Our week in Bali left us with a pretty one-dimensional impression of Indonesia cuisine, especially under the shadows of an explosive culinary experience in Bangkok afterward. The flavors are strong, but dishes seems like variations upon variations of satays and babi guling–with one major exception: Locavore.
In the heart of downtown Ubud, Locavore was a transformative experience from a food perspective. I should point out the luxe setting is one that mostly only tourists seem to be able to afford. So while this is a must-do during your time in Ubud, it’s equally awakening to partake in street vendors and hole-in-the-wall eateries.
Nevertheless, Chef Eelke Plasmeijer brings Bali’s local ingredients to another level. We booked online about 4 months in advance in what was a very simple and reassuring process, especially when doing it overseas There are two 7-course options, one vegetarian, the other very much for meat-eaters. We had the latter, which took about two hours. Our April menu (and its entrees are constantly changing) cost 775 rupiah. With the beverage pairing, it would have been 1375 IDR.
And really, with all the amuse bouches peppered before, after and in between each course, it ends up being nearly 20 plates. With 95% of the its kitchen’s ingredients derived locally, the small bites alone are eyeopening to the vast array of flavors the island has to offer.
For the seven main entrees, I’ll start from the back. Because even after five months, I still recall the dynamite of a dessert as one of the best I’ve ever had. It’s called Felix Favorites. An icy disc of coconut cream covered in frozen pellets of jeruk citrus pulp, much like grapefruit, was the perfect dessert in the Bali humidity. It was light and subtle, but completely unforgettable.
Rewind to the beginning, you start off with a refreshing ceviche immersed in coconut, citrusy kalamansi and fermented sambal matah, which is this relish of lemongrass and shallots.
The mackerel is next, resting on top of a savory cracker and punched up with pumpkin vinegar with kailan broccoli and daun kelor.
Then one of my favorites: steak tartar. The raw beef comes from central Bali, with a freshness that was on full display with just a light accompaniment of pickled ginger, mushroom, amino liquid and tong cai. I remember wanting to savor this bite by bite, then wanting more.
Next was a visually stunning masterpiece, dubbed Into the Sawah (pictured above). Meaning into the rice field, a surgically extracted yolk of a duck egg is cooked at 64 degrees and rested on a bed of rice from Tegalalang, Bali. It’s adorned in a ring of snails, garlic, fern tips and wild flowers. I actually have a major distaste for yolk, but the presentation was one of those immaculate creations that seeped into all other senses. I remember the warm rice and a beautiful garlicy flavor.
A smoked catfish came next infused with a subtle pineapple taste with cucumber, spinach and clam. And they go full steam ahead with the meats going into the dessert, with the bangkal hitam–a pork shoulder with jicama and a dark meat sauce, spiced with a local pepper.
Locavore is a local experience unlike most on the island. Its relatively upscale atmosphere in downtown Ubud contrasts with the surrounding cafes, and its academic approach to creating each dish is an outlandish juxtaposition to the rawness of, say, the hallmark (and always delicious) babi guling chopped up and slapped onto plates. But it’s a point-of-view very much worth exploring to realize and appreciate Bali’s bounty.