One of Asia’s most iconic restaurants, the unique tasting kitchen Mejekawi, wins over the most serious foodie with its innovative executions, sublime flavours and culinary flair
By Katie Truman
Legendary for sunset cocktails and already excellent dining, beachfront KU DE TA’s aspirations to be taken more seriously as a formidable Asian foodie Mecca appear to have paid off, launching cutting-edge restaurant, Mejekawi in June of 2013. Aptly translating as “Sacred Table,” one of Bali’s most out-there gastronomic hotspots reaches Melbourne or London levels and is fast catching-on with discerning diners.
Glass-encased in a first-floor suite of an ocean-front wing within KU DE TA’s beachside compound, Mejekawi presents an ultra-contemporary, tasting kitchen concept with adjoining open laboratory (equipped with mad professor-like high-tech culinary toys). Dining choices only cover 12-course and five-course degustation menus requiring full table participation – the five-course menu was only recently launched, allowing diners a shorter menu option. Both can be additionally paired with fine wines, curated by KU DE TA’s General Manager Juri Menicucci, garnering an “Award of Excellence” from Wine Spectator in the process.
KU DE TA’s chefs were all instrumental in Mejekawi’s development, but with long-serving executive chef Phil Davenport’s departure last August, the kitchens and menus are now in the safe – and highly talented – hands of Australian successor, Ben Cross.
Within sleek minimalist interiors of blond woods and state-of-the-art kitchen equipment (gleaming Sub-Zero & Wolf refrigeration units line the walls), Mejekawi provides an air-conditioned intimate dining arrangement, seating maximum thirty – why reservations are recommended. Seating arrangements include a communal-style, long bench table and a sit-up bar counter framing the open show kitchen; the latter singles-friendly perch gives a bird’s-eye view of chefs at work in a theatrical-like ensemble. Tasting dishes are well-executed in an amazingly calm, methodical manner; don’t expect any Gordon Ramsey-style meltdowns, histrionics, nor blue language here.
First things first: arrive pre-sunset and indulge in a glass of champagne or one of their anti-paradise named cocktails (Lockdown, Blood and Sand, etc) on Mejekawi’s slender outdoor terrace, surveying Seminyak’s pounding surf. You can alternatively dine out here – and smoke – fanned by ocean breezes.
The degustation menus are a clever union of authentic Indonesian recipes with ultra-modern cooking techniques and equipment, resulting in a contemporary, light take on traditional Indonesian dishes. Inspired by archipelago spices and flavours, the kitchen utilizes as much locally-sourced fresh produce as possible. “In Mejekawi we try to let the ingredients speak for themselves, not to over manipulate the food too much,” declares Cross.
Each immaculately created, innovative dish bursts with contrasting flavours and textures combining old and new cooking techniques – from coffee wood-fired grill (“a major component of our cooking”) to vacuum-packed sous-vide methodology – resembling mini-works of culinary art on a diverse array of utensils. With an additional sub-plot, some of the Indonesian-based dishes subtly reveal a specific global influence. Tasters come consecutively served by KU DE TA’s most elite staff, especially hand-picked (note to self: request a “commercial break” breather half-way through, especially if you’re wine-pairing!)
Presented on a wood board, coral trout ceviche, wrapped in traditional betel leaf with blackened eggplant, sambal and hibiscus flower, pays homage to Peru’s signature dish, while Chinese inspired ‘White cut’ Chicken comprises chicken sous-vide poached in white Chinese stock to insane tenderness, served with oyster lemon and chili cream aerated in a cream gun ‘siphon’ and contrasting sharply with sour-crunchy Szechuan pickles. Poured from a teapot, sop buntut featuring delicately fragrant oxtail soup with dashi (classic Japanese seaweed stock) is a subtle take on Japanese miso and as such, paired with sake. A modern Balinese twist, Suckling Pig ‘Urutan’ Terrine takes a pig cooked overnight in Balinese spices used for uratan sausage, then presses, chills and serves the pork as thinly-sliced terrine topped with pickled palm heart, atop house-made sour dough crisp.
Serious foodie stuff indeed: however playful flashes in Will Goldfarb’s quirky desserts, such as “Pandanbert” with pandan-vanilla pannacotta served with a Camembert cheese box emblazoned with a panda, reveals Mejekawi doesn’t take itself too seriously. But perhaps Mejekawi has the last laugh, serving the ultimate fine dining experience, not just in relation to Bali, but the entire region.
Mejekawi @ KU DE TA