Old and new: two restaurants in Canggu to feast on – Food

Amahl S. Azwar (The Jakarta Post)

Denpasar ●
Mon 28 February 2022

2022-02-28
10:39
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Food
UNI,Mervilla,Canggu-restaurants,Canggu,bali,food,foodies,culinary,Feast,Carribean-food,new-restaurant
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Mervilla, a new addition to Canggu’s dining scene that offers Caribbean cuisine, and Uni Restaurant, a well-established contemporary seafood restaurant that offers a wide variety of dishes, are two solid dining choices in Bali.

While much of Bali, which depends on tourism, has struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, the coastal village of Canggu has continued to see new restaurants, bars and clubs spring up.

From surfers to digital nomads, social media influencers to frequent travellers, Canggu caters to people of different nationalities and backgrounds.

As Bali gradually reopens to international tourism, here are two restaurants in Canggu worth checking out. One is a refreshing newcomer to the region’s culinary scene, while the other is a longtime favorite.

Food and fluency: Mervilla organizes free Indonesian lessons every Tuesday morning and plans to organize free English lessons in the future. (Instagram/Courtesy of Mervilla) (Instagram/Courtesy of Mervilla)

Merville

The brainchild of London entrepreneur Ryan Jackson, Mervilla offers something Bali isn’t usually familiar with: Caribbean cuisine. Italian restaurants, French cafes and restaurants offering other European cuisines are quite common in Bali. So when Mervilla (named after Jackson’s grandmother) opened its doors last year, it was a unique addition to the Balinese culinary world.

“The main challenge for us is definitely getting people to experience Caribbean cuisine. If you’re from the UK – or maybe Amsterdam or the US – you’re going to be familiar with this cuisine. is surprising how many people [in Bali] haven’t tasted the delights of the Caribbean yet,” he said.

The restaurant’s Caribbean Tempura and Island Ceviche are standout appetizers. The tempura consists of coconut-crusted shrimp served with a curry aioli that offers a distinctly Caribbean taste, while the ceviche consists of raw red snapper treated with lime, cilantro, mango, ginger and red onion in a way that brings all the different flavors into balance. Mervilla also offers cassava and banana chips while customers wait for their main courses to be served.

The Jerk Chicken, grilled and served with jerk sauce, coleslaw, rice and peas, and the Salmon Soul Bowl, with marinated pan-fried salmon, steamed cabbage, white rice, Caribbean salsa and a special Mervilla sauce, are strong main dishes. They offer signature Caribbean flavors with generous portions, which Jackson says is intentional.

“I remember going to my grandma’s house when I was younger and always coming out of there feeling drunk,” he said. “We need to create balance in the economy when we’re in business, but at the same time we want to be able to give that feeling when someone leaves Mervilla that they’re full and have had enough.”

Sweet tooth: The chocolate rum cake with cherry sauce and vanilla ice cream is a must-try dessert at Mervilla.  (Instagram/Courtesy of Mervilla)Sweet tooth: The chocolate rum cake with cherry sauce and vanilla ice cream is a must-try dessert at Mervilla. (Instagram/Courtesy of Mervilla) (Instagram/Courtesy of Mervilla)

Mervilla’s Sticky Toffee Pudding is a highly recommended dessert, with a generous amount of caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. Want something a little more bitter? Chocolate and rum cake is also available, with cherry sauce.

Cocktail lovers should try Mervilla’s Caribbean Mule, which uses house ginger beer, vodka, lime juice, and the restaurant’s spice syrup.

Mervilla also runs free Indonesian lessons every Tuesday morning and has 10-12 current weekly participants. Jackson also plans to host free English lessons in the future.

Uni-Restaurant

While Uni Restaurant is no newcomer to the Canggu block, the dining venue, founded by Steven Skelly, has been revamped to keep in touch with the growing local food scene.

Uni first opened to the public in October 2019 but closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. The restaurant reopened in December of the same year.

Japanese vibe: Uni Restaurant is filled with Japanese art, with an entire wall displaying Hokusai-like images.  (Uni Restaurant/Courtesy of Uni)Japanese vibe: Uni Restaurant is filled with Japanese art, with an entire wall displaying Hokusai-like images. (Restaurant Uni/Courtesy of Uni) (Restaurant Uni/Courtesy of Uni)

True to its name (“uni” means sea urchin in Japanese), the restaurant is filled with Japanese art, with an entire wall displaying Hokusai-like images. The ceiling decorations are a feast for the eyes – with black mirrors and lamps throughout. Restaurant Uni features street art with graffiti and painted photos, which contrasts nicely with its upscale style.

“It’s not just the tariff that has embraced the change. The interiors have been revamped, with the work of a group of world-renowned street artists, like Yaz, lining the walls. These will be available for purchase on commission and will rotate regularly,” Skelly said.

Skelly, who is no stranger to the demands of the burgeoning Balinese culinary scene, having spent years as executive chef for the Mexicola Group, sensed a shift in local dining habits.

Stunning design: Uni Restaurant's ceiling decorations are a feast for the eyes, with black mirrors and lamps throughout.  (Uni Restaurant/Courtesy of Uni)Stunning design: Uni Restaurant’s ceiling decorations are a feast for the eyes, with black mirrors and lamps throughout. (Restaurant Uni/Courtesy of Uni) (Restaurant Uni/Courtesy of Uni)

To maintain Uni’s strong reputation, Skelly said, the restaurant would add more flavor to its menu with an assortment of casual plates that changed weekly.

“There will of course be a few mainstays, the dishes already loved by locals, such as shrimp served in a brioche roll and raw scallops served in fermented raw pumpkin juice. Dishes will be served with the same creative cocktails and an impressive range of natural wines,” Skelly added.

“We spent a lot of time sourcing local ingredients and trying to minimize international products. We were doing it before the pandemic started. It’s even more important [now],” he said.

Highlights of Uni’s menu include their shrimp rolls and grilled fish of the day with anchovy vinaigrette. The Tokusen wagyu burger is also delicious and is served with spinach on the side.

Reopened: Uni Restaurant opened to the public in October 2019 but closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic.  It reopened in December 2020. (Uni Restaurant/Courtesy Uni)Reopened: Uni Restaurant opened to the public in October 2019 but closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic. It reopened in December 2020. (Uni Restaurant/Courtesy of Uni) (Uni Restaurant/Courtesy of Uni)

Craving something sweet? Don’t miss the chocolate mousse served with black sesame and cocoa chips.

“Our approach has changed,” Steven said. “It’s simpler and tastier food. Imagine a lot less fuss and more attention to make sure it’s really good. Times have changed, tastes too.

Uni has also started hiring popular local DJs for weekly residencies.

“It’s just kinda fun,” said Steven of the DJ series. “It’s a great time to hang out and socialize and a fun way to entertain our regular guest base.”


Freeda S. Scott