We had one evening in Bali before taking the fast boat to Gili Islands the following morning. I was told that Cuca Restaurant has been talk-of-the-town serving spellbinding tapas led by Chef Kevin Cherkas, who has Arzak and El Bulli on his CV. Sounded like the perfect place to kick off our holiday.
Initially we made our reservation for the bar seats so we could see the kitchen in action. However the bar was sweltering, as the aircon couldn’t reach the end of the counter. Our server happily move us to the main dining room, which was spacious and elegant with draping curtains. The cocktails were exquisite, but in presentation and flavours. My Bali Mary made with tomato water and citrus juice were lighter than the conventional bloody mary; Mama Chan’s Blush made with fresh watermelon juice and rosemary perfume was playfully served with an ice lolly.
Amuse Bouche – Cotton Betutu
It was like a breath of pickled lemon with sour plum seasoning, the skin of the delicate bubble dissolved away instantly, leaving a powerful combination of flavours to awaken our taste buds.
Baked Scallop Lombok scallop, mashed cauliflower, toasted butter crust
The scallop was just cooked to retain a soft creamy centre, with a gentle crunch from the butter-soaked crumbs, served on a bed of velvety cauliflower puree that intensified the sweetness of the shellfish. Simply delicious.
Ceviche sliced raw fish, chilli lime dressing, watermelon ice
It looks quite different to a usual ceviche; I wasn’t expecting so much watermelon. The raw fish was mildly cured with lime juice, together with the juicy watermelon balls, the sweet and sour flavours were stimulating. I didn’t notice the heat from chillies but there was enough going on on the plate.
Watermelon Salad toasted coconut, crumbled feta, torn mint
This was delicious. The bed of coconut mousse was airy but creamy, sprinkled with crumbles of feta, fragrant shreds of toasted coconut and sweet spheres of watermelon. I loved it when I was first introduced to pairing halloumi cheese with watermelon, and feta works equally well as the fruit juice softens the rubbery textures of the cheese. One of my favourites of the evening.
Rice crusted Soft Shell Crab garlic aioli, shaved pineapple, curry leaf
The soft shell crab was made ultra crispy with a puffy rice coat with generous seasoning. It was a dish of familiar flavours made better with the sharp wafers of pineapple that helped to take the edge of the grease.
BBQ Octopus Asian gazpacho, fresh apple, caramelised cauliflower, coriander
The chunks of octopus were impeccable - soft and tender with bounce. The glazed cauliflower and tangy apple slice complemented the smoky aroma of the octopus beautifully, finished with the velvety savoury couli.
Marinated Pulled Pork roasted onions, soft boiled egg, crispy potato strings
The pulled pork was hidden beneath the stack of potato strings, slow cooked to shreds of meat, clung onto a rich gravy. The shoestrings fires were abundant, but the potato component was missing, so a tad too harsh and dry; there wasn’t enough of the runny duck egg yolk to soften them. It got better when mingled with the meat gravy at the bottom, to resemble chilli fries. Compared to the more refined flavours of the other dishes, this was somewhat less impressive.
Claypot Mushroom Rice roasted mushroom broth, Balinese organic rice, grated pumpkin
There was definitely more mushroom than rice; it was bursting with fungi essence. A great finish to round off the meal.
Cuca was delightful; each dish was well thought-out and crafted to showcase seasonal local produce with great attention to detail. The dishes were playful on tongue and pleasing to the eye. This blew a lot of the higher end restaurants in Singapore out of the water. Apparently Raymond Blanc turned up unannounced one evening, then tweeted that he’s just made the most exciting culinary discovery. That says something.
Jalan Yoga Perkanthi
Tel: +62 361 708066