API JIWA Capella Ubud @ A Delicious Soul of Fire

ining out must be a sensory experience, rather than just a way to sate your appetite especially when an exotic dining destination is included. Imagine heading into the middle of a mystical forest and having dinner at a pre-eminent luxury resort that houses every amenity in a tented camp, Api Jiwa at Capella Ubud stirs up the fire and will probably awaken your soul for its unique dining experience offerings. mylifestylenews writes.

Tucked away in a back road just off the small town of Tegallalang in Ubud and after passing through a small village of Desa Kelili, on arrival, expectations are heightened by the fact that the entrance is so secretive and not only the security check on each vehicle entering the gated property of the entire estate, but what is about to unfold in front of you is a guaranteed wow moment of its visionary stunning nature surroundings, unless you are a fool that has not much sense of having an admiration of any sort of architectural or design and decor aesthetic, then you are forgiven.

You alight from your vehicle and then you are escorted down a path whereupon you are confronted with an amazing sight of many small tent-like structures, which are unique “tree hanging” guest rooms, restaurants, a spa, a gym house, guest lounge, outdoor terraced rice field design swimming pool and so forth. It is truly a stunning sight that you will not expect and we were bowled over within seconds. At the tented ‘lobby’ we were confirmed for our dinner and escorted to another larger tent pavillion where Api Jiwa’s action takes place which immediately screams destination dining, as there is nothing ordinary about this location and design.

Totally unconventional. With so much thought and challenging determined hard work by designing this one-of-a-kind luxury “camp-site” that blends in aesthetically with the nature, the design team helmed by globally renown atelier landscape architect, Bill Bensley always make things work with an unexpectedly sophistication of enlightenment and winning results. The interior design is so quirky and makes you smile. All installed elements are referencing an old steam laundry and it really leaves you gobsmacked and you almost laugh in disbelief. Laundry baskets, laundry boards, charcoaled cast irons, copper tubs, rusted water pipes, cast iron framed doors, blanket sticks and many more, all thoughtfully aligned and displayed on the complex wall.

If you were born millennial, unless you are dining with your elderly parents or companion, you have clearly will have no idea what is displayed on the enchanting wall of sophistication as it has taken you back to yesteryear how basic life was lived and then back to the future with modern amenities. Simply brilliant! The more you look, the more obvious each detail is and nothing could be considered boring by any means. In keeping with the rest of the restaurant, the ceiling was gracefully decorated with Indonesian batik fabric in the style of an intimate boudoir, adorned with a few colourful wood crafted pillars as well as the automatic hand winding old fans which gives a gentle breeze to the entire semi outdoor restaurant. Complex yet not fussy and the local heritage and culture has evidently been highly considered into every inch of the design element.

The view is equally stunning, overlooking a village valley surrounded with tens of hundreds of slim trunk coconut trees and is one of the best locales for sunset watching. Words can’t describe any further, it just feels like another world and you have to be here to soak in all the sensual elements to enjoy the most sensational vista. Api Jiwa is inspired by the Sanskrit word meaning “fire to the soul”, as most dishes will be touched by fire. The kitchen display is spot on and is also quite eye-catching, so you are not bored while observing the Chefs in action, while they create bold flavours inspired by Asian omakase served in a lively and uniquely designed open-air restaurant.

With no more than 12-seatings around the wooden bench top, this ringside kitchen allocation is to prioritize on your booking by securing the best seat of the house, otherwise, a few well distanced table settings are available for your privacy if you are not the communal type of diner. You are under cover, but the evening breeze wafts through the space and there are additional standing fans supply should you feel a little too humid and sticky in the tropical evening heat.

 The I-leave-it-up-to you omakase experience means that you get to try a variety of flavours to pique the tastebuds, but no course is too big. More than a degustation experience and bite size portions are the order of the day, but by the time you are finished, it will seem like a lot of food to satisfy your craving and curiosity. We were positioned around the Chef’s counter and could see a lot of the action firsthand as the course by course delivery journey progressed through unexpected bites and some predictably expected, showcasing the freshest seasonal locally sourced sustainably-framed ingredients of Bali.

While ‘breaking bread” is part of the tradition of immersing in local tradition, Api Jiwa’s refined mountain-village-inspired dining is a spirit of discovery, adding a twist to traditional flavours focusing on intimate and authentic Asia barbecue cuisine. Every guest receives a welcome cocktail and they are very enjoyable, We had the <FIRST> - a concoction of gin, umeshu ratfia, yuzu liquer and peach syrup and <FORTH> with bourbon, Japanese black charcoal with rosemary flavour, drambuie, spice bitter, campari and fresh lime. While sipping a cool libation, the anticipation builds for the first course and the rest of the nine to come. Selected wine pairings is another alternative option if you would like to further enhance your dining experience.

<Lombok Oyster>
Beautifully presented and the taste was as good as it gets for fresh produce on a beautiful stoneware plate.The large chunky flesh of the oyster was dressed with oyster mushroom, garlic and watercress. Visually invisible but its all in the taste, the Lombok meaty oyster is lightly seared to a smoky flavour and the combination components adds a little more breadth of flavour and texture, which is rounded off by the garlic oil and watercress to create quite a delicious start to this culinary journey.

<Smoked Unagi>
Despite the seaweed had collapsed and lost the crispiness due to the high humidity, for 12 plus pieces handmade at the same time resulted to enjoy this delicate unagi at its peak, the eel was served with a chili and ginger topping, brushed with mirin and soy sauce with a light sambal matah match. Subtlety is king, as the eel is not a very strong flavour, so no other ingredient dominates, resulting in a pleasant mouthful.

<Telur Kukus>
Probably it was the soul dish of Api Jiwa’s omakase experience with a great combination of smoked bacon, egg custard and a bite size piece of lobster on the top, served hot and beautifully presented in an eggshell and is simply divine. The umami flavours derived from all the ingredients used was carefully crafted and presented in a great flavour. By far the best dish for the evening, the way omakase goes. Paired with the fruity and floral light crisp 2022 Hawker’s Bay Haha Pinot Gris from New Zealand.

<Soto Ayam>
This is one of the all time classics for Indonesian’s iconic national dish with a slight twist whereby two birds kill one stone, as the expression goes – the chicken skewer sitting atop the cup of fragrant clear chicken broth was tender and between the two pieces of chicken thigh is a chicken heart for a different texture that adds richness. The chicken broth consists of turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, celery and lightly thickened with coconut milk. We love the idea of one dish in two separate ayam flavours and textures despite the broth was a bit ordinary and lacking of the omakase surprise and can be done more distinctively with a twist to enhance the palate. The chicken skewers of meat quality were palatable, but in one of the skewers we had, the meat was more than 80% fat.

<Satay Kambing>
The cabbage and kimchi sauce was not quite a successful execution, it was underwhelming, not only tasteless, tough and not well marinated to deliver the pungent kimchi flavour. While the kambing meat itself was already a standout, tender, juicy and flavoursome and needing no further accompaniment to enhance it. Stainless steel skewers should also be replaced by wooden stick/bamboo or even the entire lemongrass stick for omakase dining experience as well as authenticity by paying homage to Balinese cuisine, for its organic presentation and additional aromatic plate added to the entire dish. Paired with a 2016 Naked Range Merlot for its smooth and dark cherry notes.

This dish elevates a humble vegetable to legendary status with great taste and a complexity of curry and coconut cream. The cauliflower was barbequed into a tender and smoky state and then served in an Indonesian curry with coconut cream and cumin, to add that flavour dimension. A pleasant vegetarian dish that stands on its own.

<Grilled River Prawn>
The prawn is marinated overnight and served with bean sprouts and green beans, along with a small portion side of Nasi Goreng. While Nasi Goreng is the soul of Balinese cuisine and in any Asian culinary sphere, it is always a huge challenge for a simple dish not done right, unfortunately, this version here was not up to an ordinary Nasi Goreng standard of its flavour and texture. Not only the rice was pre-cooked and reheated on a small induction stove that can’t offer any smokey flavours nor fluffiness, but dry and tough, nearly a soggy-burnt version which was not too pleasant to enjoy. One of us had only two scoops and could not continue. The halved river prawn was beautifully grilled with a light char flavour and with great texture, fresh and tender. Yet, the ‘salad’ sauce is subtle and a pleasant accompaniment that does not overshadow the sensational prawns. Once again, the sauce is so unnecessary and did not bring out the best from the prawn, so it would have been better to have a citrusy and pungent dressing instead. Paired with a 201 19 Crimes Cabernet Sauvignon, the vanilla aromatics fruity notes gave a rich mouth feel yet didn't seem to go well with the prawn dish.

<Smoked Beef Tenderloin>
The Australian Angus beef smoked with rosemary and thyme, dressed with beef jus, red onion and BBQ sauce that has paprika and mustard was beautifully cooked and presented on classy stoneware. All flavours harmonized and balanced well and were totally spot on for omakase and the degustation experience.

<Tangerine Granita>
Time for a palate refresh with crushed ice drizzled with coconut and lime. A beautiful melange of flavours, tasty refreshing tangerine with a hint of sweetness although the granita had already suffered in the humidity and collapsed to become more like a juice. 
Expect a little more like a crushed-ice plate when granita is mentioned yet too smooth and watery in texture.

<Miso Parfait>
This confection is a combination of banana sponge with caramelized banana sauce, with the miso parfait placed in the middle of the sponge that was not soft, nor airy and not much on a miso palate either. The plating presentation is quite attractive but didn’t highlight much of the content.

<Balinese Petit Fours>
A lovely selection of delectable bites to round off the omakase journey but not impressive at all. The “Madelene” was soggy, lacked sweetness and minused the mandarin or fruity hint, the sesame ball and the other nutty bite was tough sitting on a chunky dull stoneware.

Service was warm, polite and attentive as one would expect of Capella hospitality. Our servers for the evening, Lastri and Dita went that extra mile to pour a little more wine, listen to guests’ feedback and adjust. There is no doubt that the evening had an intimate atmosphere to it, given the limited number of guests they cater for, but this can also be a dampener – you get the wrong guests around you and you don’t want to overhear their conversation, which affected our (as well as the table next to us) experience, because you could not unhear their conversation as it was so loud! A perfect dinner needs perfect guests, but when they are annoying they bring the score down, so to speak.

The location is truly amazing and yet the food may not be as exciting to delight our palate with bold flavours and there were a few hit and miss dishes mainly due to technical issues as well as the outdoor dining challenges ad inconsistent use of Chinaware and stoneware presentation. At least, the culinary team in Api Jiwa still strives to deliver a delicious soul of fire on what they think are best to pamper your demanding palate. Overall, the jungle-feel omakase experience is still worthy to be on your bucket list for a unique dining venture.

Tried & Tested:
Location: 5/5
Design & Decor: 5/5
Food & Beverages: 3.5/5
Service: 4/5
Value For Money: 4/5
Experience: 4.5/5

 Jalan Raya Dalem, Banjar Triwangsa,
Desa Keliki, Kecamatan, 
Ubud, Gianyar
Bali, Indonesia
Tel: +62 361 2091 888

Reviews are based on actual day of visit and experience. mylifestylenews reserves the right of final decision in case of any disputes. All images are photographed by mylifestylenews team without any photoshop enhancement and are the property owned by mylifestylenews unless otherwise stated. 

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