Take a seat in CasCades restaurant at Viceroy Bali and you’re immediately taken by the green expanse of Ubud’s Valley of the Kings in front of you. A fresh breeze gently tumbles down the valley and rolls through the open restaurant space.
Executive chef Nic Vanderbeeken’s vision for CasCades was to create an eclectic, health-conscious and globally inspired menu.
Quoting England’s legendary chef Marco Pierre White, Nic says “Gastronomy is the greatest form of therapy that anyone can be exposed to”.
In need of some therapy after a rather hectic start to the New Year, I decided to sample Nic’s culinary treatments while enjoying a few days in Bali recently. The prescription: a solid schedule of eating.
A la carte breakfast
Day one began with a smooth mango trifle – a refreshing and rich start to breakfast. Raw oats layered throughout add texture and bridge the gap between the sweetness of the mango and the tang of the yogurt.
Next, a baked egg omelette of jamon de Paris with camembert and handmade cranberry compote delivers complexity that belies the simplicity of the dish. The pungency of the camembert is in perfect counterpoint with the concentrated burst of cranberry.
We’re almost full to the gills but can’t help sampling CasCades take on eggs Florentine, if only to give a nod to something green. Instead of the more parochial English muffin the poached eggs, spinach and hollandaise sit expertly stacked on a gently latticed hash brown, crisp and golden. It’s a cracking start.
European three-course set menu
After a day of not much activity (breakfast took it out of me), the three-course set menu in the evening seemed like a fine way to follow up my morning’s victuals.
At night the dining room is transformed. The soft candlelight and low lighting ensures each table floats in the space like an island illuminated by an individual moon.
A piano player trills quiet melodies on the resident grand piano, while the hushed dark whisper of the nighttime jungle floods the space beyond the open dining room walls.
“I could have that everyday” my partner exclaims, pointing her spoon at a wooden bowl filled marinated heirloom tomatoes, beetroot basil crème, lavender oil, watermelon, parmesan crisps and a basil sorbet. A perfect entree for the tropics, it delivers a soft cool freshness.
Despite the heat the sorbet melts slowly. Each bite refreshes and invigorates the palate. We also share a beef roll of raw Australian Wagyu wrapping ginger flower and bean sprouts, rustically presented on a dark wooden block.
The tastes of Bali sneak into the mains. A crispy barramundi fillet is surrounded by a spinach coconut sauce, so well balanced that the two ingredients constantly vie for position with each mouthful, while a coriander basil espuma provides an intricate ceiling to the sauce’s earthiness.
Likewise the seared duck breast with roasted pumpkin and beetroot includes a sambal brambang that’s so good I use the house-made bread to mop it up.
For dessert, the lemongrass infused crème brulee is indulgently rich yet still leaves the palate enlivened and ready for more.
Indonesian degustation with wine pairing
Our first day indulgences inspired us to return the following evening for more culinary therapy – a degustation menu inspired by traditional Balinese cooking and accompanied by a hand picked selection of fine wines.
The entree of ikan isi tahu sumedang rica-rica – a steamed white fish served with a prawn and tofu roulade and traditional sambal – is expertly matched with a Leonardo Da Vinci Prosecco Italy NV.
The grilled bumbu spiced baby squid, accompanied by sweet and sour purple carrot, seaweed sand, black rice krupuk and mango lime emulsion is sublime and it’s well-partnered with a 2014 Rolf Binder Chardonnay from Australia.
During the meal, we’re treated to a series of traditional Balinese dances. All fine though unfortunately my fellow diners had to endure my idiosyncratic dance style after I was brought up on stage.
Commenting on my style, my partner described it as ‘organic’.
Dancing aside, the star of the meal was Vanderbeeken’s take on the classic Sumatran beef rendang, the Rendang Sapi. A single, well portioned piece of slow cooked beef cheek and a thin sweet corn perkedel sit wrapped in cured and grilled white cabbage, surrounded by Sumatran rendang sauce and accompanied by a green chilli sambal. A thin dusting of leek charcoal adds a hint of chargrill.
The rendang sauce veers away from the thick traditional style with Vanderbeeken’s version more delicate allowing the freshness and tender, melting texture of the beef to shine through. With the fuller spicier flavours of the dish, a 2014 New Zealand Pinot Noir from Matua melds the ingredients beautifully on the palate.
It’s an exquisite dining experience in gorgeous surrounds. Vanderbeeken sources the best fresh local and international ingredients ensuring a meal at CasCades is a must for anyone enjoying a Bali sojourn.