Hello everyone! It’s been a busy couple of months for me (hence why I haven’t blogged on here for a while), I’ve been seeking (and have now found) a new job, been training for the Berlin marathon (coming up in September, very scary…!) and have been on several trips.
The most recent of these trips was the most important, I took my wife away to Bali for her birthday. We travel a lot together, but often find that we pack it out with so much that we come back absolutely shattered, although energised in a different kind of way that you get from travelling. So for this trip, we wanted to focus on something a little bit more relaxing – hence the choice of Bali, long the yoga and hippie hang-out where one focuses on tranquility and inner peace; or at least that’s what Eat, Pray, Love tells you. Bali is a beautiful country and we really enjoyed our time there and, as you would expect, we were keen to see what the Balinese gastronomic scene was up to whilst we were there.
One of the more memorable meals that we had whilst we were in Ubud, in central Bali, was at a restaurant called Kubu at Mandapa which was set in the Ritz Carlton hotel. As soon as we were arrived we knew that we were in for a special evening, we were taken to a lounge area that was surrounded by infinity pools, looking out over the valley floor which itself was stunning as the sun was just setting – giving the whole place a somewhat ethereal feel. We pottered our way around this area for a bit taking photographs, to do it justice I really would have needed a proper camera and a tripod, but hopefully this photo conveys a little of the magic.
We were then taken to a golf cart which drove us down the steep, winding roads of the resort all the way to the valley floor; you see the whole resort is cut into the side the steep slope of the valley itself and the restaurant is situated on the bank of the river that flows along the bottom of the valley. At first I was a little dubious about the need for the golf cart, “I’m fit enough to manage a walk” I thought, in truth the journey down was about five minutes and I really wouldn’t have fancied it in the dark. We were then taken to beautiful cocoon that was nestled along the side of the river, which gave us a our own private room with river view – it really was fantastic.
We had a cocktail whilst we browsed the menu, before choosing to take their six-course Tasting Menu – it was a special occasion after all…
The menu started with Tuna “Crudo” with Burrata Pugliese, Smoked Lettuce and Tomato Essence. The raw tuna was locally sourced and was a soft and delicate as you could wish, but what I was amazed by was the combination with the burrata (one of my favourite things ever) which worked wonderfully well. The little additions to the dish all complemented it nicely, caramalised onions, pickled celery all adding little bits of texture and flavour. I thought this was a very elegantly plated dish with some very clever, and slightly unusual, thinking behind its composition.
Next up was Marscapone and Aubergine Ravioli with Cod, Onion Cream and Smoked Ricotta. The Head Chef of the restaurant, Maurizio Bombini, is Italian and in these two courses his Italian influences were shining through loud and clear. This was another stormer of a dish, the filling to the ravioli was smooth, smoky and decadent. I thought the consommé could have packed a little more power in, but it was as clear and bright as a freshwater lake. Once more the little garnishes of basil shoots and edamame beans added a bit of additional interest to the plate. This dish also went absolutely beautifully with the white wine that we had with the first half of this dinner…
A 2015 Beringer Founders’ Estate Chardonnay (California, USA) which was a deliciously oaked Chardonnay (I definitely subscribe to the “no wood, no good” school of Chardonnay drinking) featuring ripe, green pear notes paired with caramel and butterscotch; on the palate it was nice and bright but with a succulent juiciness to it too which reminded me of Amalfi lemons. A medium to long finish that was nicely balanced and was a great food match.
Time to step it up a notch with the next course – Wagyu Beef Rib Eye served with Braised Tongue, Celeriac and Truffle Jus; you just know that this is going to be good from the name of the dish alone! The meat had been cooked sous-vide for a while and then finished off in the pan, which gave it a melt-in-the-mouth succulence, as well as a chargrilled outer profile. The celeriac mash was smooth, creamy and light, and the sauce was thick and luxurious, the one slight disappointment was that I didn’t feel that the truffle flavour came through as much as it could have. Overall, this was a stunning dish that really ticket the boxes in terms of decadence and sheer hedonistic pleasure.
To match with this course I had a glass of 2015 Babich Pinot Noir (Malborough, NZ); I was a little worried that it would be drowned out by the food bit it did a decent job of standing up against those dominant flavours. On the nose it had typical pinot notes of sour cherry and kernel, but also with a menthol-like freshness. On tasting it was a rather singularly fruit-forward with a bright cherry tang; not particularly complex or thought-provoking. Neither overwhelming, nor underwhelming (whelming, perhaps?).
Now it was time for some sweet! This came in the form of a Cherry-Chocolate Fondant with Vairhona Guanaja 80% Ivoire Chocolate Mousse and Amaretto di Saronno Ice Cream, which was essentially a take-on a Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte (Black Forest Gateau to the non-German speakers!). The fondant was just delightful, I just love the spectacle of cutting into it and watching all that sticky goodness oozing out all over the plate. Interestingly they went for Amaretto instead of using Kirschwasser, but this gave the dish an extra dimension and a little bit of grown-up wickedness – all of which I thoroughly approve of.
We ended the meal with my wife being presented with a birthday cake and a very sweet rendition of “happy birthday” from the waiting staff, who I must say were excellent throughout; their English skills were very impressive and their technical knowledge about the food was also exemplary. We also got a chance to meet Chef Bombini and had a very interesting chat with him about his influences and his experiences of living and working in Bali.