Sunday, 24 November 2019

The boy named Budi

Let me tell you a great little recipe on how to make success using hard work.

I got a job in Spain. I spoke no Spanish. I knew I was screwed. With absolutely no idea of what anyone was saying and no idea of what I should do, I knew one thing for sure, it was only a matter of time before they would fire me. So, the plan was simple: survival, and this is how I did it. I needed to be the hardest worker in the kitchen, the first one in, the last one out and the one who said yes to everything, every job, and every task. My logic was that any human being with a basic conscience could not fire that guy, the guy who is giving it all, the guy who you feel sorry for, the same guy who is getting you zucchini when you asked for carrots because he has no clue what the hell anyone is actually saying. I did make many mistakes and I did get yelled at a lot, but the end result was victory. They didn’t fire me and I eventually learned enough Spanish to participate and gain their respect in place of their pity. So, this formula I know well, but I am always so proud of others who choose to apply it. One such example was Budi.

Our philosophy in Cuca from the very beginning was to train from zero and give young, happy, eager Indonesians a chance to become professionals. We are talking about 20-year-old kids with no English, and no previous experience. For most of them, the interview was their first time stepping into a restaurant. They would learn slowly, but they would learn our way, the precise way we wanted everything to be done. We were building professionals from scratch with no bad habits. The system was designed like high school, where each grade led to the next, and each one is necessary for the success of the one to follow. Graduation for each level came quickly, giving each student the feeling of success and motivating them to continue to the next grade, and by separating very well each level, the person above you was already a master of all the tasks you were doing, so the training could be done by them, providing a “big brother” system of caring unlike the standard military discipline of “life or death”. Now you can imagine the challenges, but the hope was we and the customers would benefit from the team’s fresh excitement and sincerity, and they from the opportunity of a future in hospitality. The idea came from years of doing the exact opposite and hiring the best bartender, the best cooks and the best waiters, where everyone wanted to score the goal and nobody wanted to pass the ball. So, Cuca would be a team where everyone would work together, with no superstars but a super team. One such example of this system is Budi.

Budi started working in Cuca from the day we opened our doors and was hired as stewarding. With no English, no restaurant experience and absolutely no clue, his task was to clean absolutely everything. He did, and after a few years, he wanted to learn kitchen. We granted his wish and transferred him, and he started from scratch, but with effort came skills and, before long, he was keeping up and getting it done. The more he learned, the more he grew, and last week we sat with him for yet again another promotion. Budi, the kid who started 7 years ago from zero, is now officially our Head Chef in Cuca. My right-hand man, the guy totally responsible for delicious. Now ain’t that a recipe of success through good old fashion hard work!

By Kevin Cherkas

Budi
                                                                                                                 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

A culinary fairytale

I arrived in Spain in June of 2003, I was 25 years old.

The plan was very simple, I was to “stage” (or better known as “work for free”) an entire year at what promised to be one of the best food temples on the planet. Restaurant Arzak, which sits on top of San Sebastian’s gastronomic hill of restaurants, bars, markets, and international food events, was to be my pilgrimage. With San Sebastian boasting more Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometer than anywhere else on earth, the food served in any one of them is brilliant. Local meats, cheeses, seafood, and vegetables come from a majestic landscape of turbulent aggressive coastal waters and vertical green mountain forests dripping with nutrition. The result is strong powerful ingredients that have personality and demand respect, and my job was to learn how to cook them with both one hand focused on tradition, and the other on evolution. It was to be an education in deliciousness.

During that year I spent at Arzak, the culinary circus came to town as it does every year in October. They call it “Gastronomika” and it is considered the most prestigious and important food event on the planet, with more than 1,5oo foodies, journalists, culinary groupies and students all showing up to see the ideas that set the trends for the year and direction for the future. The big attraction for Gastronomika is the individual acts performed by 20 chosen chefs spanning the globe that demonstrate what makes them and their restaurants stand out in today’s culinary landscape. Each of their 30-minute presentations must capture the soul of the massive audience who sit eagerly listening to the ideas, techniques, ingredients, and dishes they create. At 25 years old, I never had the time away from work, the financial means to afford the ticket or the skills to be able to grasp any of what was being taught, but later on I have wished, wanted and prayed for the chance to go back to this coastal town of culinary magic to see the circus of Gastronomika… one day.

That day came this month, when after 16 years I finally made it back to San Sebastian where it all began but this time not as a student, not as a spectator, but ironical as one of the 20 chefs chosen to tell their story. The rules are simple: 30 minutes, up to you, make a minimum of 2 dishes and during the presentation, you must serve 350 tasting portions of one of those dishes… Simple, right?

Day 1: October 6th
Pack everything you can possibly think of for the event from equipment, spices, fruits, vegetable, garnishes, stuff, lots of stuff! and fly Bali – Singapore – Amsterdam – Bilbao. First step: customs. Not good, everything searched and almost lost all the veg and fruit. That would have been a catastrophe but with bad Spanish, my answer of 150 sounded like 5 and my mistake was my salvation. From airport to Kursaal Trade and Convention Center to check the space, put everything in the fridges, eat and sleep. Day 1 done!

Team Cuca at the entrance of San Sebastian Gastronomika 

Day 2: October 7th
With Chef Pedro Subijana
9am – 8pm of preparation. Big hill to climb with 11 hours of cooking and putting things in place. Today was a big day with big chefs and big presentations. All the giants came out: Eneko Atxa, Arzak, the boys from Disfrutar restaurant in Barcelona, Dani Garcia with his last presentation for any conference and his retirement from “fine dining” with the closure of his 3 Michelin star restaurant and Martin Berasategui. I mean serious, serious, heavy-duty, proper chefs. An unbelievable day with all prep, for now, finished. Dinner started at 9pm but fished at 2am, an unavoidable late night as it was a collaboration of 6 chefs with each holding 3 Michelin stars. It was, in the world of food, a very rare meal that went very late. Bed.

Day 3: October 8th
Our day. A very good day! Very little sleep but ready. Morning prep and finish everything, not much appetite (with our presentation looming at 4:35pm) to do much more than stay close to all our food prep like a chicken would protect her eggs. Unnecessary, but very much critical to not making bad excuses for mistakes later on. With huge legendary chefs presenting again like Pedro Subijana, Joan Roca and Angel Leon, big, big names and huge stories to tell. Hours ripped by like minutes and before we had barely finished and organized ourselves, we were next, next in line. The kitchen lit up with action as our things all got moved into place like cars parking in a lot. It went from 30… to 20… to a quick pep talk with the boys we brought from Bali to crank out the four dishes we decided… 10… mike on… 2... go!
Ladies and gentlemen, members of the media, distinguished guests” my talk started “I know what you are thinking… Who the –u-k is this guy? My name is Kevin…” and it continued for 30 minutes. Telling of Indonesia’s most humble market ingredients, their fascinating properties, why we love them and what we create from them. Simple, powerful, clear. It went well. Celebrate. Late to bed as expected.

On stage

Day 4: October 9th  
No prep. Very happy. Our first day to see and watch and be students without the pressure of the presentation looming ahead. With many chefs still to go, the day was spent in the auditorium really listening and understanding the different ways great cooks make things taste better. Wonderful flavorful content that makes passionate professionals become great chefs, ideas that one person can only share one or two as each of them involves years of knowledge and deep understanding. Great day. The boys flew home and Virginia and I walked with friends, both exhausted from the rush of the week. “Nice to meet you again” I always tell her at the end of each pressure-cooking life experience, and we carry on.

As the San Sebastian Gastronomika 2019 comes to its end, it’s hard not to think about how 16 years ago I arrived here with the dream of a cook and how now today I leave with the reality of getting the most I could out of this remarkable foodie town.

Not back to Bali just yet! With 2 weeks needed to decompress and allow life to catch up, we are off to eat dishes we may have missed throughout the north of Spain. Wait and see how Cuca’s next menu gets influenced by what just might get eaten tomorrow.

Kevin
                                                                                                                                        

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Chef Kevin for "Hello Bali" magazine

In our post today we would like to share with all you a recent interview by the magazine Hello Bali to Chef Kevin Cherkas. Check it out if you are curious to know more about Cuca and our co-founder.

Hi Chef, what could you tell us about yourself? I was born in Canada and at a young age became obsessed with food, eating, and discovering all and any delicious dishes I could find. This has taken me all over the world to work and continue pursuing my passion for both cooking and consuming.

As an owner and a head-chef at Cuca, how would you perfectly describe Cuca for anybody who hasn’t been there? Cuca is a family business run by my wife Virginia as the Business Director and myself who takes care of the kitchen. We get inspired by the world’s classic comfort food dishes and re-create those memories for our guests. We serve Tapas, Cocktails and Desserts crafted exclusively from Indonesian ingredients. So, to summarize, expect a casual experience that is totally focused on food.

As someone who is not from Indonesia, why did you choose Bali to open Cuca? Oh wow, where should I start? A huge bounty of amazing produce, beautiful warm friendly people, intriguing culture, and international clientele are just to name a few reasons why.

Cuca is one of the best restaurants in Asia according to TripAdvisor. In your own opinion, what is the secret to run such a successful restaurant? Hard work. Nothing can substitute for always giving 100% to do something special. Customers see the difference immediately when a restaurant has a heart.

Was there anything that you thought you wanted to do before you started cooking? I don’t think so. The only job I ever wanted was to cook and staying close to food just seemed to make sense as I love to eat.

How would your team describe you as a chef and as their boss? Hard but fair, pushing everyone to give their very best to become better. In Cuca, we lead by example, not with a pointed finger.

Do you have a signature dish? Or a favorite dish that you enjoy cooking? All of our dishes are signature. We create each of them; we don’t have any tapas, cocktails, or desserts taken from anywhere else. Among our customers’ favorites are our BBQ octopus or our Bali Breakfast dessert. People come just to eat these dishes. They will always be a part of our menu and a part of our success.

Which talent you would most like to have that you don’t possess? Patience. I am very passionate about everything I do, so patience is not a quality I possess, it is one that admires a lot in others.

Is there a childhood comfort food that you think about? Shepherd’s Pie. The kind of old school cooking that really fills your stomach and makes you sleepy. In winter, when you are cold and tired, eating an entire meal with a big spoon is always a comfort.

Do you think there are advantages of having a restaurant in Bali or Indonesia? Every place will have its advantages and disadvantages. In Bali, for example, is a place where everyone is on a holiday, so the customers tend to be in a great mood as opposed to a busy city like Jakarta where everyone is in a hurry and want a quick business lunch.

What kinds of ethnic food do you think are underrated right now? I would say Indonesian food is the world’s most underrated food. Every city in the world has a Thai restaurant, a Chinese restaurant, a Korean BBQ place, etc. Very rarely you see Indonesian restaurant. The people of Indonesia see their food as normal and nothing special but imported foods like caviar, truffles and foie gras are seen as exotic and amazing. What is very important to understand is the papaya or coconut in the local market in Canada is exotic.

Has there ever been an ingredient that you weren’t able to master and have given up on? Until we opened Cuca, it was Octopus. Octopus had defeated me for my entire culinary career. We decided to go to war with the 8-legged terrible tough Mollusk and can gladly proclaim we finally won.

What is the most interesting or fun experience from your time working in restaurants? The people. Normal people do not work in restaurants. It is like the place where the weird and wonderful end up. The staff of a restaurant makes up a unique demographic of the human population. Thank God for restaurants we now have a home where we belong.

What is your most memorable meal so far? There is a Japanese restaurant in Kuala Lumpur with a master Japanese chef that if you sit at his bar counter will make and serve you sushi that you eat from the palm of his hand. The experience is unforgettable, and the sushi is the best I have ever had. What restaurant do you ask? I worry the more popular it gets the less handheld sushi I get so you will have to take a guess.

Where is your go-to restaurant, aside from Cuca, for a perfect date night with the wife? To be totally honest, we really don’t go out often and it is never the same place. Date night is always at home with peace and quiet and the food is always good.

Lastly, what would be your “last request” dish? Easy, "chipirones en su tinta". It means ‘Squid in Its Ink’, or slow-cooked tender squids in a tomato-based white wine and onion gravy. The dish is from Northern Spain and is absolutely brilliant.

See the original interview here

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Our picks: Vancouver

As we mentioned a few months ago, we are always sharing our favorite restaurants from every city we know with the hundreds of customers we meet in Cuca every week in search of the tastiest food around the world. People seem to trust chefs’ favorites when choosing food and since everyone asks our humble opinion, we decided some time ago to start a proper “Our Picks” section where we give you our recommendations on where and what to eat.

We have covered Bali, Madrid and Singapore already and today’s blog entry is about Vancouver.
Vancouver is a very pretty city and those lucky enough to spend a few days always leave with the desire to go back. Western food is good but being Canada a multicultural country, the star options are the ethnic choices on offer. Take time to walk around the sea wall and Stanley Park area to understand why Vancouver is often voted as the best place to live on earth.



Bao Bei
This place serves very good Chinese fusion food. Think clever little dumplings and twists on the classics everyone loves. It gets busy so either book ahead or go off-peak hours.
Price: ***
What to order: Dumplings

Fanny Bay Oyster Bar
This place serves perfect seafood. With their own oyster farm on Vancouver Island, the freshness is unbeatable. Go from 3pm-6pm for happy hour and eat unbelievable freshly shucked oysters for $1.50 each.
Price: ***
What to order: Oysters

St Lawrence
The current star of the Vancouver food scene, this place is basically a brilliant French bistro. A small menu showcases seasonal products at their best. The best meal we had in the city, hands down. Book well ahead.
Price: *****
What to order: The appetizer section is very good. Do order an appetizer followed by a main.

Vijs
Serving in the minds of many the best Indian food in Canada, Vijs is a pilgrimage for deeply delicious comfort food. Only women cook in the kitchen and their love is evident in the result.
Price: ****
What to order: Any curry. Don’t order naan bread as it comes on its own.

Maenam
Every year this place wins best Thai restaurant and it is well deserved. You would be pressed to find better Thai food anywhere on the planet as the cooking is authentic and the ingredients are premium and local, making for one hell of a meal.
Price: ***
What to order: Anything in Penang curry.

Meat & Bread
It’s simple they make sandwiches. Very good ingredients in very good bread is what to expect in an informal way. Go early or late for lunch to avoid the cue and long wait.
Price: *
What to order: The Porchetta is the star.

Japadog
Think all the flavors you love about Japanese food splashed on a hot dog and shoved in a bun. Carts are scattered around town but seem hard to come by so we recommend the small café on Robson street to make sure you succeed or their latest branch at the airport.
Price: *
What to order: Korubuta Terimayo Dog is our top pick.

Beaucoup Bakery
For a perfect idea of what breakfast should be of fresh juice, croissants, and great coffee. The vibe is busy and caféesque with everything on offer hard to fault. Perfect place to people-watch and to grab an early feed before going to Granville Island market.
Price: *
What to order: Classic Croissant

Lebeau
This is where we eat breakfast every single day. Really! The Liege waffles are the best you will ever have. It is a cross between a waffle, a cookie and a cake. It is worth traveling from anywhere to eat. A must!
Price: *
What to order: Apple cinnamon Liege waffle.

Granville Island Market
The city’s most touristic location for all the right reasons. It is a market, a food court and a shopping Mecca where artisans make beautiful things. Wandering around the entire area will take up most of your afternoon and will be a highlight of your trip.
Price: **
What to order: Our tip is to take the water taxi’s over to the market and back making it a really nice way to begin and end the journey.


Thursday, 25 July 2019

San Sebastian Gastronomika 2019


A small seaside town in Northern Spain just might be the most delicious place on earth. Bosting more Michelin-starred restaurants per square kilometer than any other place on the planet, it is easy to see why connoisseurs from all over the world make the pilgrimage at one point in life to see for themselves the magic that is San Sebastian. Every October for the last 20 years, those chefs that sculpt gastronomy and push the evolution of everything food, meet for their version of the Olympics. They call it “Gastronomika” and it is considered the most prestigious and important hospitality conference, period.

With more than 13,000 foodies, journalists, culinary groupies and students coming to see what all the hype is about, the festival offers a Disneyland of activities all centered around food, although the real draw to the conference is the chef speakers who present themselves and their cooking over the 4-day event. Dominated by the culinary rock stars and legends of Spain, each year there are a handful of international Chefs that are lucky enough to stand alongside them. Each of their 30-minute presentations must capture the soul of the 1,500 people who sit eagerly listening like a Jedi for life-changing ideas, techniques, ingredients, and the dishes that will set the trends for the year and spark the direction for the future. With a fixed panel of 3 Michelin-starred Spanish chefs/superheroes such as Juan Mari Arzak, Dani García, Joan Roca, Martín Beresategui and Eneko Atxa, other speakers are selected by invitation only with the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory golden ticket system.

We in Cuca are shocked, honored and pee-yourself excited to have received the invitation for this year’s 2019 edition of San Sebastian Gastronomika. The only question left to answer is “If you had 30 min to speak to the best chefs in the world, what would you say?”. 

www.sansebastiangastronomika.com

Saturday, 29 June 2019

Our picks: Singapore


As we mentioned a few months ago, we are always sharing our favorite restaurants from every city we know with the hundreds of customers we meet in Cuca every week in search of the tastiest food around the world. People seem to trust chefs’ favorites when choosing food and since everyone asks our humble opinion, we decided some time ago to start a proper “Our Picks” section where we give you our recommendations on where and what to eat.

We have covered Bali and Madrid already and today’s blog entry is about Singapore. Singapore was our home for 4 years and a place we keep close to our hearts and our tummies! The city is full of great restaurants. Some of the best simple tasty dining is done in the “Singapore Hawker Centers”. If you pass by one, just look for the stalls with a queue and get in line. Anybody in line will be happy to tell you what you should order and why. 
The list of restaurants below are our favorites for price and value. Singapore is very expensive, but these ones became our must-eat regular spots. Get hungry and enjoy!



F.O.C.
This place serves great modern Spanish style small plate dining. Hip, funky and delicious. One of our absolute Singapore favorites. It sits beside 28 Hong Kong Street Bar (see below) which makes a great combo of drink and dinner.
Price: ***
What to order: something cooked in their specialty Josper oven.

Tiong Bahru Bakery
With a few locations, this place has outstanding French pastry, bread and café-style food.
Price: *
What to order: Kouign Amann which means “cake butter” and it is ridiculous.

Din Tai Fung
A Taiwanese chain restaurant that always seems to get a Michelin star for their well-made classic dumplings. We find the Din Tai Fung branches in Singapore even better than the original one in Taipei! Lunch is easier than dinner to grab a table and experience what they are famous for.
Price: **
What to order: Xiao Long Bao and seaweed salad. This salad sells out fast so be early!

Garibaldi
This is a top tier “fine dining” Italian restaurant with a very casual and relaxed, unpretentious vibe. With 1 Michelin star, the food is very good. A very well kept secret is they do a weekend brunch that is very good value and very, very delicious. A must!
Price: ****
What to order: Brunch. Despite all the tempting dishes offered at the beginning, save room for the pastas!!

Mustard
This place serves lesser known Indian Bengali and Punjabi dishes. It’s less coconut and more flavorful. The restaurant is very simple but the food is made fresh and tastes delicious.
Price: **
What to order: Choose everything you don’t know and have never had. Meat dishes are better than seafood.

Jade at Fullerton
The place serves a secret unassumingly great weekend dim sum brunch called Jade's Dim Sum Treasures. The venue is an icon and the food is fantastic. Make sure to book ahead. Some of the best classic style Chinese Yum Cha.
Price: ***
What to order: Weekend brunch.

Itacho Sushi
This place is a chain of Japanese sushi style restaurants throughout Asia. It is very cheap but very good. The menu is all photos and what you see is what you get. Great sushi at a ridiculous price for Singapore. Other hot dishes are average so stick to the fish!
Price: *
What to order: The rolled sushi.

Otto
This place is real Italian food with slick service. No frills or gimmicks, they do very little very well. Do reserve as the place is small and order the set lunch for a hard-to-come-by great deal in Singapore.
Price: ***
What to order: Risotto is a specialty

Long Beach@Dempsey
This place serves live seafood, cooked Chinese style. Quality is brilliant and dishes come fast and hot.
Price: ****
What to order: Don’t miss the Chili or Black Pepper crab, they are worth the flight to Singapore alone! Ask what is the largest they have. 1kg size is oceanic caveman comfort food. For a gluttonous seafood feast, add on the razor clams.

28 Hong Kong Street
Don’t judge a book by its cover. This unassuming entrance becomes one of the world’s best classic bars. Go for a pre-dinner drink as later on it gets busy and tables are hard to come by.
Price: **
What to order: Stick to the classics. They are perfect!

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Our picks: Madrid

As we mentioned a few months ago, we are always sharing our favorite restaurants from every city we know with the hundreds of customers we meet in Cuca every week in search of the tastiest food around the world. People seem to trust chefs’ favorites when choosing food and since everyone asks our humble opinion, we have decided to start a proper “Our Picks” section where we give you our recommendations on where and what to eat.

We covered Bali already and today’s blog entry is about Madrid, the capital of Spain and by far the capital of deliciousness within the country. You will find great restaurants everywhere in Spain, but Madrid has a huge concentration of brilliant places to eat and a unique opportunity to experience traditional food from all over the country. For its variety and consistently delicious food, there is nowhere else like Madrid!



San Gines
A must for breakfast, this place serves the best hot chocolate and churros in the world since 1894. Just across from the main entrance and the big queue of people waiting, there is a second store. Same product, same taste without the wait.
Price: *
What to order: of course Hot Chocolate and Churros. Do try the Porra: it is bigger and thicker than a churro with a slight yeasty taste, our favorite.

La Mallorquina
This place serves basically cakes, pastry and coffee. The main difference is many of the items they serve they have created and the rest of Spain now calls them "a tradition". Hustle in through the small doors into the cramped space filled with sugar-crazed zombies. Watch how others order and follow the organized chaos to sweet deliciousness.
Price: *
What to order: the one and only Napolitana de Chocolate.

Mallorca
Brilliant breakfast venue or if you are just looking for a snack between meals. Service is brilliantly professional and the whole experience is superb. It is truly a high-class coffee shop that serves well-crafted food.
Price: *
What to order: Tortel. Visually a badly made bagel and really nothing special but ironically one of the best pastries we have ever eaten. Don’t judge a book by its cover here. The Tortel is a wonderful fine soft almond paste wrapped in flaky soft bread pastry.

Las tortillas de Gabino
The Spanish tortilla in Spain is a big deal. Everyone has their favorite and the dish has become its own religion with people all worshipping a different standard. Some like it runny, some overcooked, some more potato, some less. We have tried them all but the ones served here are different, delicious and worth worshipping.
Price:***
What to order: The classic Valazqueña. The portions are big so don’t get excited.

La Tasquería
Listen, we don’t love eating liver, kidney, hearts and weird bits but…there are exceptions. This place crafts absolutely delicious luxurious dishes from the less glamorous parts. Unexpected, unrivaled. It hooked a Michelin star for how well things are done.
Price:***
What to order: Try the #heart #duck # raspberry dish. Best version of duck you will ever try.

La Barraca
This place specializes in rice dishes like Paella. They are absolutely brilliant at it and have been serving perfect rice for more than 80 years. Nothing modern or trendy here and that’s what we love about it.
Price:****
What to order: Queen shellfish Paella. Get them to put it right on the table and not serve it up for you in the back. The experience of eating right out of the hot pan is magic.

Punto MX
Holding one Michelin star. this place serves small bites of deep, earthy, smoky, unctuous modern Mexican food. Taste takes center stage and the time usually wasted on fancy decoration is spent on proper cooking.
Price:****
What to order: go for the Long Tasting menu.

La Bien Aparecida
Traditional grandma style comfort food with brilliant seasonal products, this restaurant showcases some of Spain's classic dishes done very very well. Slick simple modern dining room provides the space to enjoy the best of what’s in season.
Price:*****
What to order: our favorites are the Flores de alcachofas con migas de rabo de toro (artichokes with oxtail), the egg croquettes (their specialty and a must to try!) and their steak tartar with mustard ice cream.

Pazo a Coruña
This is a Galician restaurant and Galicia is world famous for seafood and that’s what this place does very well. A grown-up establishment that serves extraordinary fresh seafood cooked perfectly. What you order is what you get, no surprises, no messing about. Old school proper cooking that everyone would love. 
Price:****
What to order: A star of the menu is the Merluza a la Gallega. Order some appetizers like clams, mussels or grilled squid to start and then the merluza for main. Order only one portion to share between two unless you’re a Viking!

La huerta de Tudela
Where age-old tradition and timeless cooking is devoured in clean and modern comfort. Out of dozens and dozens of proper meals eaten in Madrid this was the most delicious, period. What else can be said.
Price:****
What to order: with their own vegetable garden, ironically the star of the menu are the veggie dishes. The Potato Duquesa may be the best dish we have ever eaten. Seriously!

La Tasquita de Enfrente
Spain’s timeless classics are here honored and lifted using the absolute best seasonal products. The food is very simple but reflects purely on the quality of each ingredient. Service is incredible and the entire experience with only a few tables for the restaurant is like dining in the chefs home.
Price:****
What to order: take the tasting menu and be careful with ordering the “specials” that are not listed, the price may surprise you…

A cold renovated sterile white dining room and bar may not look like the best place to eat well but in this case, they are. Michelin has awarded them a Bib Gourmand distinction for delicious food and their rustic perfectly cooked seafood is some of the best. 
Price:****
What to order: Milhojas de Ventresca is a must and try the prawns from Huelva. Unbelievably good!



Monday, 29 April 2019

A story to be told

A late-night dinner between chefs never ends well and as proof, this is what we got ourselves into last time I met my chef friend the great Will Meyrick.

High from feasting on his delicious curries and over excited to have found someone equally mad about food, we somehow agreed and committed to something damn near impossible. We would travel to a place we had never been before, eat through the streets, coffee shops and simple restaurants to discover as much traditional food as possible. We would meet the people who cook the food and understand their story and the dishes they serve. All this information would be taken back to our kitchens and together like best friends we would craft new dishes completely inspired by those we ate and by the methods used to prepare them. The idea at the time sounded genius: to tell the story of our journey through food. But, having never worked together before and coming from completely different culinary backgrounds, telling a story in two different languages was going to need some translation.

So, with fingers crossed and the location selected, we were off to one of Indonesia’s thousand islands: Southern Kalimantan.

To really learn you must be seen as a curious student, not an arrogant teacher, a big challenge with a TV crew and their daunting cameras following every step we took. To sum up the 6 day trip, we devoured everything we came across: smoky char-grilled wild duck, boiling rich herbal chicken soup, crunchy fried river fish dusted in roasted rice dust, Arabic-influenced slow cooking, fermented exotic fruit jams, rustic fish and rice cooked on the jungle floor in young bamboo over open fire and so much more. Indeed we ate Kalimantan and discovered powerful full-flavored hearty comfort food squeezed directly from bustling local markets and cooked by proud locals. A week full of those magical moments when someone gives you their food and curiously watches for a reaction as you try something for the very first time. All that was left was to now try and figure out how to put that into a dinner that gives every guest that experience not just as it was, but the way we would like to translate it.

With a 12 course menu of new dishes modeled from those old traditional molds, ceramics hand-crafted precisely for each dish, a dining room set like a jungle with the echoing sound of the forest, weeks of cooking, tuning and testing, the stage is set and our story of Southern Kalimantan ready to be told.

Tickets still available for May 11, 7pm at Som Chai restaurant in Seminyak. Book yours here





Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Our picks: Bali

Personally meeting hundreds of customers every week, all of them in search of the tastiest food around the world, over the years we have shared countless times our favorite restaurants from every city we know. People seem to trust chefs’ favorites when choosing food and since everyone asks our humble opinion, we have decided to start a proper Our Picks section where we give you our recommendations on where and what to eat.  But just because we may help you find a new favorite don’t forget about your first love, Cuca!

Bali

The Bali food scene has changed a lot over the last 10 years with numerous great restaurants popping up using the bounty of amazing local produce. As crazy as it sounds, traditional delicious Balinese food is still very difficult to find in Bali. So, with that said, these are Cuca’s picks for the Island.

Jimbaran

Karya Rebo
This place serves the best version of Bali’s most iconic dish of fire roasted suckling pig. Brilliant!
Price: *
What to order: Suckling pig (babi guling)

Sundara
This place has the best sunset lounge. Great prices on cocktails between 5-7pm Happy Hour. Cocktails are designed by one of the world’s best bartenders Javier Delas Muelas. It is at the Four Seasons Hotel so it is delux.
Price: *****
What to order: Cocktails

Lia Cafe
This place serves Jimbaran’s best seafood BBQ. Siting with your feet in the sand and eating open fire freshly grilled seafood on the beach.
Price: ***
What to order: 2 large prawns per person, a fresh red snapper and fried squid. Very good.

Nusa Dua

Bumbu Bali
This place is Cuca’s favorite in the island for authentic delicious Balinese food in a classic setting. Great value, hearty, super tasty.
Price: ***
What to order: Sate Lilit

Seminyak

Sansaka
This place serves clever and tasty Indonesian fusion cooking. This is their sister restaurant to Merah Putih and is much smaller and more intimate. Say hello to chef Kieran and tell him Cuca sent you.
Price: ***
What to order: try some small plates like Opor Bebek

Wacko Burger
This place serves perfect flame grilled burgers. Combinations range from the classics to the creative. It may seem crazy that we recommend a burger place while in Bali but it is a great burger and makes for a proper lunch.
Price:**
What to order: Must add the fried chili to any burger for a wicked spicy crunch

Bambu
This place serves great classic Indonesian fare. Very tasty and well presented the restaurant is a beautiful romantic venue in the heart of busy Seminyak. Best for dinner.
Price: ****
What to order: Keep an eye open for the daily specials, they sell out fast.

Ubud

Pulau Kelapa
This place serves great classic Indonesian food. Everything is made fresh to order and is authentic and very cheap. The venue is a hundred-year-old traditional Javanese house that in the evening feels like you have stepped back in time.
Price: **
What to order: Beef ribs

Sari Organik
Bali’s original organic café. Food comes straight from their garden and the 20-minute walk through organic rice fields until you reach the open air bamboo hut is magic.
Price: *
What to order: Try the unusual healthy drinks

Room 4 Dessert
Appearing on Netflix Chef Table series the rock star Chef Will Goldfarb blows people away with very clever ultra-unique desserts in his desert only restaurant. The venue is a shabby tin very understated building with a bustling sweet crowd. Say hello to Will and tell him Cuca sent you.
Price: ****
What to order: Dessert tasting menu

Night Rooster
This place serves some of Bali’s best cocktails based on local ingredients. The venue is a classic cocktail bar with a sophisticated vibe.
Price: ****
What to order: Your chance to try something new

Bedugul

Hot Chocolate House
Delicious Balinese hot chocolate is just what you need in the cool weather of the highlands. Don't miss the flower garden towards the lake.
Price: *
What to order: the classic hot chocolate, the pastel ayam and the popcorn chicken are our favorites.



Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Where to eat

The joy of traveling is discovering those magical places where we feel we are truly experiencing where we are or where we get to live a moment that we know we will remember forever. We know we are tourists but we don’t want to fall into uninspired tourist traps. We instead hope to get to places that are worth our precious few holiday moments.

The challenge is to find those little gems in a world where the amount of information is overwhelming, where a quick research on google takes you to dark corners of knowledge totally unrelated to your original quest. It is funny how with all of today’s technology we still end up depending on friends' recommendations or old fashion guide books that never seem to let us down.

That is why we are so proud and excited to be featured in well-respected guides that are as trusted as good friends pointing you to the goodness that awaits in those holiday destinations. And the most amazing thing is that we only find out Cuca has made it when we see you walking confidently through the door holding that little bible, wherever you are coming from,
and proudly proclaiming “I was told I need to eat here” and then it’s up to us to prove how right your little friend was.



Tuesday, 22 January 2019

A new Cuca

After more than five years of feeding those traveling through Bali, a lot in Cuca has changed. Every single day we understand more and more what our customers are looking for and we are constantly finding new ways to get better. Little things make a big difference and caring about everything goes a long way!

The food since we opened has changed dramatically (for the best, we want to think!) and with a bigger team, more work can go into every dish and every drink. Our service has gone from simply getting you what you ordered with a smile, to providing a real personal experience where we know what you want before you have to ask. But our dining room and garden lounge are still exactly the same and just like everything else and all of us, they must get better. So, after months of contemplating how to keep all of what people love about Cuca but stay one step ahead of an ever-changing culinary scene, we have started to add some spectacular new touches.

Rather than giving everything away and ruining the movie, let’s just say that a new private room for 40 people is already completed for smaller groups to celebrate in style, a new reception now welcomes and farewells you with lots of handcrafted souvenirs to take with you, our entire garden lounge will soon become a destination with more people choosing to dine and chill outside...

There will be heaps of changes so stay tuned and we look forward to welcoming you with the same smiling faces to a new and very improved Cuca!!! 

Cuca's brand new private dining room