Cascades is the real thing!
Many places in Bali are self-styled as ?fine dining?. Sadly most have no idea what that entails. There are a few other restaurants in Bali offering food and service more or less at the same level but no one else combines it with the most perfect location as does CasCades, sitting as it does atop the ridge, above the Lembah Valley, north-east of Ubud.
There has always been a top international chef at this location but Belgian Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken has stamped his authority on this menu and provides a world class experience for those who can appreciate such an event. His vast experience at leading Michelin rated restaurants in Belgium, Holland and France, is there for all to see. Prior to Bali and Cascades he set up the acclaimed fine dining Bistro Gastronomie in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Whilst there is an extensive a la carte menu it is the degustation menus that stand out as wonderful culinary experiences and perfect for 1st timers to sample Nic?s creations. There are two on offer, European [very French, with Asian touches] and Indonesian.
The evening begins with a bread basket, offering much choice of warm freshly baked bread rolls. You also select the butter of your choice that has been blended in the kitchen. It can be garlic, basil, truffle or an unusual anchovy which I liked very much. The accompanying Amuse-bouche is refreshingly different and that sets the scene for the night!
A small mound of golden Oscietra caviar is the base, on top sits a perfect soft-boiled quail egg alongside carrot, green pea and cauliflower towers, a potato sail and mousseline sauce. Small, delicate and tasty, this is really something for the connoisseurs.
Gravlax is a Nordic dish that has become an International favourite. Raw salmon cured in salt, sugar and dill, is the normal process and it is usually served in paper thin slices in the same way as smoked salmon is normally offered. So it was a surprise, a very pleasant one, to see a long thick oblong slab of salmon adorned with delicate slices of daikon cress, radish and pickled cucumber sprinkled across the top [pictured]. On the side wasabi cream and 3 small piles of what the chef calls ?sand??it may have the same grainy look but the crunchy taste perfectly complemented the salmon.
Already the evening meal was perfect but there was much more to come.
Foie Gras is on so many menus at this level in Bali it was refreshing to have it presented in this unique manner, marinated in Pinot de Bali and pressed into a small terrine, a ball of flavour! A toasted raisin brioche, mini rujak salad and pineapple-chilli espuma [foam] completes the serving. As with every dish served here the attention to detail quite amazing!
North-west Atlantic Scallop, big, meaty and buttery, just seared, just perfect! It sits on a celeriac veloute with pilsener apple foam and silver croutons.
The meat main on this European menu was a Grilled Black Angus. With creamed spinach, a truffle mash croquette and rosemary sauce, I am sure that it was very special. However something had caught my eye on the other menu, the Indonesian one. I lie, quite a few of the Indonesian menu items seemed intriguing. Such as the brem marinated duck breast, grilled bumbu spiced baby squid and a soup of spinach and young coconut with an array of wonderful Asian spices; coriander, lesser galangal and salam leaf.
However what I just had to try was the Beef Cheek Rendang. Slowly braised in the milder of the rendang spices [the green chilli part was in an accompanying sambal for you to add as you wish] the result was truly amazing! The so tender meat cuts like butter, the flavour ambrosial. This is truly an incredible creation.
To finish something soft and sweet, so many contrasting flavours had gone before. A carrot orange yolk on orange ginger chocolate mud with coconut sorbet, candied carrot and small meringue was the perfect answer.
The service was informative but restrained, never overwhelming or intrusive, the wine pairing carefully selected, the baby grand piano played quietly in the background with soft vocals, when coupled with such a challenging feast of taste in this magic setting ?..this is fine dining!