Mention the word Kuta to a surfer or a globetrotter and the first thing that comes to mind is the Balinese fishing village turned beach resort. The folks behind Kuta Satay House & Wine Bar are looking to get the same name recognition from diners with their new spot on the Lower East Side.
With a menu that gives shoutouts to various Indonesian locales and a dining room decked out with Balinese masks, it's clear where Kuta's heart lies. Like an ambitious Peace Corps worker, Kuta's bill of fare also makes stops in Korea, Thailand, India and Malaysia -- and that's just the satay page.
Gothamist's ordering strategy on our first visit skewed heavily toward the list of a dozen skewers. Peppery chunks of chicken tandoori were super tender, though a sidecar of cucumber relish could have used a bit more zing. Soy-brushed Indonesian chicken madura was good, but couldn't touch the stellar tandoori.
Lombok spicy seafood mix is named for the island that's home to the restaurant's namesake city of Kuta. And what a mix, the combination of chili lemongrass tiger shrimp, scallop and cuttlefish crammed onto the skewer was so good we briefly considered packing our bags and heading to Bali to learn how to surf. The sole disappointment among the satay was the Indonesian beef Madura, bits of tough chewy flank steak slicked with peanut sauce and topped with crispy shallots.
We also tried the Jimbaran crab cake, named after a Balinese city renowned for its fresh seafood. The gigantic disk of crab meat packed was a powerhouse of Indonesian spices and barely needed the chili aioli sauce. We had high hopes for the Kuta burger, but were disappointed. While it was a good burger, the only thing Asian about it was the spicy dipping sauce. If the chef could get the meat to sing with the same flavor as that crab cake then Kuta would have a burger tasty enough to make any surfer shout, "Cowabunga!"
Kuta Satay House & Wine Bar, 65 Rivington St, New York, 212 777- 5882