Best Ever Eats: A Delightful New Normal Foodie Guide to Labuan Bajo

Best Ever Eats: A Delightful New Normal Foodie Guide to Labuan Bajo

Taste East Nusa Tenggara’s delightful cuisine in magical Labuan Bajo

From dreamy savannas to colorful marine life, Labuan Bajo is the adventurer’s paradise. This quaint fishing town turned tourism hotspot has topped many travel wishlists for both local and international tourists. 

Located in East Nusa Tenggara, Labuan Bajo’s culinary scene is just as unforgettable as its panoramic views. Food here is heavily influenced by Javanese and Chinese cuisine, with adaptations from Portuguese, Spanish and Dutch dishes from the colonial era. 

No stomach will be left unfulfilled at Labuan Bajo with its diverse cuisines, making it one of Indonesia’s Best Ever eats destinations. With restaurants allowing dine-in options across the country, let this 1-day food itinerary be your guide to yummy traditional eats with remarkable coastal views around town.

Breakfast

Nasi Bakar Kolo at La Cecile Cafe

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo port: 8 minutes by car

Start your day right with Nasi Bakar Kolo – a smoky, tasty rice dish cooked inside a bamboo over charcoal fire. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

With so many different varieties of rice dishes in Indonesia, Nasi Bakar Kolo is the traditional dish of East Manggarai. This savory rice menu is wrapped with banana leaves and uniquely cooked by placing it inside a bamboo and having it grilled on top of a fire for up to an hour. The key ingredient to this dish is coconut milk as it makes the rice extra flavorful and fragrant. 

Traditionally, Nasi Bakar Kolo is served for special occasions, which uses a specific type of rice that only harvests in the month of October. However, you can try this plate of goodness at any time of the year at La Cecile Cafe. In this restaurant, their take on Nasi Bakar Kolo is by adding turmeric and tuna to the rice mix, served with a spicy Minang-style udang balado and savory cassava leaves on the side. 

Banana butterscotch and watermelon juice, the ultimate breakfast for champions in Labuan Bajo. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

The menu at La Cecile Cafe is rather extensive so if grilled rice feels like an overkill for breakfast, you can opt for sandwiches or light meals instead. As the restaurant opens from morning through night, there is a selection of pasta and pizza for those craving for something slightly less local. For desserts, we suggest ordering their banana butterscotch for a delectable taste of Manggarai bananas.

Other than their wide range of delicious food, La Cecile is an excellent place for you to unwind with its seaview sceneries. Expect to have your temperatures taken upon entry and wash your hands before you go in. They welcome all methods of payment but we recommend going cashless for a safer dining experience.

Lunch

Se’i Sapi at Taman Laut Handayani Restaurant

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo port: 6 minutes by car

Swirled in mouthwatering mushroom gravy, try this unique rendition of Se’i Sapi at Taman Laut Handayani Restaurant. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

You know it’s a special meal when Se’i Sapi is laid on your dining table. This traditional Flores-style smoked meat dish uses thin slices of beef or pork that’s wrapped in gum lac leaves, and left smoked for 9 hours with wood from a gum lac tree. This unique style of cooking is essential to keep the meat tender and well marinated, with a tantalizing aroma that could tempt anyone with a stomach. 

Treat yourself to a meaty dose of Se’i Sapi at Taman Laut Handayani Restaurant for a delicious lunch with spectacular coastal views. Their sizzling hotplate Se’i Sapi is a flavorful, gravy-filled take on the traditional style, making it an even more scrumptious way to enjoy the tender meats. 

You can also find other variations of Se’i Sapi in this restaurant like the Se’i Bawang Mentega for a garlic butter goodness, or Se’i Sapi Rica Rica and Se’i Cabe Kering if you like things with a little bit of heat. 

Prepare to smell the enticing aroma of beef and gravy as the staff pours the Se’i Sapi to the hotplate. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Other than Se’i Sapi, Taman Laut Handayani Restaurant’s menu extends to other traditional delights. From chicken to seafood, there’s something for everybody here, making it a great spot for gatherings over great food. With unforgettable views of Labuan Bajo, feel free to roam around the deck area to take in the scenery. 

When you visit the restaurant, expect to have your temperatures taken and wash your hands before you enter. All employees of Taman Laut Handayani Restaurant are vaccinated so you know you’re in much safer hands here. They also encourage cashless payments, so have your card ready or top up your e-wallets before you go. 

Dinner

Ikan Kuah Asam at Artomoro Restaurant

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo port: 4 minutes on foot

Close your day with the soulful Ikan Kuah Asam for a wholesome dinner. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

The fresh and tangy Ikan Kuah Asam is a delicious yellow fish soup that glorifies the fishing culture of East Nusa Tenggara. Made with fresh silver croaker fish that’s cooked with lemongrass, turmeric, ginger, and kaffir lime leaves, the key ingredient of this dish is the bilimbi fruit. 

This zesty, refreshing soup dish has charmed the appetites of travelers from all backgrounds and getting a taste of it at Artomoro Restaurant is an experience you won’t ever forget. Specializing in local food with a twist, their Ikan Kuah Asam is best enjoyed during dinner for a fulfilling way to end the day. 

Ikan Kuah Asam, served with a friendly smile at Artomoro Restaurant. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

If you’d like a feast, order your Ikan Kuah Asam at Artomoro Restaurant from its various package deals. It will come served with other dishes like fried chicken, fried calamari, corn fritters, vegetables and of course, spicy sambal. But if you’re up for something lighter, there’s other scrumptious varieties of seafood you could pick from. We highly recommend their other best selling dish: grilled fish lathered with Artomoro’s special handmade sauce.

For many locals, Artomoro Restaurant has been the go-to for laid back vibes with good food at any given time of day. When you get here, make sure you mask up and wash your hands before you enter. Payments are encouraged to be done by card so everyone can dine safe and sound.

Seafood at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung 

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo port: 7 minutes by car

The must-haves at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung, crispy calamari and delicious grilled fish. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

No trip to Labuan Bajo would be complete without having a taste of some fresh seafood by the beach. Located just minutes away from the port, Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung is the town’s most sought after seafood hotspot. Come after sundown and you will find a bustling row of humble food stalls with their colorful display of fresh seafood and an aromatic trail of fish grilling in the air. 

Every food stall in Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung will proudly display their selection of fresh fish like red grouper, red snapper, blue barred parrotfish and rabbitfish, with crustaceans like crabs, lobsters, prawns, and of course, shellfish. As all the seafood is measured by weight and comes with no specific menu, pick the fish according to your liking and ask the prices before you order at any stall you go to, unless you want an exorbitant bill at the end! 

Red grouper, red snapper and blue barred parrotfish are some of the delectable fish selections at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

The most popular way to enjoy the fresh seafood is by having it grilled, but if you like things with a little more flavor, you can order the tangy Ikan Kuah Asam, the spicy Padang-style sauce, or have it swirled in a buttery goodness. Fresh coconuts, juices and beers are also available to keep you refreshed and expect some live music from street buskers to accompany your dinner. 

All payments at Wisata Kuliner Kampung Ujung are done with cash, so keep your wallet safe and get your hand sanitizers ready to keep hands clean after paying. You can also wash your hands at the makeshift handwashing stations placed in between stalls, and remember to keep your masks on when you’re not eating. 

Snacks

Roti Kompiang at Toko Roti & Kue Theresa

  • Travel time from Labuan Bajo port: 9 minutes by car

Many flock to Toko Roti & Kue Theresia to get their hands on the signature Roti Kompiang buns. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

A staple of Labuan Bajo, Roti Kompiang is a round sesame seed-topped bun which locals usually enjoy with coffee over breakfast or teatime. Also called as kompiang longa, this burger bun-like snack is a specialty from neighboring district of Manggarai with influences from the Chinese kompia bread. With a hard, chewy texture, it’s the Flores take on bagels – without the hole. 

Roti Kompiang can be found in roadside stalls and wet markets, but the best place in town for it is Toko Roti & Kue Theresia. Here, you can get either plain or with fillings like tuna, beef and chicken. Don’t be surprised if people buy these by the dozens, as many take these as a souvenir for loved ones back home. Get them at the end of your trip if you like and eat them within three days, or keep them in the fridge for at most a week.

The unassuming Toko Roti & Kue Theresia, home to Labuan Bajo’s most loved breads and pastries. Photo by Andri Ramadhan

Other than Roti Kompiang, you can also find an array of delectable pastries and traditional snacks in this humble bakery. As you won’t find any dining area at Toko Roti & Kue Theresia, come by before your beach day out for a sunset picnic that you won’t forget. Cashless payments are encouraged here and keep your masks on when you pick your goods. 

Health & safety protocols to note

Throughout Indonesia, health and safety protocols are strictly enforced. Temperature checks upon entry is the norm across all establishments, including tourist destinations. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine certificates with you or have it ready from the PeduliLindungi app. Masks in public spaces are required all over the country, so double up and always bring extras in your bag.

While some destinations still allow cash, major establishments prefer cashless and card payments so have your e-wallets topped up before you start your itinerary. However, hand washing stations are required to be installed at every establishment, making it easy for you to keep clean after every cash transaction.

As of current, only international travelers on business visas are allowed to enter Indonesia while certain international travelers are allowed to enter Bali. However, domestic travel is open for vaccinated tourists across the archipelago, with a requirement of vaccine certificates and a negative antigen test result for travels by land, water, or air.

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This guide is produced in association with Indonesia Travel. 

  • All photography by Andri Ramadhan
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