How Merah Putih Continues To Reinvent Modern Indonesian

The very first restaurant to take a crack at modernizing local Indonesian cuisine.

There are few restaurants in Bali that are as iconic as Merah Putih. Perpetually living on Seminyak’s hottest restaurants lists since opening seven years ago, Merah Putih has always set the bar for innovative cuisine and stunning decor. As the very first restaurant to take a crack at modernizing local Indonesian cuisine, Merah Putih continues to reinvent the incredibly diverse flavors across Indonesia. 

One look at the enchanting dining room of Merah Putih, and it’s easy to see why the restaurant remains beloved by tourists and locals alike after many years. Everything about the space is verdant and bursting with life. Tall white columns form soaring geometric domes, under which entire 10-foot-tall palm trees sway under the ceiling. Towering bamboo arches with gold cylindrical lanterns frame private dining booths on the upper levels. The rich presence of live plants and wooden beams creates an interior version of a lush tropical forest. Simply being in the colorful and ornate dining room is part of Merah Putih’s unique experience. 

Seven years ago, Melissa, Jasper and Kieran, a team of well-heeled expats, challenged themselves to open a restaurant that served elevated Indonesian cuisine. The idea of elevating Indonesian food into fine dining raised many eyebrows in the culinary community, as no one had thought to attempt it at the time.  

“It’s been an interesting ride because seven years ago when we opened, people were like ‘Indonesian food? You can’t elevate that.’ The high end travelers were eating Italian or French or Spanish, which I just didn’t understand. If you fly to Bali, you want to try the traditional flavors but I guess you want to be in a setting where you don’t feel like you’re going to get sick. That was our challenge. If I came on a holiday to Bali, what sort of food would I want to eat? We did Merah Putih and I think it works.” – Kieran Morland, Executive Chef 

The colorful menu works wonders indeed. At Merah Putih, diners get a chance to taste refined versions of staple dishes from various regions throughout Indonesia. The restaurant has its own version of Ayam Betutu, the most traditional Balinese chicken dish. The leg is braised and then smoked, while the breast is sous vide. The perfectly cooked protein is then served with a traditional sambal matah and peanuts. Sate Kelapa refers to the traditional beef skewers found on the grills in Surabaya. Angus rib eye and oyster blade are sous vide for two days then coated with a delicious nutty chili sauce with grated coconut. Though the techniques used to prepare the food have been modernized, every dish is still very much Indonesian and doesn’t stray too far from the original. 

Chef Morland travels far and wide throughout the island archipelago in order to discover different flavors and ingredients to bring back to the restaurant. 

 “Every time I go to a new place, I’m learning a completely different cuisine. It’s all still spice pastes and lots of different soups. But it’s so different which is awesome. The main thing that we’re trying to do is find really unique ingredients from all around Indonesia and then try find ways to use them.”

Whether it’s adding boni berries to desserts and cocktails or cooking with kenari nuts instead of almonds, Merah Putih encourages guests to learn as much as they can about the distinct flavors and ingredients found in Indonesia. The restaurant not only teaches diners about Indonesian cuisine, but other chefs as well. As the first upscale Indonesian restaurant in Bali, Merah Putih has inspired many local and expat chefs to learn more about the native cuisine and creatively elevate it to a modern standard. Thanks to the widespread success of modern Indonesian cooking, the group opened a newer restaurant, Sangsaka, which is a smaller, intimate venue that serves much more experimental tasting menus. 

Seven years after opening its doors, Merah Putih continues to reinvent what creative contemporary Indonesian cuisine can be. Despite a number of other restaurants which have followed the modern Indonesian trend, Merah Putih is still one of the hottest tables in Seminyak to reserve. With stunning interior design and exquisite dishes plated just as beautifully, Merah Putih promises an unforgettable dining experience that lives up to the hype.

Nadia Cho

Communications Associate

As the empowered female behind the blog: International Women of Mystery, Nadia reps Team JST traveling the world in search of exclusive features on hidden gems and cool hotspots. You can find her exploring metropolitan cities or lounging on tropical beaches.

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