Restaurant di Mare has quite a history. Its life began at Karma Jimbaran more than 10 years ago, highlighting the kitchen talents of the then young American chef Raymond Saja. It has always been difficult to showcase a restaurant within the grounds of a hotel but di Mare was successful enough to be transported to the new luxury Karma Kandara at Ungasan, years later. From an enclosed place inside a resort it now had pride of place as a semi stand alone restaurant [with its own parking area] on the eastern side of the resort.
Perched high up on the cliff, overlooking the beach below and ocean beyond, its blue and white colour scheme virtually transported you to the Mediterranean. It was a great example of fine dining 'Bali style'.
Chef Raymond's subsequent departure for Thailand saw ever changing personnel and fortune. Then, early this year, Raymond Saja returned, not as Chef but as the new General Manager of Karma Kandara Resort. He came hand in hand with a new young American chef, Steven Grande, who was straight from a stint at one of the world's great old hotels, The Strand in Rangoon, Myanmar [Burma].
Chef Steven is one of those kitchen magicians and who seem to be able to turn simple ingredients into mouth-watering marvels. No better example is his handling of that put-down local fish Mackeral. In fishing villages such as Amed it is the food of the poor, usually boiled to death then served as satay, tasting like lumps of dry rope on a stick!
I had to try the new di Mare version and could not believe the end result. Marinated, seared then marinated again it is served cold with a julienne of marinated yellow peppers, red onion, chilli, lime and cilantro. The scallops of mackerel were so soft, tender and flavoursome I found it hard to believe I was eating the same fish. No wonder Chef's Mackeral Escabeche has survivcd three different menu revisions, a dish that can never be removed.
As good but totally different was the Sashimi of Hamachi. This time the fish had a much stronger taste and was perfectly matched with segments of blood orange [not as acidic as the normal variety], with a pear and ginger relish, a sprinkle of thyme salt and caviar, topped with a delicate foam of lemon verbena. Wonderful fresh tastes!
I am not a great fan of mussels, and find the green lip variety on many Bali menus almost repulsive. So I had to try these Canadian Black Mussels. Gently steamed open in white wine, turmeric, fresh coconut, red chilli and cilantro, the dark orange flesh is completely soft, no strings, no lip, wow what a difference. the gentle Indian flavour overall was so good I even had to drink the remaining broth.
Crab and Corn Pudding comprises a crab croustilant gorgonzola mousse with fresh horseradish. The Pumpkin Soup is with porcini confit, truffle mascarpone, marjoram, nutmeg and smoked salt, again turning a common mundane dish into something special.
The Chicken Confit, another unusual entrée, organic red quinoa is combined with dried fruits, pistachio nuts, parsley, carrot and arugula, served with a confit leg of chicken.
Consommes in Bali I usually avoid, flavoured water would often be a better description. I had almost forgotten those wonderful broths from dining in Europe. This Duck Consomme is a showstopper! Superbly rich, it is virtually a double consommé. Braised duck is added back into the consommé in long narrow strips as is the baby omelette made from quail eggs along with white mushroom, green onion and tapioca pearls. A masterpiece!
Then for something completely different [I could happily dine here on entrees alone, anytime] is Chef Steven's Heirloom Tomato Tart. Sounds boring, doesn't it? Wrong! A small fine light puff pastry base, in the round, is layered with fresh tomato, shallots and picholine olives, dusted with basil, topped with buffalo mozzarella and baked in the oven. Again so simple but each small slice comprises all of the individual tastes off the ingredients, a very refreshing palate cleanser.
The Mains at di Mare continue the gastronomic journey of discovery! Canadian Scallops are dusted with pink peppercorn lemon powder, then just seared and served with a puree of crushed peas, pork pancetta, white asparagus and a blood orange emulsion. Salt Baked 'Shell' Fish is a whole dorade, first marinated in herbs then baked in a salt crust, served with a lemon puree. Sea Bass is seared on the skin and comes with citrus braised endive, parsnip puree, moustarde and pumperknickel croutons.
Loin of Lamb is marinated in red wine before being seared, served with caramelized Brussels sprouts, braised parsnip cones, fig tart and juniper sauce. Truffled Chcken Breast is first poached, then seared, served with a mushroom tortellini, stewed leeks, baby turnips and truffle cream sauce. The mandatory beef dish sticks to the original and best, Black Angus, a real steak. Simply grilled and with trumpet mushrooms, bone marrow, charred leeks, roasted pumpkin and red wine sauce. Difficult to beat the traditional!
Desserts cover the normal with Pear and Almond Tart, Manjari Souffle [Espresso Anglaise and pistachio ice cream], Panna Cotta [almond sponge, anise caramel and mandarin confit]. For a fresh clean finish the cheapest option appeals; Vanilla Roasted Pineapple, stacked in phyllo with coconut cream, strawberry and pina colada sorbet.
A wonderful restaurant in a true Bali location, reborn! Dinner at di Mare is a special event.