KUU is a Japanese restaurant specializing in Izakaya cuisine. It is located street-side at Sanur's newest 5 star hotel, the impressive Maya Sanur.
Izakaya was developed as a series of small dishes in Japan's Sake bars. By keeping your hunger at bay, you kept on drinking! Or that was the intention, by providing small, tasty, budget-priced snacks. Much the same philosophy created Tapas in Spanish bars. Both of these cuisine styles have developed into full restaurants that serve just those dishes, as many people now prefer a series of small and different tastes to the traditional 3 course norm.
Kuu is the first Izakaya restaurant in Bali, they classify their offerings as Appetisers, Sashimi, Sushi, Simmered & Steamed, Grilled and Fried dishes and, of course, Desserts. Most are just small serves for one, but there are a few exceptions to that, big enough for two to share amongst the more main style dishes.
Amongst the mini dishes are two-mouthful specials such as Goma Dofu [a split steamed prawn sitting on a sesame scented square of tofu, with a touch of wasabi], Renkon [lotus root chips] and the very healthy Edamame [poached soya beans].
All the major Sashimi is available [tuna, salmon, scallop, octopus, white fish, shrimp and fatty tuna] but the Chef?s Special Platter of Sashimi [3 or 5 pieces] is the best option. The Sushi choice is greater, with a variety of Maki Rolls some of which are quite spicy and even a few pure vegetarian ones. Special rolls include the basic Californian [avocado, crab, lettuce and seaweed plus flying fish roe], Ebiten [stuffed with tempura of prawn, lettuce and mayonnaise], Karaage [chicken, lettuce and mayonnaise] and the special and more expensive Kuu Roll [tuna, lettuce, cucumber, seaweed, spicy mayonnaise, topped with grilled eel]. 11 individual Sushi are available and the Chef's Special Platter can be ordered as the Standard or De-Luxe version.
After all of those tempting small snacks it is time for a few more substantial dishes. The 'Simmered & Steamed' section includes Butakakuni [pork belly]. Now when you see pork belly on a menu you normally think of small meat with much fat! Not at Kuu where the fat has been trimmed and the pork belly flesh slowly braised. It is served in a bowl to keep it warm, the meat sitting on a base of mashed potato, with leek and boiled egg.
Tori Jibuni Fuu is chicken, asparagus, shiitake mushroom and pumpkin, braised in a dashi broth. Furofuki is for lovers of Daikon, this radish is braised with dengaku miso, a sweeter version of normal miso, a strange name as 'dengaku' is also the name of an old traditional Japanese dance! Chawan Mushi is a steamed savoury egg custard with seafood, shiitake mushroom and ginko [maidenhair], topped with plum paste and a dashi glaze.
Amongst the 'Fried' dishes one took me by surprise. Whenever I am checking out restaurants I invariably order one or two very simple dishes, the ones you see on many other menus of that cuisine. Such was the Chicken Katsu. At Kuu a full chicken breast is crumbed [which keeps all the juices inside during cooking] and deep fried. The result was chicken, crisp on the outside and tender inside, served cross-sliced for easy chopstick manipulation. The accompanying Tonkatsu sauce was sweet and spicy, perfect for dipping. At only Rp.35,000++ I would have happily paid double.
Tempura is the classic Japanese offering from the fryer. The batter is light and crisp. You can order just a vegetarian tempura or one that combines either white fish or prawns, both with assorted vegetables. Kushikatsu is skewers coated with breadcrumbs, nice and crisp. They can be squares of tofu stuffed with beef, shiitake mushrooms also stuffed with beef or in a surprising invasion from the west, cubes of Camembert cheese.
The 'Grilled' section s headed by all-time favourite Teriyaki. Strips of very tender beef or chicken coated with that sweet soy and mirin sauce. Yakitori is traditional street food but much better when coming from Kuu's hygienic kitchen. They offer the original [chicken pieces] or variations [chicken and leek, chicken livers or minced chicken]. Nikumaki is asparagus spears rolled in a thin slice of Angus beef, grilled with another sweet sauce. I could make a meal of these alone. Takoyaki are amazing small balls, crisp on the outer and very soft inside, stuffed with a mixture of octopus, leek and ginger. The pyramid is topped with seaweed, flakes of bonito and lines of mayonnaise. Something completely different is the Dashimaki Tamago, small rolled ometettes, dashi flavoured, served plain or stuffed with spring onion or salted cod roe.
For dessert stay Japanese with Red Bean Pudding topped with a sweet green tea sauce and sesame crisp or go fusion with Roasted Green Tea Panacotta.
Being an Izakaya restaurant, Sake is the normal drink of choice. Sake is often referred to as Japanese rice wine yet its production is much closer to the way beer is brewed. It is very strong and is only taken in small sips from the little cup [for first-timers; you do not refill the cup after emptying as you would if drinking wine, you only pour when you are about to drink it]. KUU has a range of 7 Sake by the bottle [up to a Hakuryu Junmai Daiginjo], and 3 brands available by small ceramic carafes, including a low alcohol Ozaki Hana Awaka. It can be served hot or cold, I like mine hot.
It is always very daring bringing a totally new cuisine and dining concept to Bali with its limited local market and a tourist one that changes almost by the week. The Maya Group should be applauded for being so forward looking.
Try KUU with an open mind and you will be rewarded.