“It’s the only one of its kind in Bali,” grins James Ephraim proudly, as he ignites a blowtorch and points it through the flap of his new toy. Text by Dan Ashcroft
Looking for all the world like a steam engine with its wheels missing, Ephraim’s new ‘cold smoker’ is an ingeniously simple (if chaotic) method of infusing a smoky flavour to meat & fish. It’s mid afternoon and we’re out the back of Mozaic Beach Club where Ephraim and his staff are preparing to show me the contraption in action. A tray of coconut (arang) and rice (beras) husks is lit, and an electric fan drives the smoke through a tunnel surrounded by an ice compartment, instantly taking out the heat. The cold smoke then enters a main chamber where succulent fillets of fish and the finest cuts of meat are permeated, crucially without being cooked in the process. “We’re still at the experimental stage, really,” admits the native Brit, “but so far we have figured out that an average of 6-8 minutes seems to do the trick,” he explains, as a thick plume of smoke starts to billow from the top chimney, and I begin to see why the cold smoker isn’t located inside the kitchen. A tender fillet of the freshest looking sea bass is inserted onto the racks, the front door is sealed, and the smoking begins in preparation for the star dish on Mozaic Beach Club’s new chef’s tapas menu.
Back inside the bar lounge, I get flicking through the inventive daytime menu, eager to check out the new additions. Essentially a selection of the chef’s favourites, a menu of small bites has been cherry picked and arranged into a coherent five-course tapas set for a trifling 200k++.Click to view slideshow.
Kicking off with a bountiful basket of warm breads and a plate of wholly moreish black truffle choquettes, I order a fruity sauv blanc and limber up my taste buds for what’s to come. First up is the sashimi of fresh seafood – yellow fin tuna today – that comes served in gem lettuce leaves over ice. A zingy dressing of local citrus and finely-chopped lemongrass finishes off the butter-tender morsels of fish, to the point where I’m almost ready to cancel the rest and just order more of this. Luckily, the main event arrives just in time, comprising in part of the sea bass from the cold smoker. Here, the smoke-infused sea bass is poached in milk for a béchamel style filling, which is crumbed on the outside and served over black breadcrumbs with a chilled cucumber yoghurt on the side to counter the rich smoky flavour. Hot on its heels comes the seared baby octopus with crispy pork belly, Fuji apple and kaffir lime gel, along with the mini wagyu burger – a layer of melting aged gouda cheese oozing out providing the finishing, exquisite touch.
Despite the seemingly disparate mix of flavours between dishes, nothing feels out of place or contrived, and everything is rounded off in style by the wicked valrhona chocolate mousse in a jar, with candied orange and delicate cinnamon bubbles.
Most chefs would be content to simply present a menu such as this, but Ephraim isn’t stopping there – eager to share his knowledge and skill with mere kitchen mortals like me, Mozaic Beach Club now boasts its very own cooking school, inviting would-be kitchen maestros to join him for a day and discover the secrets of his cooking. Three courses are offered including ‘Villa Cuisine’ and ‘The Perfect Dinner Party’, but by far the most popular is an introduction to ‘Mozaic Beachclub Cuisine’ (750k++ / half day course). From selecting product and preparation right through to presentation and of course, tasting, the course follows Ephraim’s expertise in marrying Southeast Asian ingredients with both traditional and modern Western cuisine. Who knows, he might even let you have a go with the blowtorch.