Friday 23 February 2018

All about taste

When we tell people that we live in Bali their reaction is always one of jealousy. They instantly assume a tranquil life of surfing, sunsets and total utter relaxation. Well, unfortunately, the reality couldn’t be farther from the truth as we don’t surf, the last sunset we saw was almost a year ago and we are constantly running around stressed. The reason is simple: since we moved to Bali six years ago we were determined to add FOOD to the list of reasons people come to visit this beautiful island paradise.

Food here 10 years ago was either simple inexpensive local “warungs” serving deliciously traditional cooking or huge luxury hotels with extravagant cliff top fine dinings boasting the best of the world’s imported ingredients. The entire mid-level casual dining market did not exist and that’s exactly how we saw ourselves fitting in. We would simply take all the attention to detail, passion and precise cooking of those expensive fine dining joints but use the fabulous local ingredients available in traditional markets. The result is something different with big exotic flavors and affordable pricing providing a new style of casual dining called "Cuca".

Being too relaxed for the tuxedo-wearing glamorous socialites and too gourmet for the thrifty island surfer, Cuca found its market with the obsessed food driven gourmet traveler. The people that plan their days not only based on where to go and what to see but what delicious things they want to eat.  If you find yourself among the few who plan a trip around finding those wonderful places serving food made with love and eating mouthfuls of culture and magic, you may want to consider a trip our way.

Cuca's classic Crispy Fried Chicken: all about taste.

Thursday 25 January 2018

New year, new travels, new ideas

Changing a menu in a restaurant may sound simple but I assure you it is not. First, in Cuca we must identify which items to remove from the current menu that will hopefully avoid anger and frustration when that die-hard foodie returns for his favorite dish and it is no longer there. Second, we need to find new amazing products from all over Indonesia that actually arrive when we order them. Third, the new food must be our best attempt at giving a customer the best dish he has ever eaten, otherwise what’s the point of putting it on the menu?

If all those things actually get done, we are then only left with updating and printing the menus, changing the website, creating the costing and buttons for the sales system, taking the new dish photos, re-printing the waiter order taking cards, updating kitchen recipes, training the entire kitchen and dining room team, sending the press releases, redoing all the food allergy information to ensure no one ever eats something they can’t and finally timing all of this to come together and be ready on the very same day.

You can then understand that once those new items hit the menu we feel just as proud parents delivering them to the world and totally exhausted. The truth is we don’t change the menu often in Cuca mainly because it’s tough to make the best thing anyone has ever eaten.

Delicious takes time but let me tell you what made the cut for our next menu change in Cuca. All available from February 1. 

Hot Potatoes: onion fudge, charred scallions, spiced keluak gravy
We are proud to deliver the religious experience of biting into the molten creamy delicious happiness of a classic Spanish croquette. Our filling instead is inspired by the timeless cooking of Indonesia as we recently discovered in a market in Toraja. The dish becomes mysterious by our use of the local fruit “keluak”, one of the most unique ingredients we have ever tasted with its earthy hints reminiscent of dark chocolate, toasted almond and olives. A flavor like no other.

Hawaiian Cracker: double smoked ham, melting cheese, clove spiced pineapple
Inspired by the legendary Hawaiian pizza, our version is flavored with both thin slices of lightly salted, deeply smoked, cured ham and gently poached ribbons of pineapple scented with clove. These succulent morsels are left standing on a wafer-thin multi-seed cracker that shatters like glass when broken apart. It’s not really pizza, it is one hell of a cracker!

Ricotta Gnocchi: cheese dumplings, roasted watermelon, sun-dried tomato pesto
3 months of recipe testing finally came to an end with these soft pillowy mouthfuls of tender silky fresh cheese. Inspired by the humble Italian classic “Gnocchi Pomodoro”, we use roasted watermelon to mimic the sweetness of delicate braised tomatoes and add the tomatoes instead to a sauce that brings the dish to a brighter level. We’re not Italian but we think we won this one hands down.

Bali Soft Taco: homemade brown rice tortillas, braised mushrooms, chili salsa 
After 21 days in Mexico, we now understand Tacos. We ate many and even when bad they are actually still pretty good. So, determined to serve tacos in Cuca, we decided to make the most delicious taco entirely vegan and have no one know that those charred strings of moist tender meat are actually slow braised onions and mushrooms. We crafted a super unique tortilla from organic local brown rice and created a crunchy topping of grilled fresh coconuts. Bali now has Tacos!   

Sunday 24 December 2017

Why Cuca?

8 years ago, we arrived in Bali with two suitcases and a big dream. Literally! We had one year to finalize a concept, find a location, build a restaurant, hire and train a team, open our doors and start serving customers. It was a daunting task. So, just like when you go to the grocery store you write a list to make sure you do not forget anything, we wrote a massive “to do” list: from designing an entire kitchen to the color of the napkins, everything was important and nothing could be forgotten.

One of the items on the list was “What on earth are we going to name the restaurant?” and it never seemed to get done. A name is a restaurant’s identity and is hugely important. It must be memorable, meaningful and unique to stand out from the sea of food options. At the same time, if it is too weird no one will ever spell it or get it right. I remember back in the day, the best restaurant in Vancouver, my city, was called “West”. It was a French-inspired concept with amazingly creative and tasty food, but they decided to spell it like in France “Ouest”. The result was an empty dining room and a city left wondering where the hell the restaurant was. You couldn’t find it in the phonebook or online and even if you walked right in front, you would miss it because of the spelling. They eventually changed its name and I learned a very important lesson.

With an opening date nearing closer and all the website, branding and marketing pending, we really needed to decide on a name. Then one day, Virginia received an email from her mother and I noticed the greeting “Hola Cuca…”. “What does Cuca mean?” I asked. She said it meant nothing, “It’s just the name my mom has called me since I was little and she only uses it when she is happy and I have been good”. “Voila!” I said to her, “that’s what we will call the restaurant: Cuca”. Something that means everything to us just as you mean everything to your mom. Spelt C-U-C-A and pronounced /Kooka/.