During a recent extended stay in Bali, my wife and I enjoyed some great stays and some great meals. During our stay at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, we had the opportunity to dine at Kubu.
Ricky plans on visiting this property in the near future, so he’ll give you the full review in the months to come. In the meantime, I thought I’d share my thoughts on the property’s fine-dining establishment, Kubu, and walk you through my experience of their tasting menu.
Truly an intimate space for you to enjoy your dinner, Kubu is located deep in the valleys of Ubud, where you’re surrounded by trees and the ambience of the flowing Ayung river.
Kubu – Location
With the upcoming changes to the Marriott Bonvoy program, many of us have booked some aspirational properties that may see a steep increase in their redemption costs in 2023. So, when I heard that the Ritz-Carlton Reserve properties were now available on points, I jumped at the opportunity.
I managed to snag five nights at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve for 422,000 Marriott Bonvoy points, taking advantage of the Fifth Night Free benefit for points bookings. With cash rates averaging $1,400 (CAD) per night, I was able to redeem my points at 1.7 cents per point.
Compared to our valuation of 0.9 cents per point, it’s safe to say I was fairly happy with this booking.
The entire property draws heavy inspiration from Bali’s national roots. In keeping with this theme, the restaurant has nine private cocoons that resemble shelters where Balinese farmers would store rice after harvesting, as well as more seating in the general dining room.
Unfortunately, I didn’t take my butler’s advice to reserve a table for dinner. So, I ended up being seated at a regular table, and didn’t get to enjoy the experience in the private cocoon.
Kubu – Dining Experience
After enjoying the feast for your eyes that the intricate surroundings of Kubu provide you, the meal that follows is a treasure of the finest Mediterranean- and European-inspired creations.
My wife Nicole and I had much to discover on our palates, starting with the amuse bouche and carrying through all the way to the final dessert course. While each plate may look small, after 10 courses of degustation curated by award-winning Chef Bayu, we were pleasantly full after this mostly delightful dining experience.
1. Amuse Bouche
Our meal began with a lovely amuse bouche, which featured a wonderful cheese fondue sandwiched between an almond sable. It was served with an earthy presentation atop a wooden board that was fashioned into a tree stump.
It was certainly well enjoyed at our table, lending a nice balance of creaminess from the cheese and sweetness from the fresh orange segments.
Alongside it, and set atop what resembles a zen rock garden, the tuna tartare tartlets with caviar were a beautiful contrast. This primed our palates for the following indulgent courses.
2. Cherry Tomato Tart
Semi dried tomato, lentil hummus, mint coriander chutney, tomato sorbet
When it came time for the cherry tomato tart, I was pleased to see molecular gastronomy at its finest, with the tomato foam on top of the sorbet. These techniques are fascinating to me in the way they can change the textures of foods, giving them a new gourmet twist.
It has a very salty and flavourful taste. With the mint coriander chutney, I found it to be inspired by Indian cuisine, which I am naturally very fond of, with robust and bold flavours.
To make foam in molecular gastronomy, the chef must trap air within either a solid or liquid substance. While this seems like a new technique, it’s merely a twist on what chefs have done for ages with mousse, whipped cream, or even the froth on your after-dinner cappuccino.
The process begins with a pureed food, which then has a thickening agent diluted into it, creating a solution. When that dissolves, it is whipped to bring air in, creating a light and airy presentation.
Perhaps that’s why I thought that this was the most visually appealing dish that we were presented.
3. Butterfish Crudo
Sour cream, red radish, apple and cucumber salsa, avruga caviar
The butterfish crudo, served raw and fresh, presents a light flavour that is fitting for the third course.
With the avruga caviar, a more sustainable option over beluga, the balance of saltiness paired with apple, radish, and cucumber are all wonderfully well-matched.
4. Slipper Lobster
Cauliflower floret, curry emulsion, scallion
The clawless slipper lobster was next up on our tasting menu. Like Maine lobster, it has a sweet taste and firm texture.
Served atop a creamy cauliflower mousse, along with a curry emulsion, the flavours of the lobster had a bit more depth to surprise our palates. Akin to the traditional Indian spices, the curry seasoning hit all the right notes, making it a splendid partner to this crustacean-based dish.
5. BBQ Gindara
Shitake mushroom, ginger miso, spinach, onion consommé
By far my favourite dish of the evening was the BBQ gindara. Often called sablefish, it has a buttery and rich texture that will instantly make you swoon with pleasure.
The accompanying onion consommé was so wonderful, I promptly ordered an extra for the table. If you’ve been keeping up with my reviews, it would seem quite obvious that any consommé with prominent flavours coming from onions or mushrooms always stands to be my favourite dish.
I felt that choosing the technique of grilling was a beautiful move by Chef Bayu, as it gave the best contrast of its texture. With the ginger miso, there was also a nice hint of spice to this dish.
6. Beef Cheek Tagliatelle
On Kubu’s gourmet tasting menu, a chicken breast cooked fricassee-style with foie gras, apricot, and chicken jus is usually served as the sixth course; however, our group wasn’t keen on eating the foie gras. We were pleased that the restaurant was able to accommodate us by preparing another dish for this course instead.
Chef Bayu presented us with beef cheek that was super tender and tasty. Along with fresh-made tagliatelle that was perfectly al dente, it had an authentic flavour.
The sauce was simply sublime, with the umami of mushrooms and fresh herbs that brought it all to life, yet kept it feeling refreshingly light.
7. Beef Wellington
Black Angus beef tenderloin, foie gras, mushroom ragout, truffle potato, red wine sauce
In the culinary world, Beef Wellington is one of those cherished dishes that highlights a chef’s talents.
While the beef was tender and the texture was good overall, we felt the sauce was a little overpowering. We did enjoy the truffle potatoes that went along with it, as they carried a mouth-watering fragrance.
8. Berry Frappe
Pickled strawberries, basil, coconut milk
As we neared the end of our meal, to prime us for the desserts to follow, a berry frappe was served to cleanse our palates.
9. Texture Chocolate Cake
Chocolate mousse, hazelnut chocolate dacquoise, choco caramel
As rich as it gets, this texture chocolate cake was a wonderful finish. The adornments on top leant a bit of contrast to the soft and decadent chocolate cake tucked just below.
This will surely please any chocolate lover!
10. Petit Fours
Our distinctive meal at Kubu came to an end with the petit fours. Served atop a branch-shaped platter, it completed the theme we were presented at the start.
The petit fours feature homemade marshmallows, madeleines, caramel tarts, and a chocolate brownie finished with cocoa nibs.
Overall, it was a pleasurable experience that spoke to all of our senses through every course.
Kubu – Service
The service was as one would expect at a fine-dining restaurant or a Ritz-Carlton property: subtle, polished, and friendly. The staff were well-informed on the dishes, which they presented and spoke about with great passion.
I found that the table I was seated at had gotten very dark as the sun set for the evening. Given its semi-outdoor location, there was not much additional lighting, which made it difficult for me to properly see my meal.
This was a shame, simply because of how beautiful everything around us was.
If you find yourself at Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, I’d recommend booking a cocoon table at Kubu. The tasting menu, curated by Chef Bayu, will present you with a delightful culinary experience in perfect surroundings.
We appreciated the variety of dishes we were served, and left feeling both full and well-satiated. I was also grateful that the restaurant was able to not only accommodate our group’s preference to not have the foie gras course, but to replace it with one of the best dishes of the evening.
I’d love to come back to this property, and when that happens, I’ll be sure to come back to Kubu for another dinner.