di Mare: by the Sea of the Sea

Published 01 October 2008   

The original di Mare Restaurant opened in Jimbaran in 2004 under the aegis of Executive Chef Raymond Saja and since March 2008 has also launched at Karma Resorts’ stunning Bukit location, Karma Kandara, where it rests on a cliffside locale 100 metres above Bali’s southern Uluwatu coast offering diners an unobstructed 180° degree view of the Indian Ocean. Maintaining the excellent modern Mediterranean cuisine that has proven popular at the first di Mare, Saja has also taken advantage of Kandara’s sublime seaside setting to create a unique atmosphere that certainly complements its name and also matches di Mare’s Mediterranean flavors in terms of style and design.

Text by S. Gamboa

Prior to his tenure at Karma Resorts, Bali, Chef Raymond Saja cut his teeth working for years in New York City under notable Chefs de Cuisine such as Claude Troisgros and Laurent Tourondel of Restaurant C.T. as well as Joseph Pace of Petrossian. After his tutelage under the masters, he worked for four years at one of New York City’s most famous luxury boutique hotels, Hotel Plaza Athénée, where he was the Executive Chef at the in-house Arabelle restaurant. His trademark “progressive French cuisine with global influences” won him several accolades, most notably from the Conde Nast Gold List 100 that rated Arabelle as one of the top three hotel restaurants in New York City. Recognizing his undeniable talent, Saja was recruited by the Karma Resorts group and currently holds the position of Director of Karma Cuisine for all five of their locations but with prime focus on the current two Bali resorts in Jimbaran and the Bukit (as well when the Karma Agung opens in East Bali in 2009), where he likes to note that he is “first and foremost, the Executive Chef” at both di Mare Restaurants.

di Mare’s seven-section menu reflects a broad range of items, seasonings, and cooking techniques from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, as well as North Africa. Combining elements from such a broad palette is by no means an easy task but Saja employs his time-tested method of firstly developing the ingredients and then composing the dishes in a way that is personal, progressive and unique to him while simultaneously exploring the combination of flavors available within Mediterranean fare. As he puts it, “we like to offer food that is not necessarily like anything else you’d find in Bali,” and the distinct results are a clear representation of his years of skill behind the grill.

As might be expected, seafood dominates the menu and heads the 1st section with chilled choices such as imported oysters, Jimbaran prawns, and marinated Mediterranean mussels priced per piece. Starters ranging from the complex Spice Encrusted Prawns with Pea Leaves, Pods, Tendrils, and Tahitian Vanilla Emulsion to the standard Chilled Spanish Gazpacho are next followed by a choice of seven salad options. Most popular during lunch, these selections also cover a broad range of flavors including the Watermelon “Carpaccio” served with Goat’s Cheese Bavarois, Soft Herbs, and Chili Salt Lavosh, which although may sound like an incongruous combination of ingredients, works surprisingly well together especially on a hot afternoon. The “Hot” Prawn and Cool Mango salad with Haricot Verttes, Spicy Peanuts, and Xeres Vinaigrette plays with both contrasting temperatures and piquancy to novel and refreshing effect. For the less adventurous, basic salad choices such as Ceaser Salad Classique, Buffalo Mozzarella and Beefsteak Tomato, and the Moroccan Spiced Tuna Nicoise are available as well.

Heading up the second page of the dinner menu is the Pasta & Rice section featuring Open Seafood Ravioli with scallops, crabmeat, prawns, corn and shitake saffron emulsion; Linguine with Jimbaran Prawns; and Capellini Alla Chittara with jumbo green crab, garlic chives and “Ricci di Mare,” or sea urchin, which unique flavor Raymond notes “is the epitome of what the ocean tastes like.” The delectable Seared Alaskan Scallops option perfectly balances the delicate texture of the shellfish with floral notes from the asparagus, the earthy flavor of black truffles, the crispness of the Prosciutto di Parma, and the creaminess of the herb risotto.

Grilled Opakapaka and Pan Roasted Black Grouper are included in the ‘From the Sea’ portion of the menu but the standout is the Moroccan Spiced Ahi Tuna in which morsels of tuna are encrusted with raz el hanout (a Middle Eastern spice blend) and set atop roasted eggplant-potato puree (similar to baba ganoush), and dressed with lemon confit, rocket and Ligurian olive jus. The meats in the ‘From the Land’ section include Muscovy Duck Breast (the leanest of duck breeds), Herb-Crusted Australian Lamb Loin, the very French-Mediterranean inspired Braised Pork Belly, Moroccan Grilled Merguez with couscous, and Wagyu Sirloin “Florentine” Style. The latter is seared at a high temperature and then basted with butter, thyme, garlic, and balsamic vinegar as the meat rests and then served with Potabello mushrooms, spinach, Italian gorgonzola, and Israeli couscous prepared in a manner similar to risotto.

The Chef’s Suggestion and a suitable one at that, is the Cuisine in “Miniatura.” This is a preparation for the entire table comprised of a nine-course menu (although the order is generally more likely to include between 11 – 12 courses) of “modern tapas,” in other words, a cross section of the entire fish, meat, and dessert menu served three to four small dishes at a time. This presents a savvy and communal way to savor almost all the distinct options on the varied di Mare menu.

Besides a full selection of dessert choices, di Mare’s wine list includes 120 plus selections handpicked by Raymond from smaller, boutique vineyards from all major wine regions while the cocktail menu was specially crafted by Grant Collins of Bar Solutions, the cutting-edge bar consultancy firm.

The Mediterranean theme at di Mare is also embodied in its interior design and architecture. Arced steel tubing and a sail-like roof provide the billowy canopy for the main dining area which seats up to 80. The beautifully polished terrazzo floor is stained a deep teal green and provides an interesting illusion of aquatic depth and movement that also contrasts nicely with the pale blue and beige rattan chairs from which the spectacular vista beyond the bordering infinity lap pool can be admired while dining. During breezier evenings, scrim-type blinds are lowered between the wooden support pillars to buffer the occasional gusts in a manner that resembles the sails of a ship.

Besides di Mare restaurant, Karma Kandara also features Nammos, a “Mykonian” inspired beach club and restaurant by the shore side below that is accessible via fenicular that glides down the angled cliff face. While directly above di Mare is the Moroccan styled Temple Lounge, consisting of long banquettes with ample cushioned seating from where to enjoy a pre-dinner aperitif or after dinner cocktail under the stars.

Karma Kandara (0361) 848 2222
www.karmaresorts.com

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