Sarah Douglas attains culinary nirvana at Settimo Cielo. Photos: Lucky 8.
NO one does sexy quite like the Italians, especially when it comes to food. The gang from The Layar is behind this latest little find in Seminyak and it has all the hallmarks of becoming a hot favourite with tourists and locals alike. Much like The Layar, which is located behind the newly opened Settimo Cielo restaurant, the design elements are what first draw your attention.
Intimate and incredibly stylish, Settimo Cielo is smaller than you might imagine. With deep booths lining the smoky walls and luxurious armchairs located around the central tables, it is the perfect place to settle in for a romantic dinner. Being Italians though, there is also plenty to like for families and groups of friends as well.
Chef Nicolas is behind the stoves and his youthful enthusiasm belies his experience. An Australian with a vaguely European accent, raised in Byron Bay, he took off for the bright lights of Sydney to learn his trade under such notables as Neil Perry before heading to Bali, where he has distinguished himself at Ubud’s Uma Cucina and Bridges, where he served as Executive Chef.
Last spotted shaking the pans with Ryan Clift at the Ubud Food Festival, he combines experience with passion in a fresh and accomplished way. His vision for Settimo Cielo (which translates as ‘Seventh Heaven’) places him a very comfortable place food-wise. It is his execution that sets it apart. “We call it rustic refined Italian, so we have taken traditional Italian favourites and we have refined them for a modern restaurant menu,” he explains.
So we see a hot favourite like beef carpaccio transformed into a sublime dish featuring fine slices of angus beef dressed with foie gras shavings, truffle dressing, caramelized figs, shucked parmesan and micro greens in a beautiful transformation. While the batter on the zucchini blossoms was a little heavy for us the sublime goat cheese filling more than compensated with the sweetness of pumpkin and a lively salsa verde.
A crudo of yellow fin tuna was sparkling and fresh, dressed with a little stracciatella, fried capers and peppered up with rucola, mint, basil, a pistachio pesto and a sprinkling of crispy pangrattato crumbs. The bruschetta arrived on grilled sourdough, made in-house like all the bread, dressed with ribbons of chargrilled zucchini, seasoned ricotta, a smoky eggplant puree and loads of garlic. Rustic? Yes. Refined? Definitely.
The plates themselves are another design feature that plays into the concept; thoughtful and varied, the aim is to appeal to all the senses; the nose, the eye, and the taste buds. Nicolas is hands-on in this restaurant and it is small enough that he is able to talk the customers through the menu, and his enthusiasm is contagious.
General Manager Federico has been on the island for over two decades and slips easily into his role as host, greeting many of the diners as old friends. The aesthetics avoid being precious with the help of these two. Best of all, dishes are perfect for sharing, so we were able to sample a number of them and enjoy the full compliment of what the kitchen is capable of. Pasta courses were next and again, familiar dishes have been stepped up to meet the modern diner’s expectations.
Arriving in little copper saucepans, our selection included a home-made pappardelle with a lively fresh crab ragu, minty and lemony and dressed up with roasted cherry tomatoes. One of our favourites was the potato gnocchi dressed with tomato braised pork ribs, however the ravioli won our hearts. A large ravioli filled with a whole egg yolk, spinach and ricotta with a warm pumpkin, sage and pine nut dressing.
Mains all looked appealing so we left it to the chef who brought out a selection of two; a seared red snapper with caponata, mint, fennel and basil, together with a spiced and grilled chicken dish that is one of Chef Nicolas’ personal favourites; a great dish dressed with a sweet red wine dressing, pancetta wrapped radicchio, roasted capsicum and toasted hazelnuts, a definite winner.
Lulled into a very comfortable place supported by a great soundtrack and soft lighting, the wine list offers excellent variety at very reasonable prices, the diners will like this.
Dessert is a passion with the chef and our table had already noted a few we were lusting after, so the perfect solution arrived in the form of a tasting plate. A warm, oozy baked chocolate mousse was a standout and then so was the crisp, warm lemon tart. The tiramisu and an olive oil and rosemary panna cotta cut the sweetness and played off the others beautifully.
Settimo Cielo is perfectly located between Jl Oberoi and Jl Petitenget, off the beaten track but close to everything. It is also open for lunch and there’s plenty to like on this menu as well with an abbreviated selection of mains alongside fresh ciabatta selections, some grown up pizzas, pastas and risottos, some fresh salads and sides to choose from and the full compliment of desserts.
The restaurant slides very nicely into the Seminyak scene. It’s stylish without being pretentious, the food is a play on familiar dishes that shine with some subtle refinement and the location puts it in easy reach for casual or dressed up affairs (in fact, it’s the perfect place for an affair with the award-winning villas strategically located just behind the restaurant). The prices are reasonable and the selection will keep everyone happy. In short: it’s a slice of heaven.