Content Warning: This post contains specific references to suicide and Anthony Bourdain’s death. If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, help is available. Call 1-877-SAMHSA7 or 1-800-273-TALK for 24/7 confidential support.
If you ask travelers about Bali know, it’s almost universally known as paradise. Thanks to social media, everyone has been or is dreaming of spending a week or two on Bali’s pristine beaches and relaxing under the tropical sun.
Over the course of his career, Anthony Bourdain saw dramatic changes happen in Bali – such that a major portion of his second trip was focused on overtourism and its impact on Bali, a place he once considered settling into forever.
As just said, Anthony Bourdain visited Bali twice: once to film season 2 (episode 8/12*) of No Reservations and again to film season 12 (episode 3) of Parts Unknown. These were his only two visits to Bali (or Indonesia in general), and this latter episode is one of the few released without Tony’s voiceover due to his death.
If you want to follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Bali and go beyond the sun-drenched selfie-snapping hoards that now flock to Bali, here’s a guide to the places we know he ate – and a few hypotheses for others.
*The “Indonesia” episode of No Reservations comes up listed as both episode 8 or episode 12 depending on the source/streaming service.
This post was originally published in February 2023, and was updated most recently in October 2023.
No Reservations (2006)
Much of Tony’s first trip to Indonesia focused on his love of the place and wistful thoughts that he might one day settle down there. He spent time in several Indonesian destinations, but here’s where he ate on the island of Bali.
Taken in the context of the other places he visited during this trip, Tony seeks out Babi guling in Bali – pig stuffed with chili, ginger, oil, salam, and other herbs and spices and roasted with a bath of coconut water.
He heads to what is considered the best place for this dish, Ibu Oka**, and eats with the chef, Nagurya. It is one of the dishes he seems to most enjoy during his trip, especially the crispy, sweet, and salty pig skin that’s an integral part of the many pig parts on the plate.
**”Warung Babi Guling Ibu Oka 3″ in Google.
Before attending a Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple on Bali’s southern Bukit Peninsula, Tony sits down for a meal of “boiled and flash-fried duck” that he doesn’t share much about (or where he ate it) – but which I wanted to mention since it is a dish worth trying in Bali.
Based on a lot of research and scouring TripAdvisor and Google Images, my best guess is that these two travelers are dining at Bebek Bengil, a restaurant well-known for this dish. If you know otherwise, please let me know in the comments so I can correct this post.
Ritz Carlton Bali
Last, Anthony Bourdain heads somewhere unexpected during his early career: a luxury resort. (We all know that he enjoyed staying at these types of properties by the end of his career!) Here he meets with American chef Ron Pietruszka who has become an ex-pat in Indonesia – something Tony muses about the entire episode.
The two sit down for a meal sampling Balinese, Indonesian, and other cuisines, and discuss the draw of Indonesia as well as whether Pietruszka will ever return to the U.S. and if Tony should settle there too. (Spoilers: Pietruszka was named executive chef at the Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles in late 2022, so he did come home.)
Parts Unknown (2018)
The episode about Anthony Bourdain’s second/final trip to Indonesia is both dark and deeply moving. It was, according to director Tom Vitale in his book, In the Weeds: Around the World and Behind the Scenes with Anthony Bourdain, one of the episodes edited posthumously – and naturally focused on death even without the context of Tony’s suicide.
Given that he wasn’t part of the editing process, nor is there Tony’s voiceover to guide us through what we’re seeing, I’ve had to take some guesses here on the locations visited by Anthony Bourdain in Bali on this trip.
Woobar at W Bali Seminyak
In what is my favorite scene of the episode, Bourdain re-introduces us to Bali while seated on a pool lounger with a fruity blended drink nearby and a ridiculous diorama of indulgence all around. It’s an incredible monologue that is both funny and infuriating for those of us who are inspired by Tony and want to travel deeper into a culture than the nearest Westernized-hors d’oeuvres-with-poolside-foot-massage.
Thanks to Nia and Jolanda, I feel confident saying that this scene was filmed at the W Bali Seminyak Hotel, and the food (Wagyu Beef Sliders with caramelized onion and chili jam, among others) likely came from their casual poolside restaurant, Woobar. This is a good spot to stay if you have the budget too.
The only other place shown on-screen in Bali remains unnamed too – and I’d love if anyone familiar with the island is able to provide more info on where it was filmed.
What I am certain of is that Tony and his dining companion – an unnamed local Indonesian yoga instructor – eat Babi guling, but that it is not Ibu Oka. Instead, it looks more like a roadside stand outside the city: the pigs are bathed with Coca-Cola instead of coconut water and roast in an open barn-like room, and the pair eat at a table overlooking a sprawling field of green.
This is also the scene where Tony adamantly denies doing any contextual narration about the food on-camera: “No, no, I’ll get it in VO because I’ve had it before. We don’t need to talk about this food, because I know it very, very well. I will speak incredibly knowledgeably of it in voice-over.”
Unfortunately, we never get to hear that voiceover, and may never know this spot where Tony tucked into an essential Indonesian dish to try.
Bali Food Tours to Try
If you’re sold on visiting Bali but want to support the local economy and eat local food, there’s no better way than on a food tour. I found a few that seem to tap into some of the experiences Tony had, and give you a chance to eat better than the resort buffet or poolside snacks.
Have any questions or feedback about these places visited by Anthony Bourdain in Bali, or the foods he ate there? Let me know in the comments below.