Things are Heating Up at Barbacoa

Barbacoa is Bali’s recently opened barbecue restaurant. It has been adding some spice to the island’s appetites with fiery Latin American flavours and an open charcoal grill.


There really is nothing quite like a traditional barbecue. When else do friends gather around a smoking flame, cooking juicy cuts of meat and seafood over a smouldering, charcoal fire? Knives and forks are traded in for sticky fingers, and charred, smoked finishes are encouraged not shunned. Although Australia may be the most famous nation for sticking another shrimp on the barbie, it is in South America where this casual feasting tradition has been truly honed.

And that’s where Barbacoa comes in. Barbacoa is Bali’s fiery new restaurant that recently popped up in the potpourri of restaurants along Petitenget. As its name suggests (it means “barbecue” in Spanish) Barbacoa is dedicated to wood fires, charcoal grills and loads of smoke. It brings together the sights, smells and flavours of rural Latin America, then serves it all up in a huge rustic-chic warehouse, retrofitted in a style that Melbourne’s trendiest hipsters would be proud of.

The 120-seat restaurant has all the elements you expect from a robust grill, like a giant open fire crisping the skin of a whole pig (head and all), to decorative cow skins framing the red brick walls and wrought iron accents. But ladies, don’t be put off by this rugged, masculine description, because actually, there is a very chic feel to Barbacoa too. Think vintage leather banquettes, colourful Mediterranean-style floor tiles and flickering candles made from cute, recycled jars. It is urban, it is stylish and we are totally hooked.

South America Does Tapas 

As dazzling as Barbacoa’s interiors may be, the main event is without a doubt the South American inspired cuisine. The main menu is split into two parts: tapas-style sharing plates, followed by meat and seafood straight off the grill.

It might seem very tempting to skip straight to the barbecued stuff (after all, the open fire with its slow-roasting beast is the first thing to greet you when you step inside the restaurant) but I highly recommend you kick your feast off with a few of the tapas-style plates first. Be sure to swap and share them amongst friends too, so you really get a taste of everything.

I start with the Mexican-style tacos which, just like a barbecue restaurant should, encourage me to dig straight in with my hands. The battered fish tacos have that playful “fish and chips” kind of flavour to them – light, fresh and simple – while the braised beef brisket tacos are more rustic and rich, finished with a chilli kick at the end of each bite.

Next up, fine slices of cold-smoked sashimi tuna arrive at the table encased by a smoke-filled, glass orb. As the lid is lifted, wafts of smoky barbecue flavours bellow up towards the ceiling. The theatrical display is quite the contrast to the delicate, colourful creation left behind, sitting neatly at the centre of the dark ceramic plate. The tuna is lightly charred and it seems to just melt into the creamy, jalapeño dressing beneath. But there is also a hint of a Japanese style at play here – undeniably the work of Chef-Owner, Adam Dundas-Taylor.

Before Barbacoa, Adam worked in the kitchens of Nobu, London’s world-famous Japanese restaurant. And although Barbacoa draws most of its inspiration from Peru, Mexico, Argentina and Spain, a few of its dishes provide a subtle nod to Adam’s days at Nobu. And just like the tuna, the next course of Peruvian-style snapper ceviche is a perfect example of this refined, Japanese touch. The dish is mainly geared towards the Peruvian tradition of curing raw fish in citrus juices, but instead of using your typical lemon or lime, Adam uses Japanese Yuzu to capture the signature tartness without overpowering the freshness of the fish. The entire dish is then pepped up by a kick of jalapeño and an orange chilli direct from Peru.

Other must-try share plates include the Cuban pulled pork slider with pickled red onion, aioli and tomato, or the pickled beetroot salad with goats cheese and addictive candied walnuts. Nibble on the marinated olives garnished in rosemary and garlic, and gnaw on the grilled corn smoked with spices, lime and cheese.


Time to Fire It Up 

Barbacoa’s open fire has been teasing us all evening, exhibiting its Asado of the Day. For eight hours a whole pig has been slow-roasting over the charcoal (on other days they cook a whole lamb), perfuming the animal with smoky, wood-fired scents. The meat that comes off of it is so succulent, so tender I have to stop and close my eyes for a second. And that’s before I even try the crackling. The crackling is out of this world, so crisp I can hear each and every crunch while the added layer of juicy skin on the inside skyrockets those scrumptious, meaty flavours to mouthwatering heights.

We also try the charcoal grilled prawns that come glazed with a Guajillo Chilli marinade and a dollop of guacamole-like chunky avocado. Back-to-back seafood, I then gorge on the signature charcoal octopus with chorizo. It looks a bit like a sticky rack of ribs thanks to a gooey, paprika glaze, and it’s just as tempting to eat with my fingers. It is far from the rubbery stereotype octopus often garners, but it still has enough chew to it to keep it authentic and rustic. It comes with a disc of deep-fried crispy polenta to add a perfect crunch to the whole plate.

The Australian aged ribeye steak, the grilled chorizo with Chimichurri and the charcoal grilled lamb are also calling, but I simply do not have enough space left – especially since I’m saving a teeny bit of room for Barbacoa’s famed desserts (check out our “Sweet Sensations” section where we highlight Barbacoa’s “Three-Hour Flan”). Instead, we end the evening on a very high and slightly spicy note with a Jalapeño Margarita on the outdoor terrace. Just like Barbacoa itself, it is fiery, it is delicious and we’re definitely coming back for more.



Don’t Miss Barbacoa’s  Fiery Tipples!


The Silent Assassin
Raspberry with a red chilli infusion, topped with a chunky sprig of coriander.

The name says it all. The red chilli in this ingenious mixture creeps up on you very sneakily. The fiery flavours really tease your tongue but the crisp raspberry and the fresh herby aromas of the coriander cools you right down. This is one of our favourites! 

Jalapeño Margarita
Jalapeño infused Tequila with Triple Sec, fresh lime juice and sugar.

This spicy twist on the classic is simply delicious, even if you’re not a fan of fire. It tastes a little bit like a Tommy’s margarita thanks to the added sweetness, while the hint of Jalapeño jazzes it all up.

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