Back in the days when Seminyak was still a sleepy village, an Australian restaurateur had a vision that would change the face of Bali forever. He called it Ku De Ta.
Twelve years later, surrounded by the glittering lights, designer boutiques and trendy resorts of today’s Seminyak, Ku De Ta still shines like a beacon, luring the hippest island crowd with its stunning ocean views, fabulous parties, designer cocktails and gourmet cuisine. In the face of an ever-cooler, ever-edgier nightlife scene in Bali, this iconic beach venue is still the place to see and to be seen. Elegant pavilions flank a sprawling grassy courtyard providing distinct bar and dining areas linked by a common thread ofcontemporary Balinese design and funky décor. The bathrooms – surely the sexiest in Bali – also deserve a special mention, with their glittering chandeliers and sleek black walls adorned in a velvet motif. Attractive design aside, its the absolute beach frontage and the all pervasive party atmosphere that provide the real magnetism. Ku De Ta positively hums with the vibe of good times! Never more so than August , party season, which sees top international DJ’s flocking to the decks, and the legendary White Party drawing anyone who’s anyone.
Setting the scene
We arrive on one of those idyllic – straight out of a postcard – Bali days. Palm trees frame the glistening ocean and one perfect wave after another crashes onto the golden sand.The mid afternoon soundtrack is cruisy house, and the mood is super chilled, as people soak up the rays from the deck chairs on the beach, or lounge in the shade over lingering lunches. The lure of another famous Seminyak sunset signals a change in pace as the late afternoon crowd spills onto the lawn and deck. The tempo of the music rises; slinky dresses and heels replace caftans and wide brimmed hats; and the bartenders get busy, whipping and muddling and blending in a frenzy of cocktail mixing. It would be unthinkable not to join in, and we sip at decadent, crimson-hued berry bellinis, followed by a creamy passion fruit foam , a mix of refreshingly tart passion fruit smoothed with vanilla bean infused vodka, and topped with a silky soft foam, which leaves us fawning over the bar tender. Darkness brings its own magical allure, and the elegantly laid tables in the main dining area quickly fill.
Global inspired dining
Like the melting pot of guests from around the world, the ever evolving menu has a huge range of global influences, offering cutting edge, modern cuisine that is innovative, classy, and – like the bikini swathed beauties that lounge on the deck chairs – looks fabulous! Breakfast and lunch menus are casual yet stylish, while all day grazing includes pizza, and Japanese inspired tapas, but it’s the evening menu that provides the focal point, and an experience designed to dazzle. The exceedingly talented, Australian–born, Executive Chef, Benjamin Cross is our gracious host, and personally delivers each dish to the table. His passion and enthusiasm is unmissable, and I like the way his face lights up as he describes methods and ingredients. Enticed by the offer of creative freedom, he immersed himself in the sprawling kitchens of Ku De Ta almost five years ago, and never looked back. “From a creative sense there is a lot of room for experimenting,” he tells me. Regular overseas travel (he just got back from New York) help keep his fingers on the global pulse. While daily specials will often incorporate his favourite Balinese ingredients, including ginger blossom, palm hearts and nutmeg fruit (poached in sugar,) which staff bring from their local villages. “ At the end of the day you just want people to walk away feeling happy and having enjoyed themselves,” he says. Mission accomplished! Our meal has been thoughtfully prepared, with ordinary ingredients elevated into something extraordinary by the sheer act of clever combination. Flavours are subtle, yet sublime with tastes that linger long after the last mouthful.
The vichyssoise is served slightly chilled, and topped with delicate slices of house smoked salmon. The light texture belies a full bodied taste infused with the sweet-sour tang of pickled palm heart, Jerusalem artichoke and fennel.
The fresh flavours of premium seafood are allowed to speak for themselves in the tuna and lobster tartare, lightly marinated in lemon juice, olive oil, chilli oil and sesame. The dish is gently embellished with a dallop of crème fraiche and a crowning glory of vibrant sprinkles of flying fish roe doused in wasabi.
In total contrast, the Szechuan crusted tofu takes a seemingly innocuous ingredient – tofu – and transforms it into something remarkable with imaginative use of seasoning and herbs. Lightly fried, with a crispy outer laying concealing a silky interior, the tofu is rich and flavourful thanks to a drizzle of miso, and a beguiling salad of cucumber, fresh mint leaves, purple watercress, shitake and crispy Balinese style tempe. A wonderful mint & shiso dressing brings it all together beautifully.
The Main Act
The tofu is a hard act to follow, but the herb crusted coral trout rises to the occasion; actually, it renders us totally silent, as our full attention turns to savouring every gorgeous mouthful. Half poached, half baked, the fish is deliciously light, juicy and so soft that it falls apart on the fork. The tasty herb crust is an earthy mix of thyme, basil, chives, sourdough and parmesan, while the delicate Champagne sauce makes the subtlest of accompaniments, doused over saffron potatoes, asparagus and divine cherry tomato raisins (like a semi-sundried tomato, only sweeter, plumper juicier and better!)
When it comes to dessert, Pasty chef Will Goldfarb is more secretive about his concoctions, which are equally complex, imaginative and tasty. The kdt style jaffa is a fascinating mix of chocolate orange tinged morsels, including chocolate almond cake, Grand Marnier cream, ganache and burnt orange gelato. Each component is good, but it’s the combination that provides the real explosion of flavour. The chocolate tasting for two is similarly composed with various tastes and textures, including an awesome chocolate brownie, which, after much prodding, Will concedes comes from his mothers recipe. Cocoa nibs, chantilly and apricot gelato add depth, and I just love the sheet of marbled panna cotta dried to semi crispiness in the dehydrator. As with every dish it’s the creative freedom afforded the chefs at Ku De Ta that has paved the way for unique and extraordinary food