Most people think that to do restaurant reviews is almost fantasy-like. In fact sometimes it can be very hard work after a visit that did not enthrall trying to identify the better parts of each experience always recognizing the fact that not everyone looks for the same things in their dining experiences.
Then there are other times when reliving a wonderful dining experience is almost mouth watering, as each dish and its distinctive taste returns.
Such is the aftermath of dining at Will Meryicks's new eatery in Ubud, Hujan Locale [it did rain in those nights as well]. It was not the first time that Will's kitchen skills have bowled me over. I often compare him to the great David Thompson both having that unique skill of being able to combine and balance many ingredients into one total taste, never one overpowering the rest.
The menu is small, by Sarong/MamaSan standards, but just as daunting. How do you choose between so many challenging combinations? The easy answer is to return many times and try them all, and I am certain that I will not be the only one doing that!
Think Will Meyrick and you think betel leaf! He has introduced Bali to that famous Thai street food dish of Miang, but at different restaurants he uses different ingredients. At Hujan Locale he almost goes Balinese with Urutan [here called black pudding as a tribute to his Scottish heritage], crumbled sausage, unlike many of the pure Thai versions there is no trickle of palm sugar running down your arm whilst eating!
There are many other ?small plates? to choose from and share [between two]. The Potato Dumplings are also with crumbled black pudding but use Balinese betutu spices as well as lemon basil and grated smoked coconut. The Salted Grouper is with sambal matah, ginger flower, crushed potato, green tomato and crisp zucchini flower. Even the Ceviche gets a Will Meyrick makeover; raw tuna with roasted chilli, edamame, black beans, mint, parsley and white anchovies. A Soft Boiled Egg Salad is spiced with green papaya, chilli and peanuts then combined with smoked bacon and fresh prawns.
Every proffered dish tantalizes the taste buds! A Sri-Lankan style Cured Scallops resembles a carpaccio with its layers of thinly sliced scallop meat, topped with mint, shredded coconut and salmon roe, drizzled with lime juice. The taste delicate! The Chicken has a Japanese touch with ginger, soy, green shallots and a soy yuzu dressing.
And now for the unusual! Pig's Ears, crispy pieces with chilli and fennel, roasted chilli and garlic aioli. Bone Marrow, after wood roasting, is combined with parsley, lemon, garlic, capers, andiliman [a unique Chinese flowering plant of the Schezuan family, but lemon tasting] breadcrumbs, relish and brioche. Goat Sausage is a small dish with so much taste! Crumbled slices of sausage sit on goat's curd and shallots with sweet soy and chilli lime adding contrasting tastes, accompanied by a watermelon pickled radish salad. So simple, so good!
Most dishes at Hujan Locale are served on a board that contains the main event, the accompanying salad and a glass pot of the sauce [eliminating that frustrating wish for more of a sauce that appeals].
Mains are in two groups, meat and seafood. Let us start with the most sensational [the worst is just a simple 'fantastic']. Will Meyrick has made a habit of producing pork dishes that have been outstanding [remember his crispy sweet pork at Blossom?] but this one beats all! Pork Cutlet sounds so simple, and maybe even boring. But not from this kitchen. The very large cutlet, still on the bone, is first marinated in soy, clove, honey and butter, then roasted in a wood oven, almost burnt on the outer but deliciously pink on the inner [if you like you meat well done then you should not be in this restaurant]. On the side a watermelon and pickled radish salad with a ginger mirin [rice wine] vinaigrette. The Pork Cutlet [pictured] appears to be whole but has actually been finely cross sliced, Asian style, so there are many slices to salivate over?share this one at your peril! Then take the bone home for the dog.
Almost as good is the Beef Cheek, slowly braised with soy, with wasabi and green pea risotto, sprinkled with snow pea shoots. The twice-cooked Shoulder of Lamb is cumin- basted and comes with a quinoa salad, cucumber yoghurt and roasted potatoes. Rib-eye Steak is rubbed with spices before being just seared, served with wood roasted garlic, confit tomato and mint gribiche [egg sauce]. Duck vies with Pork as chef's specialties and the Sumatran Duck does not disappoint, crisp with spiced cassava leaf curry ikan teri and lemon basil.
Amongst the seafood dishes the Snapper is a standout! Kashmiri style it is wrapped in a banana leaf after being combined with curry leaves, garam masala and green chilli, it comes with a pot of mint yoghurt. The flesh firm, the taste is one to remember, curried fish but so different to what you get in any Indian restaurant, dig out the chunks of flesh and dip it in the yoghurt, quite incredible!
Baby Barramundi is salted then baked, served with a very unusual edamame pesto. Whilst a whole sized farmed Barramundi is cooked crispy, Thai style, with coriander, lime leaf and deep-fried basil, and sweet chilli sauce. The Roasted Sea Bass is combined with pork belly, lentils and spinach in a red wine sauce. A Seafood Curry from southern India contains prawns, clams, fish, tomato, chopped coriander and smoked chilli with a saffron rouille.
Desserts, yes they have them but so far I have not been unable to order any, after gorging on so many previous dishes.
This restaurant is for serious foodies, not afraid of confronting unusual ingredients and tastes, explore your palate! A wonderful and new style addition to the Ubud dining scene, food for grown-ups!