Izakaya Comes to Bali!

KUU is a Japanese restaurant specializing in Izakaya cuisine. It is located street-side at Sanur’s latest 5 star hotel, the impressive Maya Sanur.

Izakaya was developed as a series of small dishes in Japan’s Sake bars. At Kuu they classify their offerings as Appetisers, Sashimi, Sushi, Simmered & Steamed, Grilled and Fried dishes and, of course, Desserts. 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 was one of the first Izakaya restaurants in Bali, Many dishes 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.

However, 3 years after opening, Kuu is morphing into a more general Japanese restaurant. The many small dishes are still there, just that more traditional mains have been added as well, and a larger selection of sushi and sashimi, as was requested by the now considerable regular clientele.

Amongst the mini dishes is two-mouthful specials such as Goma Dofu [a split steamed prawn sitting on a sesame scented square of tofu, with a touch of wasabi], as well as a very tasty Asparagus Nikumaki [crunchy asparagus spears rolled in a thin slice of Angus beef, grilled with another sweet sauce. I could make a meal of these alone] and the 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]. 19 individual Sushi are available and the Chef’s Special Platter can be ordered as the Standard or De-Luxe version.

And then there is the impressive Dragon Roll [pictured], with prawn, avocado, lettuce, cucumber, seaweed, flying fish roe and unagi sauce.

After all of those tempting small snacks it is time for a few more substantial dishes. The mains include Buta Kakuni [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.

A pleasant surprise was seeing Chicken Livers on the menu, so surprisingly rare in Bali, what happens to them? …..millions must be thrown away? Here the livers are kept in milk, a kind of marination. The result, silky smooth.

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.

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.

Noodles [Udon or Soba] can be ordered hot or cold. Cold soba noodles are a recent taste discovery for me, so different.

The ‘Grilled’ section is 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 or minced chicken].

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.

A recent addition to the menu are Bento Boxes, A Japanese institution mainly ordered for lunch, they are laminated compartmentatised boxes with different combos; here there are three, salmon or chicken tempura or a beef teriyaki.

For dessert stay Japanese with Yukimi Daifuku, red bean ice cream, with mochi or go fusion with Yuzu Cotton Cheese Cake.

Still being mostly 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 and they have been rewarded by an excellent acceptance level.

Try KUU with an open mind and you will be rewarded. The excellent menu is well illustrated for the first timers. This is a very professional operation.



Restaurant                    : KUU.

Address                        : Maya Sanur, Jln. Danau Tamblingan Sanur.

Telephone                    : 849.7800.

Open                              : Dinner from 6.00pm. [closed Mondays].

Non-smoking Area     : On covered terrace.

Smoking Area              : Yes.

Parking                         : Secure parking in basement.

Price                              : Rp. 400,000 for two [+ drinks]

Credit Cards                : Visa, Mastercard, AMEX, JCB.

Food                             : Japanese.

Wine                             : Sake plus medium list.

Service                         : Professional.

Atmosphere                : Cosy.

Overall                         : Interestingly different!


Copyright © 2018 Gerry Williams

Reviews that appear in Bali Advertiser are based on actual visits to the establishments listed, without the knowledge of the restaurants, and are not paid for by the individual restaurants.

Opinions expressed here are those of Gerry Williams and not necessarily those of Bali Advertiser. Gerry Williams attempts to write from a ‘typical’ diner’s perspective and, whilst quality of food is the most important criteria overall, value for money is the real measuring stick.