We were blown away by an Indonesian tapas menu that surprises from the start at SVÁ. Images: Lucky 8.
Local flavours and a contemporary vision set the scene at the new contemporary home of eats, drinks and beats in Berawa. SVÁ, (pronounced Swar), is a venue that overshadows its neighbours, standing a full three stories and clad in latticed black iron.
The ground floor bar overlooking the parking lot, in the shadow of Finns beach Club, gives only a glimpse of what lays await on the floors above. It’s a teaser, a taster, a place to sample an intoxicating cocktail inspired by local ingredients like turmeric, ginger, kemangi, cinnamon and pandan. Small bites follow suit with samplers like lumpia stuffed with seasonal vegetables, tenggiri fish cakes and a tangy tahu (tofu) spiked with palm sugar and tamarind.
Upstairs the full experience begins in the formal dining room that offers Indonesian tapas plates that travel from the garden, over land and sea. The real surprise comes in the shape of Chef Euis, who has packed a lifetime of experience into her short but travelled resumé. From her home in Bogor, Java, where her mother’s cooking inspires her dishes, to Dubai, to a stint at Blanco par Mandif, a master with Indonesian dishes, to her time with an Italian chef on the picturesque island of Bawah.
“My mother taught me about respecting ingredients, transforming local ingredients into delicious dishes prepared over time. Mandif opened my eyes to a modern version of Indonesian dishes. Working at Blanco par Mandif in the early days, cooking for just 10 guests, taught me about perfection, but it was an Italian chef who taught me to cook with love and passion,” she explains.
She learned early in her career that in the pursuit of perfection, taste is sometimes sacrificed. At SVÁ, she does it her way and the presentation is every bit as painstakingly beautiful as the taste. Her tapas dishes are designed with maximum impact, a real respect for ingredients and a solid knowledge of Indonesian food. From here she elevates the menu to present-inspired dishes that are lighter and fresher than the original. She wants people to sample more dishes, without feeling full to overflowing. Indonesian food can be heavy and rich, at SVÁ Euis aims to heighten the experience in a semi-fine dining setting.
The dining room itself is expansive and formal, with banquettes and tables scattered throughout the space, surrounded by windows. The service is charming and relaxed yet efficient.
Our Sunday evening meal began with cocktails downstairs, before we headed upstairs. While downstairs is created for a cocktail and a light bite, the dining room invites you to explore the affordable and brief but captivating menu.
We began with an urab salad, a very common dish across Indonesia, made with snake beans and a creamy coconut sauce. This version arrives deconstructed, the seasonal vegetables retain a fresh bite, a peanut cracker adds crunch, a light shredded coconut paste brings the flavours together and unusual additions like shredded red cabbage add colour and bite. Our waitress tosses the salad at the table to mingle the flavours; it’s fresh and delicious.
From the land menu we chose Tongseng Kambing, two perfectly seasoned lamb chops served with baby cos lettuce, cassava and coconut béchamel and a beautiful lamb jus. Absolutely delicious and a steal at just Rp85,000 for two lamb chops.
Next on our list is Bebek Betutu, a Balinese-inspired dish that the Chef has recreated using a duck breast, cooked sous-vide style and then crisped at the last minute resulting in a tender, juicy piece of duck breast with all the signature spices of a classic betutu. This is also priced to appeal at under Rp100,000.
From the sea we chose the Udang Bakar Madu, (charred prawns) another familiar dish that was absolutely on the money. The texture of the prawns was ideal; the sauce was a perfect balance of sweet and savoury, definitely recommended for seafood lovers.
Euis feels a responsibility as a chef to promote local cuisine. Her time with Chef Mandif opened her eyes to how beautifully Indonesian food can translate to a fine dining experience. This sparked a passion in her, which is very clear on this menu.
Indonesian desserts are not easy to translate for western tastes, but again, Chef Euis has done it perfectly on this menu. It borders on revolutionary. Dadar Gulung is a dish familiar to most Indonesians. Heavy on the pandan and coconut, loaded with palm sugar, it is generally very sweet. This version is light, the pandan balanced perfectly with jackfruit, the coconut comes as a steamed sponge and a nitro ice cream, which is both creamy and crunchy sparkles with pandan but doesn’t overpower. Wow.
Sago is another dessert that Indonesians may recognize but not in this form. Based on the coconut biscuits that are native to her home in Bogor, these form a crunchy base, layered with mango sauce, a mango gel, a steamed coconut sponge, caramelized banana and coconut ice cream, again flash frozen using nitro.
The menu here incorporates local flavours, contemporary plating and classic cooking techniques, but what surprises most is the balance brought to each thoughtful dish. And this talented young female chef who has such a clear vision of what she wants to achieve.
Upstairs, the final level in the SVÁ experience is a nightclub that sparkles with disco balls playing off smoky interiors. It is in its final lead up to opening on our visit so we’re denied a dance but it’s easy to see that a lot of money and effort has created this multi level venue.
The name SVÁ is derived from Sanskrit and the owner wants to imprint her Balinese culture onto the venue on an energetic level. It is contemporary, it is atmospheric (once you head upstairs) and it brings something new to this part of Berawa. Take the time to meet the chef, she’s inspiring and her menu throws a spotlight on Indonesian food through her light and beautiful tapas dishes that will surprise you. They did me.