When you first arrive at The Sayan House car park and are taken from reception, past the reassuringly spotless and industrious open kitchen, where all staff simultaneously shout out their welcome (very familiar if you have ever been to Japan), there is nothing that quite prepares you for the spectacular view that slaps you across the face as you emerge into the garden.
I won’t try to describe it and spoil your “oh wow” moment but your first reaction may be, as ours was, to head to the bar for a cocktail while you gawp at it for a while.
They recently stopped their Happy Hour of 20% off cocktails between 4pm-7pm, however it’s still worth getting there before your meal to enjoy one in the garden before the sun sets and enjoy the incredible view.
Not discernibly alcoholic (I swear they’ve been watered down since the first time I went), they are though, very tasty and the luxurious setting only makes them more so. Sit at one of the benches at the bar and sip your sundowner whilst contemplating the green valley before you.
In addition, the barman informed us that they will soon be adding a series of sake based cocktails.
After cocktails, we are seated in the restaurant, which is also outdoors, and offers continued views over the darkening vistas. In fact, the candle on the table at times does not seem sufficient to allow you to actually see what you are eating. Which is a shame, as all the food is beautifully presented.
Maybe it’s to stop people photographing it?
Our waitress explained that the concept was casual dining with Japanese-Latín fusion cuisine and that previously they had been high-end Japanese but since changing the menu they had become much more successful as a “destination restaurant”. So, if you can’t imagine what Japanese/Latin fusion cuisine looks like, imagine a sashimi taco. Now imagine wasabi ceviche.
You just imagined our starters and I’m sure Japanese and Latin Americans alike would agree that both were delicious.
The ceviche dish has recently been changed, both presentation and taste-wise, and I would have to say that the first incarnation was a lot better. The quality of the fish is still great but the lime juice has been used more like a dressing than a marinade and so I’m not sure that it really qualifies as ceviche.
The tacos are delicious, we tried the sashimi and the langostinos and both were delicious, satisfying both as a taco and as sashimi.
We also tried the rolls, both the prawn tempura and the sashimi, and both were delicious. The rice was perfect and so was the fish. Wasabi has been pre-added so watch out, I had a real eye-watering, nostril-flaming moment!
After such a successful first round, the mains were disappointing to say the least. The tuna croquettes were tasty and the barbecue sauce that went with them was good but I struggled to see either a Latin or japanese influence, whilst the mashed potato was another odd addition – more gastro pub than Peruvian causa. Overall the dish was unbalanced, with nothing to offset the heaviness of the deep-fried croquette, and in desperate need of vegetables, salad or some pickles.
We also ordered the salmon, which was very fresh and cooked well, but it was sat on the plate with the same garnishes as the tuna, minus the sauce. Salmon with mashed potato, basically.
So on my following visit, I decided to try the veggie burger as the previously tried fish dishes were so uninspiring. It was made from tofu, shiitake mushrooms and tempeh, and so sounded promising. Learning from previous experience, I also asked for the mashed potato to be substituted with the cassava fries – who wants burger and mash, right?
Please do not do this unless your arteries are in need of some fur-lining.
The inside of the veggie burger resembled quorn (if you don’t know what quorn is, ask anyone who was vegetarian in the UK in the 1980s), this was deep-fried, topped with the eponymous BBQ sauce and served with deep fried cassava chips. A bun may have rescued this burger but alas, no bun. I ate one chip, which sat heavily in my stomach, then scraped out the grey filling of my burger whilst wondering what vegetarians had ever done to the chef!
I can’t speak for the meat dishes, but the rest of the main courses were way off the mark.
It’s like all the inspiration went into the starter menu and then they got bored and flicked through a Jamie Oliver 15-minute meals recipe book.
Hoping that the desserts might rescue the meal, we were again disappointed; the chocolate brownie with ice cream came in a big portion (always a plus for the Greedy Cat) and was good, but let’s face it, if you fail at chocolate brownie you’ve failed at life.
The mango with green tea ice cream – although elegantly served in a cocktail glass – was a marriage of flavours that will hopefully end in a hasty divorce for the sake of everyone involved. On my second visit, we headed to town for an ice-cream instead.
The wine list featured mainly local wines and the wines available by the glass were either Two Islands or a Chilean, both acceptable reds but less so in white, which is preferable for this cuisine. When are the restaurants going to start stocking the fantastic Isolá local rosé?
In summary, destination restaurant it may be, and with a location this jaw-dropping they might be forgiven for being complacent, but the menu needs more work to elevate the food from high-end gastropub to the casual/fine-dining experience they are aiming for.
- Book for an early sitting so you get to enjoy the sunset.
- Remember your Hubud pass, if you have one. It will get you a 15% discount.
- Fill up on the starters, they’re the king of the crop.
- Forget your camera, the view is a show stopper!
- Expect it to be too authentic
- Order the veggie burger! Just don’t do it.
Interesting to note, The Sayan House also do a lunchtime Bento Box. At 150k (about €10), which includes dessert, it’s a great way to experience the amazing views at the restaurant and sample a nice selection of their food, at around a fifth of the cost of an evening meal.
There is one standard bento on the menu which is served in a lovely wooden box and packed to bursting with a mix of everything, but they are also very accomodating with specific dietary requirements, and my request for non-meat, non-dairy was dealt with sans probleme and, as you can see below, my bento was not lacking in quantity or variety.
Also, just because it’s lunchtime, doesn’t mean you don’t have time for an amuse bouche. We get our sweet potato crisps with wasabi mayo and mixed salsa while waiting for our bentos.
Dessert is included and you get a choice of three, the most stand-out of which was probably the Spanish breakfast-inspired “Churros with Horchata ice-cream”.
A lovely ending to a fantastic lunchtime treat!
- Pimp your bento with any special requirements – they got the skills!
- Stop by the Ubud Raw chocolate factory afterwards for a chocolate tasting, if you still have that chocolate craving.
- …bother booking. Lunch seems to be a quiet time, so just rock up when that bento-fancy takes you!