As we touched down in Bali at ard 7pm, by the time we reached our villa in Jimbaran it was closed to 8.30pm. Luckily I chose a restaurant that is literally a stone’s throw away from where we were staying. Arrived in time for our reserved booking at 9pm.
This was my 3rd visit to Bali but it was the first time I’m staying in Jimbaran. I stayed in Seminyak area for my 2 previous visits. The Seminyak area was great as shopping, eating, beach, massages can all be found there with minimal travelling. The downside was the traffic….frequent jams on the tiny 2-way lanes made walking faster than taking taxi. I swear I covered a longer distance than my usual weekly jog (3.2km) during my stay in Seminyak.
Having been to the few famous beach clubs in Seminyak and seeing the sunsets from Seminyak beach, I decided to stay in the less crowded area of Jimbaran. Another key factor was – I haven’t been to the Jimbaran beach where people enjoy BBQ seafood with the beautiful sunset as backdrop. I also planned to visit some places in South Kuta therefore easier to travel out from Jimbaran.
Cuca Restaurant is located near the Kedonganan beach (further North of Jimbaran beach). I pronounced the restaurant as “Coo-Car” only to realised that the locals (as corrected by my driver) pronounced it as “Chu-Cha“.
The restaurant has several dining areas: outdoor Garden Lounge & Cocktail Bar, air-conditioned Dining Room and Food Bar facing the kitchen. Naturally I opted for the food bar, where we get to see the actions in the kitchen.
Started our dinner with cocktails (also available as mocktails) from the bar: Moon-gria white wine, iced fruit, brandy soda and Blush sparking red and yellow watermelon, vodka, rosemary perfume. Absolutely loved the presentation of the Moon-gria, as the frozen fruit blocks melts into the soda, it turned into a nice blend of colours. Usually I like to read up on the restaurant we planned to visit so that I can make a more informed choice, but this trip was kinda rush so I didn’t do much pre-reading. Am glad that we made the right choice on the beautiful Moon-gria, its the kind of drink whereby I would simply ask the server to “serve me the same drink as what the person is having“…if I saw someone having it and I’m not. Blush comes with a bright yellow ice popsicle sitting pretty on the glass, another colourful and cheery drink. We were thrilled with the fantastic pre-dinner cocktails. I hope the dinner service would be a blast.
Amuse bouche was Cotton Betutu. Server told us this is adapted from Ayam Betutu (a famous traditional Balinese dish), this version is made with cotton candy and best finished in 1 moutful. We popped the fluffy cotton candy and felt the powdery spices filling our mouth while the cotton candy promptly melted away. A quick google revealed that the spices for Betutu typically consist of turmeric, ginger, nutmeg, galangal, onion, garlic, cassava or salam leaves and chilies.
The menu is categorised into Harvested (fruits and vegetables), Hooked (seafood) and Farmed (poultry and meat). Initially we wanted to go for the Chef Tasting Menu. But being avid seafood lovers, we were quick to zoom into the Hooked category and quickly decided we wanted to try all of the dishes from this category except for 1 dish. We forgo that dish because it had beetroot yoghurt – something that we both didn’t have a liking for.
As a guide from the restaurant, its best to choose about 3 dishes per person for sharing. Hence we need to select 6 dishes in total. We selected another 2 items from the harvested catergory to complete our meal.
First up was Ceviche sliced raw emperor fish, chili lime dressing, watermelon ice, basil. Its a simple yet cool and refreshing starter. Next was the cute Croquettes pickled mushroom, roasted garlic, tempe cream. Look at them sitting so nicely on the green articial grass~ The deep-fried mash potato balls had light cream filling inside, hence upon first bite the cream oozes out from the crust. Absolute delight.
After the initial excitment of having to take in all that’s happening around us from seating to ordering cocktails to choosing our mains to busy snapping photos of the place, we finally settled down for dinner and had time to observe the actions in the kitchen. Boy, the scene really reminds me of Hell’s Kitchen by Gordon Ramsay. BUT..I would like to emphasis that Chef Kevin Cherkas did not yell nor swear at the kitchen crew…The similiarities merely lies in the operation of the kitchen during the dinner service. Chefs worked at their own stations to prepare the dishes, while listening to the orders shouted by Chef Kevin who is running the pass. After some observations, we were able to catch when our dish was called out and anticipated them to be served to us.
Third dish served was Rice crusted soft shell crab blended bbq tomato, shaved pineapple, curry leaf I enjoyed the unique “puffed” grain batter used to coat the soft shell crab as it provides an extra crunch to the soft shell crab. The lightly grilled thinnly sliced pineapple also had an excellent texture.
Fourth dish – BBQ octopus asian gazpacho, fresh apple, caramelized cauliflower, coriander. Immediately once it was served, we could smell the smokey aroma of the BBQ octopus. The chewy octopus was paired with the zesty and crunchy apple strips resulting in a symphony of different textures in the mouth.
Roasted tiger prawns sweet & sour baby zucchini, red chili, coconut broth, lime leaf was the last of the seafood dishes and it was my favourite for the night (followed by the croquettes and soft shell crab). Fresh succulent prawn with a savoury umami-filled broth that we slurped up till the very last drop. The broth resembles “Sang Har Mee” (prawn noodles) gravy, the flavour of the stock that is achieved through repeated boiling of the crustaceans. As we like to “save the best for last”, we took our time to enjoy the dish morsel by morsel and we left the last portion of the dish untouched while we waited for the Mushroom rice roasted mushroom broth, mixed organic balinese rice, grated pumpkin to be served. Several times the kitchen crew walked by our table and passed a glance to check if they could collect the plate but realised there was a final bit left; and we kept the plate closed to our side to indicate that we were still working on it. As we were already pretty full, the gluey and starchy texture of the broth covering the rice made it slightly gelard for me to finish the whole portion. I think I would probably enjoy the dish more if its presented in a clear soup or fried rice version. Nonetheless the use of mixed grains created a multitude of texture compared to the normal plain rice, the addition of grated pumpkin helped balanced the earthy flavour of the mushrooms.
Last-but-not-least, DESSERTS. Every girl has a special stomach for dessert, no matter how full we are… The one that attracted me most was the one with a very romantic & sweet name – Strawberry cloud cake freshly baked sponge cake, pandan gelato, berry cream. I could imagine myself Happy as a Carebear, dancing in the cloud after eating this~
After a busy dinner service, Chef finally had some time to chat with us towards the end of our meal. Only then we realised that Chef had worked in Singapore for 4 years and would be flying to Singapore the next day for a short trip. *Phew glad that Chef was around when we visited Cuca. And the table of guests next to us were a group of expatriates working in Singapore but flew to Bali for holiday, so Chef shared that he could list down all the good eats in Singapore for them~
Cuca was a great discovery and definitely goes into my list of recommended restaurants in Bali to my friends.
Photos taken earlier:
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