Tuesday August 8, 2017
We landed at Bali’s Ngurah Rah Airport around midnight and stayed overnight. As we had found a seating area with couches, I actually managed to get a pretty good six or so hours of sleep.
We had arranged to be picked up by our hotel at 8am, and arrived at Watermark Hotel & Spa just before 9am. Upon arriving, we were given a welcome drink that tasted like fresh grapefruit juice. Unfortunately, we couldn’t check in until 2pm but the receptionist explained all of the amenities and services and gave us directions to get SIM card nearby. The hotel also took our backpacks and suitcase, which allowed us to set out and explore with only or day packs. We stopped by an ATM and easily found the SIM card store down the street. I got a 3gb data plan for 65,000 IDR ($6.50). With time to kill, we continued to explore the area around our hotel. As we are no longer in the coffee heaven of Vietnam, I let go of my coffee snob ways and let myself get an iced blended Oreo mocha from a cute café called Roti’O.
I picked up a couple things at a convenience store and then we went back to the hotel early to hang out by the pool and look up places to go for dinner/ a drink. Luckily, we got to check in a little early, just after 1pm. For $55 per night per person, we are sharing a family room with two double beds, lounge area, nice bathroom with a huge tub, shower and two sinks, fridge, microwave, nespresso type machine, TV, etc.
There is also breakfast included, a free 30 minute foot reflexology session each, and free shuttles to and from the nearby beach. We quickly settled in, freshened up, changed into our swimsuits, and headed up to the rooftop infinity pool. It was a good size and had two cabanas on the left side over the water for people to lounge in. There were also many other lounge chairs and chairs and tables. In the afternoon, it was only 28 degrees, which was such a nice change from the mid 30 degree temperatures we experienced in Vietnam. I almost forgot what it was like to be outside without instantly sweating or feeling like my skin was about to fry to a crisp!
We lounged in and by the pool until ~4:30pm before we went back to our room to shower and get ready for dinner. Earlier in the day, we had found Cuca listed as a top restaurant in Jimbaran, the beach area we are in, in many articles, magazines, and review websites. We decided to treat ourselves and made a reservation for 7:15pm. As it was only a 20-25 minute walk away, we decided to walk so we could explore the area around our hotel. It was the perfect temperature for an evening stroll. There was a light breeze and we were nowhere close to breaking a sweat. There were many street vendors selling delicious looking (and smelling) fried foods, but not much else worth going back to. Located off the main road, we walked through a gate and up a walkway through a garden space to arrive at Cuca.
We decided to order the Cuca Chef Tasting Menu for 490,000 IDR ($49) each. Upon ordering, our server brought us placemats that listed the nine dishes on the tasting menu, the ingredients they featured, and the story behind their creation. I loved being able to follow along with what we were being served and learn what inspired them! The menu was meant for two to share so we got two plates of each dish.
The meal started off with a cotton candy dish meant to cleanse our palates. Our server told us it was rolled in the spices used to flavour traditional Balinese fried chicken and to pick it up and pop the entire thing in our mouths. It was surprisingly savoury, light spicy and so soft. It melted in your mouth like normal cotton candy, but was such a different experience as it was not sweet.
Cuban corn: grilled baby corn, parmesan, lime, parsley. “Young 50 day old corn which has not yet developed fibrous starchy character, just the subtle beginnings of delicate sweetness and an exciting raw cucumber crunch”. Our served told us to grab it and eat it as you would a carrot. The parmesan seasoning was amazing. It seemed to coat every molecule of the corn and was so flavourful, yet still somehow allowed you to taste the corn underneath. I usually don’t even like cheese or baby corn, but it was probably the best corn dish I’ve ever had.
Roasted pork buns: honey glazed BBQ pork, pancake bun, pickled cabbage, coriander. The honey on the BBQ pork was slightly charred and caramelized. The pancake bun was light, fluffy, and actually had a flavour from its seasonings, which was nice compared to the normal plain white buns BBQ pork is served with. There was a nice crunch from the sunflower seeds and a creaminess and zing from the aioli. It was definitely a levelled up BBQ pork bun and was very yummy!
Smoked butterfish: beetroot yogurt, zucchini pickles, parsley crumbs. Wow! Several us agreed at the end this was our favourite dish of the meal and the best smoked fish we have ever had. I would have never thought yogurt would work with smoked fish, but the yogurt was so light in texture and flavour. It almost seemed whipped and had only a light beet taste, but it added a creaminess and tanginess to the fish. The fish was not fishy and had a wonderful smoky flavour. There were also parsley crumbs that added both flavour and crunch. Each bite was creamy, zingy, rich, crunchy, and simply amazing!
Honey baked pumpkin salad: country granola, creamy green beans, tarragon. There was a creamy yogurt dressing at the base of the dish that had only a mild yogurty flavour. The flavours came from the granola and pumpkin. It was so interesting to have savoury granola! It was flavoured with many spices and was both crunchy and chewy from pieces of dried fruit. Sweetness and creaminess came from the honeyed pumpkin, the beans were slightly salty, and the pickled onions added zing. It was interesting that each element seemed to highlight a different taste so when eaten together it made the perfect bite that hit every single taste receptor on tongue.
BBQ octopus: Asian gazpacho, fresh apple, caramelized cauliflower, coriander. The octopus was just barely cooked so that it was soft and not chewy or rubbery at all. It also had a nice spice rub all over and the cauliflower was curried. For me the sauce made the dish. It was so deliciously gingery without being overpowering and thick enough it clung to anything you dipped in it.
Rice tempura soft shell crab: aioli, BBQ pineapple, curry leaf. It seemed like each plate had at least one whole deep fried soft shell crab. The legs were impossible crispy while the body was cooked the outside was crispy and the flesh was still soft. The shell was so thin you couldn’t even taste it and the batter was so light you could taste the flavour of the crab. The pineapple added sweetness and a different texture. The dish was light, fresh, and tasty.
Meat & potatoes: beef and mushroom ragout, whipped potato, red wine jam. This was a fancy take on shepherds pie. The potato layer on top was so light they were almost a foam, but tasted rich and creamy. Underneath was a thick, rich ragout. There were large button mushrooms and pieces of beef that were fall apart in your mouth tender (I could even separate my giant hunk into bite sized pieces with chopsticks!). The red wine jam on top added a nice flavour and there were more of the parsley bread crumbs folded in throughout that added a great crunch.
Bali breakfast: sweet runny mango, frozen passion fruit, whipped coconut. This was amazing. We didn’t know what to expect from the description nor when it was placed on the table in front of us presented like a sunny side up egg. Our server told us to crack the ‘yolk’/ mango bubble to release the mango sauce. The whipped coconut on top was light but had a good coconut flavour. It was hardly sweet at all, which balanced the sweet mango coulis. The middle layer was frozen passion fruit sorbet, which was slightly tart and added a coldness to the dish that was very refreshing. The bottom layer was crunchy from both a sweet granola and passion fruit seeds. There were so many textures and flavours, but they all worked together perfectly. The dish far exceeded my expectations and was probably one of my favourite of the meal!
Cocoa 99: warm chocolate, mint ice cream, cocoa croutons. The mint ice cream was very minty and not too sweet. The crunchy brownie croutons were light, airy, crunchy, and tasted like the best part of brownies – the almost burnt part at the edges of the pan. The warm chocolate ganache was made from very dark chocolate, which was almost bitter and really nice. No element of the dessert overly sweet, which I loved!
To conclude the meal we were served a homemade Digestive drink. It had a very strong herbal taste and tasted like concentrated kombucha… it was the only part of the meal I came close to disliking.
Overall, was a wonderful experience! It was fun to go to a nicer restaurant after so meals on little plastic chairs. I love tasting menus and food that not only tastes great but surprises and excites you. At only $49, it was such a good deal! I got a rosella infusion to go with the meal and with tax and tip paid 625,000 IDR ($62.50).
It had a great view out over the jungle around. As it was rather secluded, there was hardly any light pollution and we could see the stars and lights out to the horizon really clearly. We ordered a watermelon tap to share. They hollowed out a watermelon, blended the fruit with various alcohols and liqueurs, and served the drink in the watermelon with tons of mint. Although a little pricy, it was really strong. We sipped our drink and hung out until almost midnight before catching an uber back to our own hotel. It was a wonderful first night in Bali!
12,000 IDR ($1.20) – water
65,000 IDR ($6.50) – data plan
35,000 IDR ($3.50) – coffee
25,000 IDR ($2.50) – supplies
625,000 IDR ($62.50) – dinner
151,250 IDR ($15.13) – rooftop bar
Total = 913,250 IDR ($91.33)
Running total = $3171.13