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

Posted in: Food Reviews, Indonesia, Travels - Continue Reading

Oasis Lagoon Sanur – our 2014 Bali babymoon hotel

Just got back from Bali!

After our not so great Bali trip last year, the hubs decided to give Bali another go and boy, were we surprised. It’s clearer than ever that the reasons why we didn’t enjoy our previous trip so much were due to poor planning, bad traffic, unusually hot weather and trying to cram too much in too few days.

This time, we took our time. The weather was just wonderfully mild, we skipped all the driving, sight-seeing and concentrated on relaxation and eating nice food – the best way to spend a babymoon :)

Before I talk more about the places we ate at (which were sooo good), let me just blog about the hotel – Oasis Lagoon in Sanur. Sanur is quieter and less chaotic compared to Kuta.

# – The lobby.

The hotel is beautiful, a wonderful juxtaposition of modern and traditional. Kudos to hubs for picking a good accomodation.

# – View of pool from lobby.

He treated me to a lagoon access room, meaning our room opens out to the swimming pool. It was fabulous!

# – Lagoon access.

We were pretty much living at the pool. This was our routine: wake up > tea/coffee by the pool > dip in the pool > lunch > back in the pool > dinner > sleep. Repeat.

And because the hotel is not that large, there weren’t many people using the pool too, which was a huge plus.

# – Happy hubs.

# – The pool view from our room.

The room was very comfortable. Large bed, okay-sized tele, mini fridge, hair-dryer and a safe – as good as 4-star goes. I do wish there was a flexible shower arm and also a flexible bidet by the toilet.

# – Shower area, which only has a rain shower.

Rain shower is a nice concept but it’s just so hard to get to the important bits, you know what I mean? LOL

# – Obligatory bathroom selfie.

Our room was always tidied up as soon as we’re back from an excursion. Of course we did hang “Please Make Up Room” on our door knob when we went out.

Complimentary breakfast at the hotel was nothing to shout about. Basics like toasts, cereals, pancakes and some greasy local dishes were offered. I tried it out for one day and decided to skip the rest of the mornings.

Service was prompt and polite – a great thing. When we were checking out, the concierge took care to ask if we needed airport transfer and got us a legit taxi…no hanky panky.

We really enjoyed our stay there. The truth is, I think having direct access to the pool made all the difference. If you’re not taking the pool access room though, it’s still a very enjoyable hotel to stay in as it’s in a good location within walking distance to a few good restaurants (which I will be blogging soon).

# – With hubs :)

Thanks hubs for arranging such a nice holiday for us before our impending journey into parenthood!

The Oasis Lagoon
Jl. Danau Tamblingan No. 136 A
Sanur 80228
Bali – Indonesia
T. +62 361 282264
F. +62 361 282214

Posted in: Indonesia, Travels - Continue Reading

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

Posted in: Food Reviews - Continue Reading