Tanaman feels like an underground bunker that doesn’t rely on the outside world. And as part of Potato Head’s new sustainable kingdom in Bali, the plant-based design-driven restaurant is where we want to be when it all goes down (which is increasingly feeling more and more like tomorrow).
Our love affair with Potato Head continues. We’ve been enamoured with the brand since its early days as a beach club, where it emerged as a sustainable playground for sun-seekers. Since then, its commitment to sustainability has been unwavering, not only to the island of Bali itself but also the community that sustains it.
Known to most as simply an everyday beach club, sustainability has taken centre stage at Potato Head, although the untrained eye would never know and the word ‘eco’ never proceeds it like with many conscious brands. Perhaps that’s part of the point; to operate as a regular establishment that caters to a mass of Gen Z culture seekers as if it were no different from the rest. But it is. Potato Head is one of Asia’s championing sustainable culture brands, and it doesn’t matter how much fun you have there, it’s always responsible fun.
Its beach club, which is certified carbon neutral, takes a conscious approach to sourcing ingredients. The ‘Conscious Cocktails’ bar programme places a sharp focus on its supply chain and how it disposes of waste. The bar was awarded the Most Sustainable Bar award by Asia’s 50 Best Bars in 2018. It’s onsite restaurant Ijen is fully zero-waste serving line-caught fish and 100% local ingredients. Food scraps are sent back to farms to use as animal feed or fertiliser, contributing to a circular economy. Katamama, the brand’s onsite luxury hotel, is an ode to the artisans on the island. It was built with some 1.5 million terracotta bricks whose production breathed life back into a village outside of Ubud where each brick was hand-cut and fired. Every detail of its art deco interior was made using Indonesia’s centuries-old traditions that interpreted in a modern and timeless context by the local artisans who made them.
Last year construction began on several new additions to the beach club, which will officially open as Desa Potato Head later this year. The creative village in the making is a sustainable wonderland, and it includes studios, a nightclub, a library, an art gallery, listening spaces and more. It’s also home to Tanaman, Potato Head’s latest restaurant which boasts traditional flavours, powered by plants. And yes, we ate there the week it opened.
Walking into Tanaman, you’re first struck by its impressive design. Somewhere between a spaceship and post-apocalyptic bunker for art enthusiasts, Tanaman is the first place we’ll be hunkering down if the world continues at the current pace of impending doom. The dome-shaped space was designed by Rem Koolhaas’ Dutch design agency OMA and draws guests into a futuristic environment with neon lighting, reflective floors, a large central bar and an open kitchen. The atmosphere was heavy with ambience, and even the music sounds plant-based.
The menu is with thanks to Executive Chef Wayan Kresna Yasa and his team who present interesting twists on classics like rendang. Yes, rendang — but for vegans. Made with jackfruit, it’s the hero dish on the menu. There are also smokey night market skewers that use marinated tempeh in place of meat, and vegan dumplings and spring rolls made with field mushrooms for those after comfort-style food. Delivered as a set menu so you can try it all, the entire menu is a homage to family kitchens, street vendors and warungs across the Indonesia archipelago, and merges familiar flavours with progressive techniques. The inspiration behind all the dishes is plants that are native to Indonesia and have been powering its islands for centuries, filling people’s plates, healing ailments, and nourishing millions.
The cocktail menu echoes the same principles as the dishes, with drinks showcasing Indonesia’s rich umbrella of health tonics, juices and fermentations created from native flora and fauna. We leaned towards all sorts of botanical cocktails made with beetroot and house-made kombucha.
All in all, Tanaman is worth the trek to Potato Head for the dining experience alone. Exuding a fine-dining feel but with a casual cool to it, Tanaman is the de facto destination in Bali for those looking to experience the rich flavours of Indonesia, but without all the meat. If you have carnivores in your group, they won’t even notice it’s plant-based — we promise. As culinary minds head in a more conscious, health-forward and sustainable direction, Tanaman is the perfect clash of old meets new: traditional recipes from the past, meeting techniques, philosophies and interiors of the future.
[photos via Kelli WithanEye]