Pack Them In at Sardine Restaurant

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Christopher Leggett

Want rice with that? Tables at Sardine come with paddy-field views

A rice-paddy view is something of a status symbol in Bali's trendy Seminyak restaurant row, where a high level of Western cookery competes for tourist dollars. The six-month-old Sardine takes the experience one better: you can watch stalks growing under the stars while seated in a bamboo pavilion with massive thatched eaves handcrafted by artisans from an up-country village. It's Trader Vic's, only updated.

Patron Pascal Chevillot and his Slovenian decorator wife Pika spent years on the Caribbean island of Saint Martin and in Los Angeles, before being drawn to Bali by what Pika calls its "mix of amazing culture and international amenities" (plus, she says, "We don't like cold weather"). At Sardine, chef Frédéric Pougault uses produce from the Chevillots' organic farm in the Munduk Valley and builds the menu around local seafood. Chevillot claims descent from four generations of traditional Burgundy cooks, but Sardine's "cuisine du soleil" is kept delectably light, judging by the likes of scallops on beds of kiwi and kudzu, and grouper in a ginger-soy reduction.

The restaurant's namesake sardines come char-grilled and may not be quite as hefty as those, say, in Lisbon, where sardines are the stuff of everyday life. But accompanied by boiled new potatoes and fresh salsa they are an excellent advertisement for a fish largely spurned by locals. "There's a big canning factory here," Pika explains, "but in Bali sardines are the fish you feed to cats!" Well, an afternoon at Sardine will leave you purring. Call (62-361) 738 202 for reservations.