This review is about Kayu Manis the home stay and café, NOT Kayu Manis the chain of boutique hotels.
New restaurants in Bali often begin life with a blaze of glory, and far too often then fade away not that many months later. This intimate mini restaurant, seating just 18 persons [9 tables of 2 or other combinations thereof] in the garden courtyard of their home stay began quietly and through word-of-mouth, and consistent quality and value, has become the favourite haunt of many expatriates who live in the Sanur area. In fact it is almost as if they wanted to keep this 4 year secret all to themselves.
Upon first arrival you are pleasantly surprised that although small it is not crowded, the tables well spaced yet still intimate. A big and professional kitchen with many staff also suggests that this is no mean café, but a real restaurant. This is a fact that is subsequently reinforced many times during your visit.
Other surprises continue to flow. The menu is modern and not just a copy of others. In fact most of those usual touristy items are missing [not a Gordon Blue in sight!]. 1st surprise is an Amuse Bouche! Simple but nice, a wooden holder is the base for an inverted fork carrying a delicious warm mushroom. Then comes the bread board, a mini table displaying a chunk of warm bread [actually baked on the premises] alongside which is blended green pepper and cream cheese spread. You quickly re-check the menu, no the mains are mostly only 50-70,000, not 200,000++.
I constantly refer to 'attention to detail'; it is one of my major measuring sticks! Kayu Manis does all those little things, and does them well. A sure sign that someone somewhere really knows what they are doing, yet they still call it a café whilst doing many things that self-styled restaurants do not! Any restaurant, at any price, serving a western style cuisine should always present bread, and preferably a quality one, and from the warming oven by choice. Sadly, in Bali, very few do.
For entrée a Salad of young papaya and shredded coconut on mixed greens, topped with a pair of grilled prawns. I had expected the prawns to be served peeled and cold but in fact they were hot from the grill, still in shells. No finger bowl [only a minor blemish] so a trip to the washroom was required afterwards, but for prawns this fat and juicy not a problem!
Other entrees can include Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls, stuffed with glass noodles, chicken and shrimp meat, a Balinese Chicken Salad, an Italian Tomato and Mozzarella or Peppered Beef [thinly sliced in lemon and olive oil with Parmesan] or their own version of a Caesar Salad, with chicken pieces and a chilli salsa.
Soup can be Cream of Pumpkin, made with coconut milk and infused with lemon grass, Leek & Potato or Seafood combinations or a Cappuccino of Barlotti Beans and Shrimp. The Cappuccino is served in a large whisky glass, the base a broth from the beans, studded with prawn meat, topped with cappuccino foam. Very good.
A small but varied selection of pasta is also available. Spaghetti can be with prawn, chilli and garlic, or carbonara style. Tricolour Spirali pasta is with grilled vegetables and blue cheese, Cannelloni can be had with either seafood or vegetable stuffing, whilst the Penne is served Vongole style, with baby clams.
The mains are different from elsewhere in Sanur, which makes a pleasant change. A Chicken Leg is stuffed with cheese and mushroom, slowly cooked and so tender that the meat literally falls of the bone. A wrapped stack of potato and other vegetables is on the side, resembling further meat in the dark of the restaurant. How else can you finish off a tasty drumstick but with the fingers? Another trip to the washroom ensues, but for finger-licking food like this, who cares?
The Chicken Breast is stuffed with Parmesan cheese, diced pineapple and tomato, and served with a rum raisin sauce. Beef Stroganoff has been sautéed with mushrooms in a mustard cream sauce. Australian Beef Tenderloins are grilled and topped with foam of wasabi and black pepper. The Osso Bucco is done 'My Way', the chef's that is not Frankie's, braised with tomatoes and mushrooms, again the meat as tender as you would expect.
The Salmon is simply seared, Mixed Seafood is skewered and sits on a bed of risotto made with a touch of chilli. The Snapper is wrapped in bacon and pan-fried, the Squid is stuffed with mushrooms, tomato and spinach.
For dessert there is a Sticky Rice Pudding with coconut milk and ice cream, or a Coconut Delight [a creamed coconut mix with mango ice cream]. More western is the Chocolate Steamed Pudding and the Italian Tartufo with roasted peanuts. Talking about all those little touches, even a complimentary sorbet is served. A lump of tangy lemon sorbet is topped with a frozen strawberry. I know that is old fashioned but I still like it!
Young Balinese chefs are now starting to flex their muscles, having learnt from their years working with International chefs either locally or on cruise ships, and the future looks bright. If I keep on finding little treasures like this hidden amongst the grossness of Sanur I will have to completely change my opinion of the area. Years ago the long line of restaurants there had almost identical menus, now the strip is getting more interesting all the time, and at the right prices too, Sanur really is coming alive!