AYA Street Bali: Wildly Creative Peruvian-Asian In This Neck of the Tourist Woods
When in Bali, all guards pertaining to price and scrutiny are lifted. Mostly because it’s a holiday and a large majority will fork out a sum if the experience lives up to the slated cuisine sold. So here I was, getting schooled on the principles of Peruvian cuisine in Bali. What are the odds? AYA Street, the newest Peruvian restaurant in Petitenget is all about the classics, at the same time drawing inspiration from the streets, pairing the much needed visual stimulation of any successful food and beverage business in Bali (think Motel Mexicola and Da Maria) with an ode to Peruvian-Asian gastronomy. Needless to say, the space is gorgeous and expansive, the entrance begins with an open patio housing the rowdiest bunch, with most of them gravitating towards the South American inspired drinks menu touting tipples rich in mezcal and tequila.
Dinner there began with a bowl of fish soup. Aromatic warm broth rich with the flavours of the sea was a complex starter that piqued the palate. Almost akin to stepping into an Omakase dining experience, the dish preps you for the onslaught of dishes to follow. The heat from the open kitchen though, not so humorous, especially after a hike through the chaotic streets. The beauty of the inceptions lies in the fact that AYA Street dishes out a cuisine doled as Peruvian Asian—a soulful blend of indigenous Inca culture with ingredients and elements sourced from Asia. One dish in and I was sold. The kitchen continued to roll out the punches, the open kitchen experience engaging the senses and despite its heated meanderings, showcasing the vibrant personality and driven culinary direction of Chef Marco Cuevas.
There was a fried rice dish, Chaufa Ayahuasca that in a nutshell can be described as Peruvian Nasi Goreng, served at exactly the right temperature. A convivial mix of seafood, pork belly, roasted chicken, pok chow and oyster sauce, the end product was one that reaped wok-fried goodness, the aromatic bowl deserving of a host of teary harp-playing angels hovering overhead. That being said, I don’t even revel in carbs. Then the Una Nikkei Causa appears. Mashed potatoes with a slight Asian inclination—tuna tartare overhead, wakame, tobiko, avocado and wasabi mayo. It’s good. It’s also stokingly rich. I defied myself of the goodness only to see myself inching for the spoon for return visits during the short span of its table occupancy.
Then there were the drinks. The only negative is the referencing to the classics when its evident that the general public does not give two hoots about its original inspiration. D’face (Dark and Stormy), Booty Call (Mule), De Fern&ez (Old Fashioned). Whateves. My D’face was solid gold, pure pressed ginger juice meets fresh lime, sumbawa black honey, sugarcane liquor and local soda water. The spices nestled in a spooned out lime half set ablaze for extra theatrics. It’s cute, it’s cheery and cheap but more importantly, it lived up to the appearance touted by tourists as a ‘beach-side cocktail’ lessen the cliched likes of a Pina colada or Mojito. Way to go AYA Street.
Chef Marco prances across the kitchen and goes into a long narrative about the plate that was just set in front of you. It’s a blur. The dish is Novoandino – fish of the day and its an articulate display of the freshest barramundi (you can get a hold of whilst in Bali) set atop a bed of locro puree, quinotto, grilled asparagus and red paprika and chimichurri. Argue the semantics of Peruvian cuisine by all means, but I don’t detract from the appreciation of a fish dish done well. The crisp skin giving way to the succulent flesh, and the creamy melange rich in flavours of peanut butter does a passionate tango routine on the palate. I worked my way through the dish at snail’s pace, only to weep at its tragic disappearance off the plate (despite a full belly) at the end of it.
Dessert is Churros. It sticks to the South American script, conjuring wild dreams of rich hot chocolate sans the detrimental effects in the stifling heat. I thanked the lord for its calculative portions—deep fried sticks enriched with crunchy sugar that is best enjoyed drenched in a thick spiced chocolate sauce with a flicker of tanginess from the marmalade. I defy anyone who’s coming off a no-sugar diet to order this dessert; it makes you want to order a double portion for your personal indulgence. Yes, it’s so good, it forces you to congratulate the chef.
For the curious wanderers, the interiors of AYA can be a spectacle in itself. The walls guarding a carefully curated selection of street artwork ranging from Banksy to Jan Kaleb and many others. It pays to lift your eyes in appreciation of the wilfulness displayed on the walls, and this juxtaposition with the pertinacious nature of the cuisine makes me a convert. I for one was impressed.
The winds of change are blowing in the culinary scene in Bali, displacing the orthodox and bastardised western beach holiday cuisine (think burgers and poolside sandwiches) in favour of authentic cuisine at affordable pricing. AYA street, for instance, is at the forefront of the action. Bali go-ers, remember that name—AYA street.
Jl. Petitenget No. 99 A, Seminyak 80361