Innovation and Culinary Excellence

caffe-mocha-coconutIn days of yore, fine dining was a very formal affair with rigid codes of behaviour and restaurant staff renowned for being snooty to mere mortals. The kitchens were supposedly tense places helmed by demanding chefs with fiery tempers and sensitive egos, where few dared to tread.
Thankfully, although such places probably still exist, dining out in a restaurant serving incredible, inspirational food paired with a selection of stunning drinks is much more fun these days.

A recent visit to Mejekawi, the glass-walled temple to culinary creativity and excellence situated above the iconic KU DE TA in Seminyak, proved just this.

Despite bristling with gleaming, high-tech equipment rarely seen even in the most advanced kitchens across the world, walking in to Mejekawi the ambience is welcoming, warm and friendly; the restaurant was full of groups of laughing, relaxed diners, and the busy chefs in the open kitchen were calmly and efficiently creating their masterpieces.

If you are in a small group, we highly recommend taking a seat at the bar overlooking the open kitchen so you can watch your culinary experience unfold. Mejekawi is an ideal place for celebrations with its friendly service, interaction with the chefs, superb cuisine and excellent drinks pairings. The evening we visited, there were two groups in this small venue celebrating birthdays.

The restaurant’s kitchen takes centre stage, while seating is around the glass walls to take advantage of the ocean views. Those that prefer early dining can watch the setting sun over the rolling waves; although when we visited, everyone’s focus was on the food and their dining partners.
Chefs Ben Cross, Stephen Moore and Nuño Garcia take their cooking very seriously, despite presenting a laid-back demeanour.

The dining options are simple; your choice is a 5 or 12-course degustation menu, with drinks pairing or not, although the waiters, or the chefs, do ask whether there is anything you can’t, or prefer not to, eat and will happily adapt the dishes. The waiters and sommelier are highly knowledgeable about the food and drinks and the drinks pairings are sublime.

Mejekawi-exteriorThe menu opened with what is billed as fish ‘n’ chips, but looks nothing like what is popularly served in newspaper across Australia and the UK. The delicate yellow fin tuna ceviche with smoked crème fraîche, pickled onion and dill is served between two glass-clear slices of potato that have been pressed until the starch comes out and look too delicate to touch. It only takes a couple of bites to eat this morsel, which despite its beauty, really does taste of fish and chips (without the grease or batter)!

One interesting combination was the oxtail soup, a perennial favourite across Indonesia. Mejekawi-style, the oxtail is slow-cooked for 18 hours and then pressed, to make for a really intense flavour. The rich, clear stock benefits from a splash of Japanese dashi and is poured over the oxtail, a tomato raisin and charred onion. An ice-cold sake sets off this flavour sensation perfectly and puts oxtail soup into a completely new dimension.

wood-fired-‘freshwater’-crayfish-xo-sauce,-fregola,-spring-onionThe chefs at Mejekawi use the best local produce from the island, with availability issues forcing even more creativity from them. The cutting edge techniques that they use bring visions of strange, molecular concoctions, but all the food was instantly recognizable, beautifully presented art on a plate, with an occasional tongue in cheek concept. In addition to the fish ‘n’ chips, the much more formally named southern fried Szechuan quail, with red curry and quail eggs, is in fact the chef’s version of fried chicken! Unlike in the fast food chains, the quail has been marinated overnight in yoghurt so the seasoned flour will stick. The light crunch, tender meat and slightly spicy batter, wafer-thin pickled carrot and Jerusalem artichoke were an ideal combination, brought out beautifully by the Guidalberto Tenuta San Guido – a delightful red.

Adding to the whole fusion concept, alongside the use of tastes from across the world combined unusually to make updated versions of familiar foods, is the use of an open wood fire alongside the laboratory-style high-tech equipment. We tried the wood-fired crayfish with XO sauce served on fregola and were stunned by the array of flavours in the smoky, sweet crayfish and slightly chewy pasta.

sop-buntutDesserts were elegant and aesthetically pleasing concoctions making use of locally sourced fruit – mangosteen, pandan and snakefruit in particular, and delicious chocolate that is also grown and produced in Bali. The white chocolate cone with magnosteen sorbet is a personal favourite.

This intimate fine dining restaurant is well worth a visit when you are in Bali, or even worth coming to Bali just to visit. Chefs Ben, Stephen and Nuño are perfectionists, who are more than happy to chat to their customers while they are dining and to ensure that the experience is something special. Their continual search for new creations and inspiration, alongside their passion and patience while striving to get it right, are highly commended.

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