
The martinis, which are shaken in front of guests, are ice cold and pack a serious punch. They are so strong that “persons naughty enough to drink 4 or more per visit will be inducted to the ‘Naughty Drinkers Hall of Infamy,’” according to Naughty Nuri’s website.