I will put something straight right away: I love CuCa restaurant in Bali so it is no wonder I chose it for our very first restaurant review on Expat Indo.
What is it?
Cuca restaurant in Bali is a casual dining restaurant specializing in Tapas. But don’t let this fool you, while the atmosphere may be described as casual, the food and service are absolutely world class.
It is run and owned by Chef Kevin Cherkas who has worked at several Michelin starred restaurants in Spain, New York and Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, as well as his wife Virginia Entizne who excels at running the business side of things.
Where is it?
in Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia.
To put it simply: the food is amazing.
Each tapas is unique and carefully crafted using local ingredients and flavors. Some are re-invented local dishes with a molecular cuisine twist. For instance, the bebek betutu ferry floss teaser which is gobbled up in one bite and instantly vanishes on your tongue, leaving only the betutu taste. Or the Bali Breakfast dessert which looks like a fried egg on rice where the egg yolk is actually a mango coulis and the egg white is coconut whipped cream with the whole lot sitting on frozen passion fruit.
Each dish is fun to analyze and decompose, paying attention to the contrasts between crunchy and smooth, sweet and spicy, mellow and tangy.
And the molecular cuisine aspects are also quite fun. The first time I dinned at CuCa, without knowing anything about Chef Kevin Cherkas, I was wondering if he had worked or been inspired by the Restaurant El Bulli. After searching Google, it was not long before I confirmed that Chef Cherkas had indeed been an apprentice there.
We also ordered some funky cocktails, ideal for a couple: the Moongria and the Sungria. They are a pair of sangria drinks with frozen fruit puree cubes in your glass which you then cover with the red wine base mix for Sungria or the white wine base mix for the moongria. It looks pretty, tastes great and is quite refreshing.
The service is excellent and you can tell that the restaurant is running like a well-oiled machine.
The staff is not only polite but very friendly too. They work efficiently and diligently and offered to help with ordering a taxi at the end of the dinner. Payment was no hassle whatsoever with everything working as it should.
Our table was ready upon arrival and we were seated right away without having to wait.
I took a half point because last time I was there I felt a little bit rushed with my plate being removed while I was still chewing my last bite. A minor inconvenience which only happened once.
The restaurant is divided in 4 space: The dining room, the garden lounge, the food bar and the cocktail bar.
The dining room is the main dining area with large tables, ideal for groups and families.
The garden lounge is a nice area in the front garden between the road and the restaurant. The lounge itself occupies a small part of the front yard so it does not feel cramped at all. If the weather permits, it is a nice spot to hang out in the evening but probably too hot for lunch.
The cocktail bar is nice bar where, you guessed it, can order cocktails.
And last but not least, and by far my favourite spot: the Food Bar. The kitchen at CuCa is open and anyone can see what is going on, but the best spot for this is a huge solid wood slab running the length of the kitchen where guest can sit at and dine while enjoying the show. When Chef Kevin Cherkas is leading the orchestra, you get to be at the heart of the kitchen and see it all happening in front of your eyes which makes for amazing entertainment and deeper level of connection with your food and its preparation. This also gives you a chance to interact with the Chef and get some explanation on each dish or ask questions about what you’re eating and how it’s prepared. Be respectful though because the kitchen is very busy so don’t interrupt the flow too often!
The decoration is also very well thought of: a modern minimalist style which works really well with large windows and good use of space. It never feels cramped.
For the dress code, I would recommend smart casual but no need to go over the top. If you have kids, do not worry and bring them along. The restaurant is large enough that you will not bother other guests with a fussy little one.
Nothing to say except that it’s spark clean.
The bathroom is large, clean, smells fresh and well stocked. A plus point is that there are no doors to the main bathroom area so you don’t have to touch some disgusting handle after washing your hands. There is plenty of soap and towels which nowadays is rare enough that it’s worth pointing out
The tables, plates and cutlery are clean and in good condition.
The kitchen is sparkling clean with the staff kept to a high standard of hygiene. Being a germ freak, I did pay attention to this.
A bill for 2 people with 2 drinks is about Rp 1,200,000 with taxes and service. It’s not cheap dining especially for Indonesia but it is excellent value dining: you will be extremely satisfied (maybe a bit too much, see tips below) both in terms of being satiated but having experience amazing cuisine and the magic happening in the kitchen if you were lucky enough to sit at the Food Bar.
When eating at CuCa, you can tell that there are no compromise on food, service, decoration, cleanliness and to me this justifies the price. In fact, when you consider the whole package, you would expect to pay more. At CuCa, you get more than what you pay for in my opinion.
Conclusion and overall score: 24.5/25
Which may as well be 20/20 but I didn’t want to appear biased. I recommend this restaurant to anyone I can.
It’s a great place for a special occasion or for a group dining. It’s accommodating for families as well as couples who are celebrating a special date.
- Book in advance! You can book directly at the restaurant’s website, it’s very easy.
- Make a booking at the Food Bar, it’s the best and only place to see the kitchen in action. Make sure to ask for the most left seats which are close to where the Chef is leading the kitchen.
- If possible, try to call ahead to know when Chef Kevin will be working as he is not on every night. Seeing him in action is sight to be hold!
- If you are dining at the Food Bar, only take out your phones to take pictures of the amazing dishes. Other than that, keep it in your pocket/purse and enjoy the show. Chef Kevin Cherkas will definitely notice if you are paying attention and will give you extra attention as a reward.
- I recommend the Chef’s tasting menu but only if you are in a group of more than 3 and you have a very large appetite. The first time I dined at CuCa with my wife, we found that by the end of the dinner it was just too much food for 2 people. The menu recommends 3 tapas per person but you get more in the tasting menu when you include the appetizer, the dessert and the little goodies the chef prepares for you. If it’s only 2 of you, it’s probably better to simply order 2 or 3 tapas per person (to share) and order more if you are still hungry.
- Make room for dessert!
jl. Yoga Perkanthi, Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia
+62 361 708066
Note: Neither Expat Indo nor the author of this article is affiliated or associated with Cuca Restaurant in any way.