‘Nomad Ubud’ O come thou weary, thirsty travelers
Yes, looks can indeed be deceiving. But here in Nomad, one of Ubud’s finest eateries, looks shall never deceive. That gorgeous tuna fillet steak is not only a sight for sore eyes but also a heavenly remedy for the screaming stomach. It tastes as fine as it looks.
It is crafted with 200 grams of freshly caught tuna, pan seared to perfection with crusted coriander on the top. The beautiful tuna slice is then placed on a bed of stir fried vegetables and on the bottom of this mouth-watering structure is a roasted garlic potato cake. The crown of this culinary offering is sambal matah, a traditional Balinese spicy condiment made of shredded raw shallots, garlic and chili with coconut oil dressing. Sweet basil leaves add more fresh color to the steak.
Devouring this steak is as much a culinary experience as a cultural journey. The top part of the steak presents a Balinese epicurean delight, while the bottom part will undoubtedly bring memories of the way the French cook their fish. Moreover, the combined power of sambal matah, sweet basil and that subtle mango sauce create a strange, yet addictive flavor, which will make you thank yourself for visiting Nomad.
The tuna steak is a favorite main course for Nomad’s loyal patrons. It is also the perfect embodiment of the fusion food philosophy that the establishment and its restaurateurs have faithfully upheld since its humble beginning in 1979.
It was founded by Nyoman Sarma, a flamboyant and widely-loved figure in Ubud, who passed away recently. The first page of Nomad’s menu features his smiling picture that underlines his rugged handsomeness. It also narrates his life story, the way he had to move from place to place to study and work, an experience that nurtured the nomadic spirit within him. That’s why he called his restaurant Nomad.
“Nyoman opened Nomad not thinking so much of business, but more of a meeting place to contact the wanderers of the world,” the page reads.
Sarma’s nomadic spirit and his love for the colorful cultures of the world found its physical manifestation in the foods served in his restaurant. Italian tagliatelle shares space with Middle Eastern kebabs, Japanese gyoza, American burgers and Javanese gado-gado.
I Gusti Nyoman Suteja, who started working at Nomad 32 years ago as an errand boy and now heads its kitchen, recalled that one of the first items on the Nomad menu was beef kebab. It is still on the current menu.
The restaurant now is managed by Made Sudarma, Sarma’s nephew who has extensive experience in the hospitality industry in Bali and abroad. The soft-spoken young man idolized his late uncle and has no intention of revising the Nomad spirit.
“Every year we change the menu, yet the underlying nomadic spirit, the fusion food philosophy, will always be there,” he said, adding that the restaurant now makes a serious effort to be organic by maintaining two organic farms in Juwukmanis, Ubud, and Titigalar, Baturiti.
Nomad also offers the best arak (palm wine) and arak-based cocktails in Ubud. It gets its supply from a traditional arak-maker, who is very passionate about maintaining the quality of the liquor.
“Most of our patrons are repeat customers and they can identify the slightest change in the quality of our food and, in particular, our arak, and they are not the kind of people who hold back their criticism,” Sudarma grinned.
There are at least seven arak-based cocktails on Nomad’s menu, any one of which will give a thirsty traveler the spirit boost he needs without a terrible hangover the following morning.
The restaurant lies in the busiest section of Ubud, just several dozen meters east of Ubud market. Don’t worry about getting a parking spot, Nomad staff will take care of it for you so you can concentrate on a more important affair: ordering that blissful punch of arak brem.
photos by I Wayan Juniartha