A stop at Cuca Bali is almost imminent whenever I am planning a trip to the island. There’s something mind-blowing about the creations of its particular Spanish-born chef/owner that keeps me from going to other similar establishments. The first few steps into the restaurant, the outdoor is captivating. Step inside the restaurant and more likely than not, a host will greet you, in front of their homemade jams and salt counter. Apparently, the food and the smiles are not good enough keepsakes. “Bring home some Cuca experience to your home,” the host answered my curious self.
Over the course of mid-2016, Cuca stepped outside their comfy Jimbaran outpost in Bali. Chef Kevin Cherkas and his wife Virginia covered multiple locations in Southeast Asia, namely Manila, Jakarta and Ubud. While I do sound like an avid stalker, I stalk for good reasons: Kevin is on a mission to introduce a whole new tapas experience. He started this at Pullman Jakarta Indonesia sometime in May this year at an event titled Swig & Nibble, “the tastiest event of the year in Jakarta”.
Cuca Bali x Pullman Jakarta Indonesia
Held in mid-May when the weather transitioned from rainy to sunny, it was also the time when the pop-up restaurant trend has taken the Jakarta food scene by storm in recent years. As Chef Kevin repeatedly said, “Cuca is all about end-to-end local Indonesian produces. I want to showcase the ingredients from around the country, paired with great wines and nice ambiance.” I concur. The three-day food and wine sold-out event at the hotel’s rooftop venue, UNA, portrayed just that, if not more. “We’re taking a rock concert concept. This is a food event you’ve never seen in your life,” Kevin said during dinner.
20 canapes were passed around to an audience of almost a hundred. Each wine was carefully paired with the dishes. The same goes with what the audience listened to. Electro swing tunes from names like Parov Stelar and the French Dimie Cat. Music was meticulously curated as the couple believes: the right playlist can ward off a stuffy customer and attract a stylish one.
Cuca Bali x Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve
After a successful three-day event in Jakarta, Cuca headed back to Bali. Not to their home in South Kuta, but for another Swig & Nibble event in Ubud, the famed Balinese town of arts, culture and beautiful hilltop resorts, including the ultra-luxury Mandapa. Cuca did it with style as the event in the resort’s pool side restaurant also became one of the Ubud Food Festival 2016‘s opening dinner venues. I start to associate Cuca with “sold out” from the looks of the fully-occupied pool.
The two events in a month are true testament of Cuca’s own belief of local-first. Both hotel venues are no strangers to food imports, but after Swig & Nibble, one may see more tempeh offered on pass-around trays and less of caviar from the Caspian Sea, thanks to Chef Kevin and Virginia.