March 22, 2009

French food in Bali

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Tonight we finally went back to one of our favorite restaurants in Asia - Mozaic. This French establishment in the middle of beautiful Ubud was introduced to me by a friend some 5 years ago. At the time it was my girlfriend's favorite restaurant in the world. While currently that honor belongs to another restaurant, nevertheless Mozaic holds a special place in our hearts. We have made it a point to visit the restaurant on every subsequent trip to Bali, and have even included a stop-over in Bali just to dine here.

We arrived about 2 hours after the original booking time, thanks to our excursion earlier in the day. We decided to go for the Chef's Surprise Menu to see what they could throw at us, and my girlfriend explained that the only preference she has is to avoid lamb, specifically if it has a very strong taste. Our server promised that the kitchen would not send us identical dishes, so that we may enjoy different experiences.

To welcome us, we were presented with cheese balls made from Parmesan, Gouda and filled with truffle cream. Not a bad start, and the truffle flavor certainly was nice.

The amuse bouche was a French oyster with Japanese seaweed and sake. I didn't ask which type of French oyster it was, but there was a briney finish which was mostly neutralized by the Japanese ponzu and sake. Very nicely done.

The first pair:
Sardine with kaffir lime zest, juice and jelly - nice thin pan-fried fillets, and the flavors of lime was certainly prevalent. This is totally up gf's alley and reminiscent of our first dinner here.

Gindara with red wine sauce, cèpe mushrooms and ginger balsamic soy emulsion - the rich flavors of the mushrooms and the emulsion were wonderful, but the cod itself was a bit disappointing as it was done the Western way. I love cod because it tends to be tender, juicy with a bouncy texture. While the execution tonight was not flawed per se, I wish it had been more juicy and not so firm.

Second pair:
Coral trout fillet with asparagus emulsion, truffle cream and asparagus tip salad – again, love the flavors but wish the texture wasn’t so firm. I’m starting to see a pattern here.

Mixed seafood with pasta sheet and clam juice, garden herbs broth – this was really wonderful. Tender and flavorful cuttlefish, langoustine and fish covered under a sheet of cilantro pasta, along with some scalloped potatoes, baby corn, string beans and cauliflower. Topped with a wafer-thin soft shell crab that was fried to a crisp. Great stuff!

Third pair:
Rabbit pastilla and loin with smoked foie gras, ginger and apple purée, apple gelee and sautéed boudin noir – I am reminded of the bisteeya that I had a couple of weeks ago (they are the same thing). This one, though, had lots of runny juices once you cut the phyllo pastry open. The foie was not bad, and the tiny cubes of boudin noir was really interesting.

Roasted quail with foie gras, chestnut purée and nashi pear – the quail was juicy and tender, perfectly executed. The foie was something else. It was charred on the outside while juicy and runny inside, just the way I like it. Gf thinks it’s the best pan-fried foie gras she’s ever had. I think it’s definitely up there for me, too. Bravo!

Fourth pair:
Javanese baby lamb with plum purée, toasted spices and Guiness Stout emulsion – I was kinda upset when this was brought to the table. Did gf not specifically mention that she doesn’t eat lamb, except when it’s not so “lamby”? Well, apparently the kitchen took on the challenge of wanting to see if gf would like their lamb. It turns out that she did, which I thought was bizarre. The thinly slices pieces had plenty of fat in them, which gave the meat the strong taste that normally makes gf flinch and puts a smile on my face. Amazingly, I didn’t think much of the lamb. Strong spices were used to try to cover up the taste of lamb, and the end result just wasn’t to my liking. It also came with a few pieces of toasted spices on the side, which was made from molasses, Szechuan peppercorns and almonds. I munched on these as candy, letting the mix of sweet and spicy flavors dance on my tongue.

Wagyu with beetroot, horseradish and chocolate ganache – the small cubes of wagyu were OK, and the horseradish gelée was interesting, but somehow I wasn't not a fan of the chocolate ganache. It tasted like it had soy sauce blended in and I thought I was chewing on pieces of Cantonese char siu instead of wagyu.

Potato mash was served with this course. This used to be a favorite of gf’s, and she did happily finish the whole serving. But we both agreed that the texture here was a bit grainy, although less butter and cream was used so it’s a lighter and healthier mash. I’m not a mash or potato fan, but I still think Robuchon’s mash is the best…

Fifth pair:
Coulommier cheese with black olive sauce and orange marjoram gelée – very nice cheese with nutty flavors, but unfortunately it was only big enough for two mouthfuls…actually, probably only one bite for me…

Imperial mandarin sorbet, fresh citrus and bergamot caramel – wonderfully refreshing, with slices of sweet and clean mandarins underneath. Perfect.

Last pair:
Chocolate trio: white chocolate pavé, mandarin chocolate soufflé and cinnamon chocolate mousse with bitter chocolate sorbet – the mandarin chocolate soufflé was very yummy, with candied rind that matched perfectly with the chocolate.

White chocolate mousse with mixed berries phyllo and ginger sorbet – the mousse was interesting since it was stuffed with passion fruit sauce. I didn’t like the mixed berries so much since it was a bit too sour for me.

We left the restaurant well past 11pm, being the last table to ask for the bill. We strolled back to our hotel in the cool evening breeze, satiated after another wonderful meal here. While Mozaic won’t ever feature in my top 10 restaurants around the world, we have always enjoyed our meals here and feel that it’s extremely good value for the quality that is offered. I look forward to returning, but I probably should explore some of the other options first...

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