Text: Steffi Victorioso & Michael Pohorly. Images: Lucky 8
THERE’S enough modernist cooking equipment in the open concept kitchen at Mejekawi, Ku De Ta’s new second level restaurant, to suggest there will be more than a few influences of Molecular Gastronomy on chef Benjamin Cross’s menu. However, the Ultrasonic Homogenizer, Rotary Evaporator and a Water Circulator, that slow cooks food to 0.1 of a degree, are still overshadowed here by a much more traditional cooking technology – fire, via the inset giant open-flame stone grill.
Getting the mix right between the high-tech progressive and the naturalistic, the cutting-edge and the classic, is what made Ku De Ta iconic, and it’s latest offering is no exception. Mejekawi, overlooking the famous beach club’s courtyard and oceanfront, is an upscale tasting kitchen boasting a brilliant Indonesian-inspired menu. The cuisine is refined and sophisticated. This carefully constructed menu revolves around ingredients sourced from a few local farms, and everything is made in-house from scratch.
There are two set menus to choose from: the seven-course, or, for the fanatical foodies, the 11-course dinner. Dishes are perfectly paired with drinks, not necessarily being wine. From champagne to sake, red wine and white wine, sweet or dry, each drink pairing was crafted specifically to enhance the flavour profile of each dish.
The restaurant’s simple décor is understated, allowing diners to maintain their focus on the food. Surprisingly, the highlight of the room isn’t the view of the ocean. It’s the view of the open kitchen in the center of the dining room – there is something to be said about a chef and his brigade cooking out in the open for everyone to see.
The meal started off with coral trout and sambal on a crispy fried tempeh chip. It awakens the pallet, a worthy opening act to the rest of the menu, which included many must-try highlights. Paying homage to its more common babi guling likeness, the suckling pig terrine with pickled palm hearts is a delicate preparation of such rich ingredients. Who knew it was possible to make suckling pig taste light and delicate?
I was enchanted by the server’s tableside presentation of the oxtail soup . . . pouring the silky, rich broth onto the oxtail meat and charred onion inside the bowl. The unbelievably tender chunk of oxtail was perfectly cooked and practically melted in the soup. And I was surprised by the unlikely but delicious drink pairing of a glass of sake with such a robust dish.
The “lobster roll”, as it’s referred to on the menu, is a cheeky misnomer, as the lobster in question is actually a distant relative, a giant prawn. This dish, beautifully composed and well balanced, was a star dish of the night. The tangy kimchi aioli brought out the sweetness of the homemade brioche and the buttery prawn.
The dessert – all four plates of it – was sweet and texturally intriguing. Whereas the seven-course dinner finishes with a more straightforward chocolate dessert, the 11-course enters avant-garde Molecular territory with a vanilla panna cotta, a praline sponge, a baby macaroon, and marshmallows.
Adding to the overall delight here, the staff weren’t only friendly and attentive, but extremely knowledgeable. Everything was cooked to perfection. And although some of the dishes feature different cooking techniques, all the dishes remain purely Indonesian, proving that it is possible to do fine dining Indonesian cuisine without the help of fusion distractions.
Ku De Ta earned bragging rights as being Bali’s first and most famous beach club, and now Mejekawi offers up another uniquely satisfying experience.