Sometimes, I find a really good restaurant that's out-of-the-way and I'm reluctant to blog it because I'm worried it'll be ruined and become a reservations-only kind of place. But then again, if I don't share it, it might shut down eventually and I would loathe for that to happen, so here's my summer restaurant discovery.
On a mid-week evening after drinks at the Bulgari bar, we decided to have dinner at this new Spanish restaurant, El Kabron, in Padang Padang that friends had been to recently. They had raved about the paella and after over a year of living in Bali, we missed our Marbella Sunday paella on the beach. It took us a while to get there as the road to Padang Padang at night is dark and we missed the turn-off. We finally found the unlit sign for El Kabron and followed the one-lane winding road for about three kilometers until we saw a light through the trees.
El Kabron is down a rocky path then a brightly-lit entrance lined with railroad ties. It's a simple, white roofed structure opening out towards the sea where some bean bags are scattered around a small all-white rock pool. The vibe is definitely Spanish chiringuito (a simple beach side restaurant) mixed in with a touch of hippy chic with piped-in lounge music for the "sunset-drinks crowd".
Our group of six sat as close to the view as we could then proceeded to order several tapas to share and a large arroz negro for everyone along with a chilled bottle of the ubiquitous Spanish wine Torres Viña Sol. Soon after, they served the tapas: gambas al ajillo (hot, spicy, garlicky prawns in olive oil), Txistorra (small pork sausages from Northern Spain), pulpo a la Gallega (Galician-style octopus with smoky paprika), pan con tomate (grilled bread rubbed with garlic, drizzled with olive oil and scrubbed with fresh tomatoes), jamon Iberico from the owner's farm (paper-thin slices of Iberian ham on pan con tomate) and patatas bravas (fried potato chunks topped with smoky Romesco sauce and aioli). We dug in and were pleasantly surprised at the authentic flavors. This was like being back in Spain, only in the tropics. After the tapas, our palates were stoked and our expectations higher so we eagerly awaited the arroz negro. Paella is a dish that looks deceptively simple - it's just rice mixed with seafood or meat right? - but quite difficult to master. Traditionally, it's a saffron, red pepper and sofrito (tomato, onion, garlic) infused rice made with either fish and shellfish or meat (chicken, pork, sometimes rabbit). Although El Kabron had the classic paella de mariscos (shellfish paella), we opted for the more exotic arroz negro (black rice) which was served in a large paellera (paella pan) and came with squid, Manila clams and prawns. The rice is black from the squid ink used to cook it and it retains the dark, smoky and distinct flavor of the squid which is an acquired taste. If it's your first time, then by all means go for the orange-tinged seafood-topped paella de mariscos, but if you're ready for an adventure, have the arroz negro. El Kabron's arroz negro was everything we craved and took us back to those long lazy beach lunches we used to have in Marbella so we weren't surprised to find out later on that El Kabron's Catalan chef Marc Torices used to work at the 3-star Michelin restaurant Sant Pau in Barcelona. The food at El Kabron is authentic Spanish and probably the only place in Bali to have proper tapas with a cold beer. So now, the secret is out. Get there before the crowds find it.
Chiringuito El Kabron
Jl. Pantai Cemongkak
Telephone: +62 361 780 3416
*Open daily for lunch and dinner and unset drinks from 4-6 p.m.
How to get there: From Jl. Uluwatu, go right on Jl. Labuhan Sait towards Padang Padang beach for 1.2 kilometers then watch out for the red and black El Kabron sign on the right-hand side of the road. If yo get lost, call David, the owner.