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Cuca – mind blowing tapas in Jimbaran, Bali.

Before leaving for our Bali babymoon, the husband did a little bit of research on the dining scene in Bali. Two restaurants that stood out for us were Cuca and Locavore.

Once we arrived we Bali, we made a call to Locavore for a dinner reservation but was saddened that it’s been booked full for both lunches and dinners for weeks! When hubs made a call to Cuca, I was literally crossing my fingers because I really, really wanted to eat at Cuca.

Thank goodness, we got a reservation on the evening we wanted :)

Cuca serves tapas made with ingredients carefully selected and sourced exclusively from Indonesia to ensure freshness, support local farmers and showcase delicious local products.

# – Cuca.

This is the description of the chef and co-owner on Cuca’s website:

Chef Kevin Cherkas has an enviable track record developed in some of the world’s most outstanding restaurants. In Spain, he honed his skills at Michelin three-star Arzak Restaurant in San Sebastian, Michelin three-star El Bulli in Roses, and Michelin two-star La Broche in Madrid. He also left his mark in New York City during his tenure with Daniel Boulud at his highly regarded Michelin three-star Daniel.

As testament to his culinary talent, he is the recipient of numerous awards. These include gold and silver medals at the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs national and regional competitions in 2003, a gold medal at the USA Chicago Culinary Salon Team Canada 2001, and three gold medals at the British Columbia Chefs Association Hot Culinary Competition in 2000, to name a few. Most notably, he joined the Bocuse d’Or World Cuisine Contest 2001 as an apprentice representative and achieved a fifth place finish.

Most recently, Chef Kevin helmed BLU at Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore and prior to that Restaurant Lafite in Shangri-La Hotel, Kuala Lumpur.

Cuca’s located about 30 minutes away from Sanur via taxi. The location was quite secluded and our taxi driver had a little trouble locating it but everything was soon solved by a simple phone call to Cuca who gave our driver good directions.

# – The outdoor seating.

# – The building that houses the dining room.

The interior of Cuca was modern and comfortable, the tables set generously apart from each other with retractable blinds for privacy.

# – View of the kitchen.

We opted for the Chef Tasting Menu, which consisted of 7 tapas and 2 desserts. For drinks, I had the mocktail version of the Sun-gria (red wine) and hubs had the Moon-gria (white wine), which are their signature sangria inspired beverages.

# – Sun-gria and Moon-gria.

These are beverages that keep on giving! You drink it by pouring the main wine (or non-alcoholic wine in my case) into a glass filled with with frozen fruit juice cubes and the drink transformed as the frozen fruit cubes melted. It’s like having a new drink everytime I took a sip. Very clever!

Our meal started with the complimentary “Cotton Betutu”, inspired by the traditional Balinese dish, ayam betutu.

# – Cotton Betutu.

This fluffy clouds of savouriness was a delight to the palate. It melted on my tongue, reminding me a little of Chinese chicken floss, but without the stringiness of course.

The Chef Tasting Menu started with “Emperor Fish Ceviche” with watermelon ice, toasted pumpkin seeds and basil.

# – Emperor Fish Ceviche.

The ceviche was meaty and flavourful. The watermelon ice and basil kept everything refreshing while the pumpkin seeds lent a wonderful crunchiness to the dish.

Next, we were served “Smoked Butterfish” with beetroot yogurt, avocado, bread cracker and wild fennel.

# – Smoked Butterfish.

The savoury smokiness of the meaty butterfish was perfectly balanced by the mild beetroot yogurt and avocado. Very delicious!

After the butterfish, we were served the “Glazed Young Carrot Salad” with whipped avocado, mountain strawberry, cashew nuts and lemon balm.

# – Glazed Young Carrot Salad.

The husband loved this dish and insisted I whipped up something similar at home. He was blown away by the combination of the salad ingredients and I must say that I agreed with him. It was an extraordinary bowl of salad made with ordinary ingredients.

Next up, the “BBQ Octopus” with asian gazpacho, fresh apple, caramelised cauliflower and coriander.

# – BBQ Octopus.

Octopus was grilled to perfection, springy and tender. It went so well with the refreshing gazpacho while the apples and cauliflower contributed crunch and flavours without overpowering the main seafood.

After the octopus, we were served “Crispy Fried Chicken” with wild honey, country coleslaw, sesame dust and asian basil.

# – Crispy Fried Chicken.

Not just any fried chicken! The meat was tender and juicy with a crispy exterior. I loved the sesame dust which lent some creamy texture to the dish.

This was definitely my favourite dish of the evening – “Roasted Tiger Prawns” with sweet & sour baby zucchini, red chili, coconut broth and kaffir lime.

# – Roasted Tiger Prawns.

The roasted prawns were fresh and tender. It was delicious with the coconut broth, which was not just any common coconut broth but was perfectly cooked prawn bisque with generous drizzles of lucious coconut cream! So addictive, I wish there was more.

“Premium Beef Chica” with shaved cabbage, young zucchini and parsley followed. For me, this was probably the only dish that did not stand out.

It felt like I was eating a fairly bland beef patty on top of fancy wild rice. It was nice, just wasn’t earth shattering like our previous courses.

# – Premium Beef Chica.

By now, we should be served desserts but husband decided to add another dish that’s not on the tasting menu – “Rice Crusted Soft Shell Crab” with blended bbq tomato sauce, shaved pineapple and curry leaves. Oh what a wonderful decision!

# – Rice Crusted Soft Shell Crab.

This was possibly the best deep fried soft shell crab I have ever tasted. The crab was well-seasoned, meaty and crunchy. Although deep-fried, there was no hint of greasiness or sogginess. They were so delicious with the bbq tomato sauce and shaved grilled pineapples.

And then it was dessert time. My favourite time! Jeng jeng jeng!

First up was the intriguing “Bali Breakfast”, which was described as sweet runny mango, frozen passion fruit and whipped coconut arrived on our table.

# – Bali Breakfast.

This thing that looks like an egg yolk was actually a mango sphere, a display of molecular gastronomy technique.

# – Mango oozing…

Once popped, it flowed into the creamy whipped coconut like, beckoning you to dig in. And dig in we did.

There was another layer of surprise at the bottom – frozen crunchy passionfruit. So delicious…just mind-blowing.

And just when I thought that nothing else could top “Bali Breakfast”, Cuca came up with “Cocoa 99″, described as warm organic podchocolate, mint ice-cream and cocoa croutons.

# – Cocoa 99.

Oh my gawd…I don’t know how they do it, but they managed to combine decadences and freshness all in one bowl. What is this sorcery?

The mint ice cream was so delicious with the creamy chocolate ganache thingy and the cocoa croutons, made of dehydrated chocolate cakes. Truly life-changing.

Dinner concluded with “Cuca Brews”, house-made alcoholic brews that we enjoyed at the bar. Hubs had both the Vanilla & Berry brew and Pineapple & Rosemary brew while I had water only…

# – Obligatory I was there.

# – Hub’s I was there.

Dining at Cuca has definitely become one of our most treasured eating experiences. Every dish was special and mind-bending despite using pretty humble ingredients.

Service was of course impeccable. Every dish was named and explained by the waiting staff before being served on our table. The pricing at Cuca was also very agreeable, we have definitely paid more for far less inspiring food in KL.

We highly recommend eating at Cuca if you’re in Bali.

Cuca
Jalan Yoga Perkanthi
Jimbaran 80364
Bali, Indonesia
Opening hours: 12 pm to 12 am
Tel: +62 361 708 066
Email: family@cucaflavor.com

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Monte’s – a gem in Bangsar Shopping Centre

Monte’s has been around for years but we never got around to eating there because….who knows?

We do eat regularly at Bangsar Shopping Centre or BSC but had always just stuck to the few obvious choices – Pressroom (for its wonderful steak tartare – I mourn its recent demise), Chinoz (for my favourite pumpkin gnocchi which quality had recently went down the drain), Ippudo (they took over Pressroom’s lot but no bad blood as I am contented with replacing my favourite steak tartare with Ippudo’s mindblowing seared salmon roll) and Chilli’s (the keyword is consistency) of course.

So with Pressroom gone, Chinoz going through teething problems, and slight boredom with both Ippudo and Chilli’s, we felt that a change of taste was in order. And we walked around aimlessly till we stumbled upon Monte’s.

We hit up Foursquare and was pleasantly surprised by the number of positive comments, from the most recent to those dating back to a few years ago. So a decision was made, we would eat at Monte’s eventhough the place looked rather quiet.

# – Monte’s Restaurant and Wine Bar.

The restaurant is really spacious with unpretentious furnishings and has plenty of seatings especially if you come in groups.

# – This is only half the restaurant…I was too lazy to walk around taking pictures.

Service was wonderful, the staff spoke excellent English and were very attentive without being intrusive.

# – Complimentary bread and butter.

We knew we wanted steak and some kind of seafood. In the end we settled for grilled scallops, escargots and steaks.

# – 1/2 dozen escargots (RM 19).

Possibly one of the best escargots we’ve had for a long time. Must say it even beat the ones we had in France, hahaha. The snails were big and succulent. The wine garlic sauce was simply addictive, we wish we had some bread to soak it up! In hindsight, we should have requested for more bread.

# – Seared scallops with sweet potato puree and tarragon butter (RM 39).

The scallops were beautifully cooked. Still springy on the inside and lightly crisp on the outside. With the delicate sweet potato puree (which wasn’t too sweet by the way), the dish was moreish. In fact, throughout our time at Monte’s we were contemplating ordering another serving of scallops, they were that good.

For mains, the husband chose “Surf and Turf” which was described as air flown steak and prawns. The picture in the menu looked exceedingly good and when the dish arrived, we were happy that it looked exactly as depicted in the menu :)

# – Surf and Turf (RM 53).

The hubs reported that the prawns were nicely done and the steak was really good too, cooked to medium as he likes and not gristle-ly.

# – Fat, tender prawn flesh.

I had the “Charbroiled Fillet Mignon”, which was served with sauteed mushrooms and mashed potatoes.

# – Charbroiled Fillet Mignon (RM 60).

The portion was generous and the filet mignon was perfection. Cooked medium rare, it was tender to a fault! I ate it all…I ate everything. Not one bit of steak was left on my plate. Even the mushrooms were incredibly delicious.

# – Medium rare.

We finished our meal with Monte’s signature brownie. When we ordered, the waiter mentioned that they serve the best brownie in town.

# – Brownie (RM 13).

Well, I am inclined to agree. The brownie was packed full of chocolatey goodness, so fudgy and dense. A lot of flattened chocolate cakes are disguised as brownies these days so I was happy to be eating an actual brownie.

So will we go back again? Yes indeed. The prices are incredibly reasonable for the quality of food – which is high. We left the restaurant satiated and happy.

# – Obligatory I was there (sowee bad hair day).

Monte’s Restaurants and Wine Bar,
Lot F 112, Level 1, Bangsar Shopping Center,
Jalan Maarof, 59000 Kuala Lumpur.
Tel: 03 2094 1112/3
Operating hours:
Monday – Sunday, 11.30 am – 11 pm

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Epicuro – lovely non-halal brunch spot in Damansara Utama

For a pursuer of porcine goodness, it’s always heart-warming to see a restaurant in Malaysia so gloriously proud of being non-halal.

Located along the shops in Damansara Utama that face Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Epicuro is one such place.

# – Non-Halal

Parking was expectedly difficult although we would do it all over again for the wonderful fare offered at Epicuro. Perhaps parking conditions could be better in the evening.

# – Epicuro

I really like the interior of the restaurant. The yellow and black theme is eye-catching and modern.

# – Yellow and black themed interior.

# – Cute wall decorations.

Hubs ordered the “Big Breakfast” which consisted of wholemeal toast, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms, pork sausages, pork bacon, hash browns and a choice of sunnyside up or scrambled.

# – Big Breakfast

It tasted as impressive as it looked, which in truth is not an easy thing to achieve for fryups. How many times have you been served an impressive plate of fryups only to be disappointed by multitude of issues such as soggy mushrooms, tough bacons, cheap sausages and bland un-caramelised tomatoes?

Everything has to be cooked to perfection and at the right temperature, something Epicuro has managed to deliver. Well done! At RM21.90, the Big Breakfast is reasonably priced too.

I chose the signature pulled pork sandwich with an addition of sunnyside up egg.

# – Pulled pork

Pulled pork is something that’s not easily pulled off too. Cooked too long and you’d get stringy, dry pork floss. Cooked too quickly and you’d get tough, barely chewable meat.

Not at Epicuro though, the texture of the pulled pork was perfect – generous amount of meltingly tender pulled pork packed into toasted bread with fresh lettuce and coleslaw. If there’s anything to complain, I’d say the pulled pork was just a tad too spicy and may not bode well with some palates. The addition of the sunnyside up does help to calm the strong flavours of the pulled pork.

# – Egg porn.

Mid-way through eating, a friend recommended via Instagram to try the tiramisu and so we did.

# – Tiramisu

It was not a bad tiramisu at all, smooth, creamy and flavourful only perhaps lacking in some boozy kick.

Hubs ordered a latte to go with the dessert and he enjoyed his coffee.

# – Latte.

# – Obligatory I was there.

Will we go back again? Yes. Nice environment, nice food and decent service. Agreeable pricing too.

Epicuro does have quite an extensive menu and we look forward to trying out more dishes. Apparently they also serve sous vide scrambled eggs, which is very intriguing to me.

Epicuro
20, Jalan SS 21/35,
Damansara Utama,
47400 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Tel: 03-7733 3110
Email: info@epicuro.my
Operating hours:
Tue – Fri, 11am – 11pm
Sat – Sun, 10am – 11pm

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