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Theatre Of The Blessed

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Katie Truman visits homely yet elegant Teatro. Photo: Lucky 8.

IT’S called Teatro Gastroteque . . . so the name of this gastronomic boutique restaurant in downtown Seminyak not only hints at what’s on tonight’s programme, but perhaps what sets Teatro apart from other fine-dining establishments.

Cuisine is “sophisticated French modern cooking with Asian flavours and twists,” but I’ve come across this east-meets-west hybrid several times on the island. Here, within this small and stylish premises, expect a think-outside-the-box concept with bold presentations, theatrical flair, surprises and deceptive illusions. And expect to be entertained.

The surprises start with Teatro’s executive chef and co-creator, Daniel Edward; he’s not French, but a Jakarta native, fine-tuning his culinary skills at several prestigious five-star hotels in Dubai and winning a handful of world-class chef competitions en route before opening this, his first restaurant.

Teatro presents dinner-only, dining fit for gastronomes, with Degustation three, five and seven- course Set Menus, 10-course Chef Degustation Menu and signature, 12-course Discovery Menu, with several core dishes repeated across the board. All menus can all be additionally paired with Old World Wines carefully thought through to match and enhance each dish.

“Teatro presents strong balanced menus; each dish bearing its own characteristics and detail,” Daniel says.

“Ingredients are special and speak for themselves; we source the best produce available on the market; premium ingredients such as foie gras and beef imported in, but we mainly use locally-sourced finest ingredients, delivering a more authentic flavour.”

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Visual presentation is almost as important as taste and essential part of the “show” with courses presented as exquisite art forms, that would make a gourmet food photographer salivate. Dishes, impeccably served one-by-one by super slick, yet discreet staff considered as “butlers,” are set on textured, slate-grey ceramic table ware, exclusively commissioned from Kevala.

High-end dining this may be, but Teatro, like an increasing number of Bali’s upscale venues is refreshingly “casual,” devoid of starched tablecloths, pretentions and dress code. Guests of varied ages and nationalities come casually dressed in flip-flops and shorts – although like any self-respecting management, the line is probably drawn at Bintang singlets. And pricing (from IDR 675,000) is realistically good value, considering the quality.

Teatro is deliberately designed as an unintimidating, intimate dining space, like you’re in a home setting, dining on velveteen armchairs – this concept further expanded by the open show kitchen where chefs and assistants can be seen up-close by diners (and facing the street, probably half of Seminyak) meticulously executing courses.

The audience warm-up is a series of bite-sized aperitifs, where Edward and kitchen team reveal playful teasers of their culinary creativity and theatrics about to be unleashed. These include a twist, literally, on Indonesian rice-flour crackers, rolled-up here like cigars, and what appears to be a dark chocolate truffle, but is actually, xiao pau (braised beef). Amuse Bouche Spinach Soup is buttery, delicately flavoured and simply divine, a surprise in itself, I mean, who likes spinach soup?

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Curtains up, and my five course set menu starts with Foie Gras en terrine, a classic example of contrasting sweet and savoury tastes, with salty, smoked home-cured pork and French foie gras marinated in plum sake and wrapped in a port wine jelly; a French classic – smeared on homemade brioche – gone troppo with dollops of mango and sultry palm sugar gel. On to Caramelized Atlantic Scallop, succulently fresh, as is, Jimbaran Bay prawn, set on a sea of cauliflower puree, spring onion and teriyaki.

Once the lid is removed of an orb-shaped ceramic bowl, Yoghurt Lime Sorbet is revealed; a more technical version of the classic French sorbet palette cleanser; this it does, but here the sorbet comes in a frothy, foam-like consistency with bubbles infused with lime and chili – produced by freezing yoghurt into small aerated particles – with a tangy pineapple confit lurking underneath. Fresh Caught Fish sounds simple but reveals a play on contrasting textures: lusciously smooth snapper in creamy coconut curry sauce with fern leaves contrasting with earthy textured, crunchy breadcrumbs and white elderberry flowers as delicate decoration. Next, Kiwami Beef Tataki, with thin slivers of top-grade beef cooked perfect medium rare, enhanced with eringgi mushrooms, daikon and onion dressing, presents a Japanese dish western influenced, artfully adorned with edible pink petals.

What Valrhona Ivory Chocolate lacks in theatrics, it makes-up for in sinfully rich, white chocolate with hints of vanilla, raspberries and hazelnuts. But final act, Mignardises, bites back, with deceptive petit white chocolate truffle, subtly infused with green tea. It’s curtains for dinner and my macchiato is served . . . I look for hidden surprises, but there are none. It’s just good coffee.