Ondy Sweeting checks out the menu at Bali’s newest nightspot.
ShiShi Bali is the island’s newest and most elegant clubbing destination with a superb supercharged restaurant delivering a crossbred Asian menu that is the food of gods.
Under the talented direction of English-born and long-time Bali-based chef James Ephraim the kitchen is on fire and turning out wicked plates of delicately flavoured steamed wontons, Korean Fried Chicken, freshly shucked oysters, sushi, gyoza and real-deal caviar.
The entire menu has been developed around the premise that guests will take a ride up ShiShi’s dramatic glass elevator for some post prandial booty shaking in the awesome nightclub and are not likely to want to eat a lavish curry before hitting the dance floor.
James spent months devising, developing and testing dozens of dishes for the Asian bistro and late night diner and it was almost set in print. Then he had a change of direction.
“Just before we opened, I came into the kitchen and announced everything we had done was going. I didn’t want it and we would start again,” says James.
Such a move would likely traumatise most kitchen staff who has practiced the menu from steaming buns to perfection right down to the positioning of the micro herbs when plating. But the ShiShi team pulled behind him and back to the drawing board they went.
The results are the evidence of a master manipulator of ingredients and inspiration.
ShiShi’s menu is a series of share plates that showcase Ephraim’s skill at integrating Japanese cuisine into a broader Asian menu.
“We had originally planned a pan-Asian menu – but thought ‘what is pan Asian?’ and decided to narrow it down. A lot of the menu is Japanese inspired because it is so light and delicious,” says James.
Expect to experience bonito flakes paired with truffle, miso with yams and turnip yuzu. Weaving these delectables with delicate white fish, rich slow cooked Wagyu beef cheek and briny shell fish is a master stroke that deserves a culinary medal.
Korean-style fried lamb rack is butter soft and flavour is enhanced with a dash of garlic and soya off set with the famed Anglo addition to lamb of mint. While wild mushroom matched with truffled noodles is meaty and delicious. A course of local slipper lobster in a sensuous garlic and miso butter is simple and superb.
The amuse bouche has yellow fin tuna topped with caviar served in a cone, while the sushi – which comes in some brilliant blends including grilled tiger prawn, tobiko and spicy lump crab – is served on a custom-made, hand forged stand that is as beautiful an art form as the sushi.
As one would expect from James, condiments such as pickles, dipping sauces and hot roasted chili sauce are made in the kitchen from hand-picked produce that has to be the up to mark.
“I have always been mad about excellent ingredients. They are the backbone of flavour and the best way to coax out the complexity of a particular dish. There is no point creating a dish if you do not have the right mix of quality ingredients,” says James, who uses only specific types of chili for his piquant sauce. When it is at its best, he makes the chili sauce in bulk to ensure supply.
ShiShi has a late night supper menu that is sectioned into cheekily named ‘Foo King fried rice’ and ‘Koo King noodles’; a section from the ocean and the land while entrees are named and shamed as ‘foreplay’. ShiShi has six different types for ‘dirty Asian dumplings’, including two dishes that are vegan. In fact, given the upscale dining of ShiShi, vegans have a great choice that covers tempe and mushrooms, vegetable fried rice, sushi rolls and wok-seared edamame. These dishes have been developed to deliver an intense energy hit packed with flavour that will underpin a night of carousing in the club and prep the guest to go back for more without feeling weighed down.
Two desserts are on the late night supper menu including the astonishing yuzu cheesecake where James puts lime curd, honey shortbread, mango sorbet, lemon basil and olive crumble in the same glass and the flavours coalesce seamlessly.
ShiShi, which is in Petitenget, is a stunning multi-function destination set over several levels with various bars and a chic nightclub that has leather banquettes overlooking the dance floor.
Given the popularity of these limited spots, it is best to get in early and reserve one for the night. Throughout the venue the abundant staff are well trained and know their subjects well from matching a wine with a spicy laksa to delivering chilled French champagne and caviar to a night club table. Nothing is too much trouble.
The elegant interiors of ShiShi are fashion forward down to the curve of the bar and the fabulous lighting. It is design porn at its best and addicts will want to explore ShiShi as much as gourmets will explore the menu. Both aim to deliver pleasure. Both succeed.