The final chapter in the Balinese adventure for 2014, the final day of holiday and the final meal to be had in Bali. As if this wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, we where meeting my sister and two very good friends Bec and Mal for this last supper as it were… but with a noticeable absence of a messiah and about 6 disciples, we opted for the less holy and much more enjoyable lets get drunk and not die approach to our dining experience.
We set off that morning with our very own driver for the day, a great guy called Ivan, which made me laugh as with his broken English accent, it did seem he was explaining what he owned in the way of transport as much as he was introducing himself, but regardless of the what nonsense goes on in my head, we set off to pick up my sister.
My sister Zoe is not only hilarious and a shit load of fun, but she loves food and drink as much as me, in fact if I was to be fair she may like drink a little bit more… Zoe was in Bali with three friends for a week and it just so happened to coincide with our trip, which was brilliant, as we just don’t get to see enough of her. We arrived at her massive hotel around noon after picking up Bec & Mal, another lucky coincidence that more friends were not only in Bali but able to join us for a bit of foodie frivolity. We pulled up to see Zoe and her friend Joy waiting for our arrival, Joy informed us that her day was going to consist of massages and hopefully finding Mr. Package… now straight away I thought Mr. package could be a courier or a guy with a massive knob, its turns out it was the latter, so we left her Joy with her day well plotted out.
Today’s restaurant of choice was ‘Cuca’, it’s a reasonably new eatery and other than the glowing review from my Boss/chef/friend Herb, I really hadn’t heard anything about the place. But herb had been in Bali weeks before cooking at a local resort for a valentine’s dinner, and had eaten at Cuca and hadn’t stopped singing its praises, which is quite unusual for Herb. He’s not a hater, its just he has a very high standard and not many people/places can please him, so when he was excited, I was excited and got him to book me in and select the chef’s table.
The grounds of this hard to find treasure are like stepping into different world, you drive through the noisy hustle bustle of Bali to enter a tranquil setting, quite minimalistic, but extremely well maintained. Upon arrival we were shown to the chef’s table, which looked down onto the most pristine kitchen, filled with all the newest toys, paco-jets, combi ovens, dehydrators and a god damn fairy floss machine! As the restaurant was dead quiet it was a tad awkward as we sat in a row looking at 4-5 chefs who quite frankly were doing fuck all. But for every awkward situation there is always alcohol to fix the problem, so we asked for the cocktails menu.
The concept of Cuca is based on Tapas, desserts and cocktails… this is exactly what you get, there isn’t a large extensive drinks/wine list and the menu doesn’t read little a shit novel filled with 1980’s cuisine much like the rest of International restaurants do… No it is a very well thought out collection of immaculately crafted dishes, desserts and cocktails, all with as much love and effort put into them as the last… These guys cared and it showed, these guys where good and it showed and believe me when I say that these guys spent a lot of money to pull an operation like this together… and when we where the only people in there, you have to feel for them.
The cocktails were effing amazing, presentation like I’ve never experienced before, from flavoured ice cubes, special bottles and custom labels to the coolest glasses and vessels to serve said drinks in… the flavour was great as well, the chilli hit from the bloody mary was killer and the mojito with the lime ice sphere was very cool (pun intended) but being a creature of habit I did feel that after we tried all 6 cocktails we would of liked a grey goose caprioska or two.
The head chef wasn’t on premise the day we went, but he had told his staff to look after us, and they may have taken that a little to seriously, we had opted for chef’s choice, so the kitchen chooses the dishes and you get to relax, but as they had fuck all else to do, they decided to cook us most of the menu and see just how quick us large white folk can eat… this was quantified by the fact that we were eating the food quickly so we could chat and catch up but before we knew it there was more amazing food being served to us… I know it sounds awful doesn’t it, but I really do feel this style food is about relaxing and soaking up the atmosphere and flavours. So next time my young chef friends at Cuca please slow down with the food, maybe use that time to go polish your ridiculously clean kitchen some more.
First to come was a spun sugar coated in a traditional Balinese chicken seasoning…
So it was fairy floss with chicken salt on it!
But do not for a second think this wasn’t cool, it was extremely cool, extremely tasty and a great was to start proceedings. Next to follow was onion rings with a green chilli aioli, this was simple but like everything it had its own cool bag for the rings and a trendy little bottle for the aioli, so it was fun and it worked.
Then the plated goodness started to flow from ceviche of snapper with watermelon and corn textures to smoked fish with beetroot foam then the most kick arse pumpkin and goats cheese salad with granola… the dishes were seasoned well, looked stunning and had plenty of body about them. Crispy chicken with picked red onion and olive powder was everything I like about modern cuisine, its was old flavours done with a new twist, molecular gastronomy that worked, not contrived bull shit, servicing nothing but some twats ego, this stuff was good food, and we were loving it.
We decided after dish number 12 that we needed a break and would like to sit in the restaurant as staring down a bunch of nervous chefs only entertains you for so long… so we adjourned to the main floor area which was simple and elegant, at this point that was the only thing simple and elegant as we had all drank quite a bit, laughter was ever present as we regaled each other with Balinese tails and past experiences, good times were had and finally we had room for dessert.
The desserts that arrived looked as you would expect, stunning, picture perfect and colourful… something I have forgotten to mention is just how colourful, vibrant and playful Cuca’s food and drinks are, think willy wonka meets Heston…. The egg dessert which consisted of mango, coconut and lychee flavours was a true marvel and one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten, the chocolate dessert with choc clusters, soft set choc and peppermint ice cream was extremely spectacular, not really to my taste but brilliant non the less. The final dessert was a take on the classic strawberry shortcake, they managed to achieve a very tasty version, although probably their worst plate up.
To finish the lunch we were show through to the cocktail bar, which was positioned at the end of the building on the out side, there they poured us a digestive infused Arak drink, a vanilla Arak for the ladies and a pineapple flavour for the lads, both were the best Arak I’ve ever tasted… but that’s not saying much as I hate the stuff and feel it would best be used powering lanterns or cleaning engines.
All in all I loved Cuca and would highly recommend going there, its awesome to see people trying something different and I really hope it works for them. I feel for it to be a continued success that they would need to change the limited selection of drinks quite often, but other than that they are flying the flag for modern cuisine, and I salute you all.
One response to “Paul’s Caul… Cuca, Bali”
Ah dear. This is an awesome post Paul, but by the end of it, all I’m thinking about is searching for a massive knob (what happened to the days of finding Mr Right?!). I hope that Joy was successful in her endeavour! Now, back to the food. Everything at Cuca sounds amazing, love their ingenuity with traditional Balinese flavours. Delicate and beautiful stuff!