Their concept is simple but niche. It is the fusion of 100% locally sourced Balinese and Indonesian ingredients interwoven to form a menu of internationally inspired dishes, served as tapas-style sharing plates. It goes against the grain of how I usually eat on my travels, plunging head first into authentic, local specialties and avoiding luxe, fine dining establishments unless for a special occasion.
But when I read the rave reviews about Cuca Jimbaran and that by sheer coincidence, it happened to be right on the grounds of the lavish Kayumanis Resort, where I was residing, I knew I’d have to swallow my words to try it.
Only open for a year or so and led by a head chef who has trained at the likes of world renowned El Bulli in Spain and Michelin starred restaurant, Daniel, in New York City, it has rapidly gathered acclaim amongst Indonesia’s foodies, tourists across the world and celebrity guests such as David Hasslehoff. Indeed, the staff at Cuca were very proud of their visit from Raymond Blanc, whose signature decorates the wall of the kitchen.
A gastronomic evening at Cuca Restaurant, Jimbaran
By the time we arrived for our 9pm reservation, the place was packed full of enthused diners but we were fortunate enough to be seated at the chef’s table, eager to watch all the action unfold. As the staff contentedly welcomed us to enjoy our meal as slowly as we wanted, we even had the chance to have a chinwag with the chefs at the end of the night. The passion and enthusiasm of both the chefs and the waiting staff were all-consuming.
The cocktail menu alone inspired eager anticipation, featuring ingredients such as hibiscus and watermelon. As a teetotaler, I often draw the short straw at restaurants but here at Cuca, perhaps for the first time ever, I spotted that each and every cocktail comes with a formally listed mocktail option.
There was a youthful fun-filled energy exuded by my choice, which was presented with a citrus ice lolly at the top ready for dipping into the watermelon mocktail. Pumpkn’s Tokyo Mojito came with a large boulder of cucumber-flavoured ice. We found these drinks so refreshing and innovative, that we returned again for some midday hydration the following day.
Cuca are proud of their local produce, so to give us a taster about what was to come, our night started off with a puff made of the herbs and spices usually included in a traditional Balinese dish known as Ayam Betutu (lemongrass chicken.) Without the chicken, this was essentially a vegetarian cluster of spices clumped together to form a soft amouse bouche of light, chewy strangeness. Strange yet bursting with flavours that incrementally dissolved on the tongue, layer by layer.
And then came the tricky challenge of having to make our own decisions from a menu where almost every item appealed but after detailed deliberation, we selected these:
Smoked Butterfish, beetroot yoghurt, avocado, breadcrumbs, wild fennel
Honey baked pumpkin salad, coconut granola, creamy green bean, tarragon
Roasted Tiger Prawns, Sweet and sour baby zucchini, red chilli, coconut broth, lime leaf
Crispy fried chicken, wild honey, country coleslaw, sesame dust, Asian basil
Warm melting cheese, candied coconut granola, papaya jam, rosemary
Featured on both the main and dessert menus, we took liberties by ordering this cheese course with the rest of the savoury plates. By ordering a dessert under the facade of a main course, I felt like the teenage rebel doing the walk of shame home. And just like that teenager, it felt every bit worth the gamble.
The honey roasted pumpkin salad, crispy chicken and strawberry cloud cake were without doubt my highlights but every plate concealed a sense of intrigue and discovery, aptly mirroring each day of our visit to this culturally rich and lush island.
And with exquisite presentation and trickles of tropical colour lacing every dish, it would have been rude not to indulge in a little something sweet especially when the staff were kind enough to surprise us with complimentary desserts!
In a recent post, I mentioned how I brought back a packet of pandan tea from Bali but truth be told, feed me pandan anything and I will be a happy lady so once I spotted this dessert on the menu, I knew where my loyalties lay.
Freshly baked sponge cake with strawberries, homemade pandan gelato and berry cream
Named so because of the light and airy property of this sponge, this was a delightful breather of a dessert to polish off a late night meal. Us Brits are no strangers to November clouds but perhaps they would be all the more welcome in this form.
As a child, it was Baskin Robins Pistachio Almond ice cream that always had me throwing a tantrum for more but for Pumpkin, vanilla and mint choc chip had no further competitors and even now, he hasn’t strayed much from his official party line. The latter combination, though, is not one I have ever comprehended. Seriously, it’s like Colgate with Dairy Milk. It just doesn’t work. Does it? For the first time in my life at Cuca, I found out it can, especially when the ice cream is made from fresh mint rather than toothpaste mint. My teaspoon developed the aggressive knack of cornering Pumpkin’s more courteous teaspoon, slowly and manipulatively, so that I could selfishly enjoy the final melting drops of this emerald burst of freshness.
Jimbaran Bay Bali has no shortage of tasty restaurants particularly if you have a fondness for beachside seafood but if you can spare yourself an afternoon or evening to explore a more novel, unique and gastronomic dining experience, this is the one not to miss.
Have you found a restaurant abroad that took you by surprise?
23 thoughts on “Cuca Jimbaran Bay – A Unique Restaurant Experience in Bali”
I’m seriously drooling at every single dish, Shikha!! I can’t even pick what appeals to me the most, but that cheese dish sounds sooo interesting and good! The butterfish rose is beautiful and the desserts all look decadent. We usually don’t eat at any fancy places, since we can never be sure if the high price tag would actually be worth it (many times I find that I like street food versions much more!) but this one looks truly exceptional!
I’m usually the same when I’m on holiday Anna and rarely bother with fine dining abroad. London has so many fancy places anyway that I actually enjoy something a bit more authentic usually when travelling but this place was so unique and each dish was different to anything I had tried before. The cheese was definitely one of my highlights too but then I’ve already listed at least 3 others in this post so I obviously couldn’t make my mind up about what I liked most!!
Wow! This plus looks amazing! I’ve made a note of it for when I’m in Bali in August.
Lots of love,
Thank you! I really hope you like it too Angie and if you do end up going, maybe you’ll be able to give me the lowdown on some of the other dishes I missed out on trying here too ☺
Oooh, this looks so good. And inspiring. I’d love to have thought up that beetroot yoghurt with avocado bread crumbs.
Me too! I never would have come up with these ideas! That was one of the things I enjoyed most about their innovation. It was a lovely meal with some really passionate chefs behind it! Thank you for reading Mette ☺
Hmmmm… onion rings! I love even the generic kind, but these look fantastic! I’d love to have a go at some of those cocktails too. 😀
I’m in total agreement Katie. I’ve always been partial to a good onion ring and all the better if world class chefs are making them!
This restaurant looks so interesting! I love mint ice cream, so glad this place made it nicely for you 🙂 They are really so creative with their flavour combinations, its very impressive.
Ash | Liakada Travel
Really unusual pairings of flavours aren’t they Ash?! I found it just amazing to realise how different fresh mint ice cream tasted to the mint choc chip I used to try as a child – this was so fresh! And I like fresh mint in most other forms so I’m glad they finally won me over with mint choc ice cream here! ☺
Think I will have to try this in September! I love the name, Strawberry Cloud Cake
Suze | LuxuryColumnist
I hope you end up giving it a try Suze & enjoying it! They’ve put so much heart and soul into this place and that really came through in these creative plates!
You’re making us drool! The restaurant looks great… Last year, we stayed at the Kayumanis Villas Ubud and Kayumanis Nusa Dua. Both were amazingly luxe properties (villas with private pools). We imagine their Jimbaran property is equally special.
I remember reading your Kayumanis review Janice and George and I think I vaguely recall that you had kindly commented on my Kayumanis Jimbaran post a couple of months ago! I agree they really are such wonderful luxe properties ☺ As for the restaurant, we were so lucky to have somewhere so innovative and gourmet so near the hotel so had to make time for it and we were so glad we did – it was just delicious!
I have just had dinner but if all that was set before me I would make room for more. Everything looks delicious.
Thanks Rachael! I am slowly learning the importance
of reading foodie blog posts on a full stomach! I get progressively more fat if I don’t do so
I’ve just had my breakfast but now I’m absolutely drooling at all of these beautifully presented dishes! The Raymond Blanc signature on the wall is absolutely adorable, and I’m loving the fact they do delicious mocktails – just my cup of tea, too 😀 x
Thanks Emily! I’m always impressed when a restaurant manages to prepare dishes that look this good, taste this good AND are so inventive with their flavours! It was such a lovely experience and I finally felt like I got to hold a fun and elegant drink even though it was a mocktail as so often the only choices available to us are just different takes on fruit punch!
I just had dinner and my mouth was watering with every delicious dis you showed. They all look and sound delicious and I love the presentation. Yum! Pandan is very common in Filipino dishes including desserts but I’ve never had pandan gelato. Thanks for this visual feast!
Thank you for reading Mary! I should make a trip to the Philippines one day then – I’ve been wanting to go anyway and now you say they use pandan in a lot of dishes, I’m even more tempted! The food here was fantastic – writing the post made me crave another meal there ☺