How times have changed in the last few years; I used to scour Lonely Plant and other guide books to find ideas for restaurants and places to go while on holiday. Now my methods are completely different – I check out my favourite blogs first and follow their tips for what to do and where to eat in a particular destination. When I was reading Shikha’s wonderful blog, Why Waste Annual Leave, I came across her recommendation for Cuca Flavor in Jimbaran Bay not far from The Four Seasons Jimbaran where we were staying. The food looked incredible and I immediately added it to my list.
As I have a *mild* obsession with food, before I visit a restaurant I’ve generally already decided what I’m going to have from the menu. After reading Shikha’s post this beautiful smoked butterfish in the shape of a rose served with a unique accompaniment of beetroot yoghurt, zucchini pickle and parsley crumb was high up on my list. It definitely didn’t disappoint, in fact none of the food at Cuca did!
Of course, we started with the cocktail menu and rather interestingly, there is a mocktail version of every single one;
I went for a Bali Mary which turned out be vodka ice cubes with Balinese chilli and citrus and tomato water poured on top.
Mr S chose a Tokyo Mojito that was a refreshing blend of lemon balm, soda, rum and fresh citrus.
The menu is made up of tapas tasting size dishes intended for sharing and split into the categories of harvested, hooked and farmed or in other words vegetables, fish and meat. Knowing we were in for a treat, Mr S and I chose several different dishes.
A beautifully tender octopus dish served with Asian gazpacho, apple, caramelised cauliflower and coriander.
Grandma’s chicken meatballs was a great way to describe this dish as it was definitely comfort food. A hug in a bowl; a hearty stew of tomato gravy, zucchini noodles and a good grind of black pepper.
Our absolute favourite dish of the night, rice crusted soft shell crab with garlic aioli, BBQ pineapple and curry leaf. I’ve had soft shell crab in batter many times but never in crispy rice, I loved the unique take on this dish.
Cuca is run by devoted owner Virginia Entizne and Chef Kevin Cherkas who developed his skills in some of the world’s best restaurants. Kevin worked in Spain at three Michelin star restaurants Arzak in San Sebastian and El Bulli, voted the best restaurant in the world. He later work in New York in Daniel Boulud’s three Michelin-star restaurant, Daniel – that’s quite a starry past! Virginia and Kevin carefully selected their kitchen team based both on personality as well as skill and whilst eating at the restaurant you can peer through into the open kitchen and even eat whilst watching the chefs at work.
We ate at private table instead. Actually my one complaint about Cuca was I thought that the dining room was very minimalist, I loved restaurants with a sense of place and a view but I felt we could have really been anywhere. Having said that there is an outdoor garden lounge, where you can sip cocktails under coconuts trees, that has a much more Balinese feel to it.
Of course, KFC-loving Mr S’s eyes lit up when he saw crisp fried chicken with wild honey, country coleslaw, sesame dust and Asian basil on the menu. I love the fact that though the dishes were westernised the chef integrated local ingredients and fresh market products.
Our final savoury dish was claypot chicken rice with slow cooked chicken broth, Balinese organic rice and sweetcorn. Though the dishes were small, they were quite creamy meaning they were pretty filling and only a few each were needed. But once again I remembered the delicious desserts from Shikha’s post and I already knew what we were having, and no Mr S didn’t have any choice in the matter.
I adore the combination of chocolate and mint and ordering the cocoa 99 with warm organic chocolate, mint ice cream and cocoa croutons was an absolute given! The dish is basically a deconstructed After Eight, and I loved the sweet chocolate off set by the chilled flavours of the mint.
Our second dessert of strawberry cloud cake made with freshly baked sponge, pandan gelato and berry cream which was beautifully light and refreshing. Though I’d already decided what I was having, I have to say that all the other desserts looked incredible and so inventive – how good does caramel apple with black pepper ice cream, caramel and waffle crumbs sound?
If you’re looking for a break from super spicy food and something different to grilled fish whilst in Jimbaran, I would certainly recommend a visit to Cuca! Thanks Shikha for pointing me in the right direction 🙂
Have you been to Bali? Did you try any restaurants in Jimbaran?