Ubud’s latest dining craze is also a haven for those who eat locally and think globally, writes Sara Douglas.
A LOCAVORE is a person interested in eating food that is locally produced, not moved long distances to market.
Before you start getting visions of mung beans and tofu cakes, think again. Locavore is also a new restaurant in Ubud that sources more than 95 per cent of its produce locally and this food is as far away from “health food” as one can possibly get. This is indulgence – food so gorgeous to look at you almost don’t want to eat it.
Eating it however, is what you really must do.
The team behind Locavore is made up of two worldly chefs who have worked together for years, creating their own vision of how food should be cooked, sourced and prepared. Eelke Plasmeijar and Ray Adriansyah met in Jakarta and then travelled to Bali where they set up . . . wowing diners at Ma Joly, before taking over the kitchen at Alila Ubud.
Dutch-born Eelke and his sous chef and buddy, Ray – an Indonesian who trained in New Zealand – are passionate and creative about their food. It has not escaped the attention of foodies who have followed the journey these two have taken, while they have developed a network of suppliers who are able to fill their orders and inspire some amazing dishes.
There are other chefs who can create inspiring dishes but the measure of success is in the flavour . . . it can be as clever as all get out but if it doesn’t taste good then it misses the mark.
These guys serve up things you often wouldn’t think of ordering and can turn the simplest of ingredients into dishes that critics rave about and diners won’t forget. A tomato becomes a dish that is subtle, tangy, fresh and creamy, all at once. I don’t much care for tomatoes but I would return for the Bloody Mary sorbet, served on a bed of organic cherry tomatoes, with fresh tomato water. The warmth, the creaminess and the texture of the fresh produce makes the palate sing and you almost want to applaud. The home-baked sourdough bread served with a cashew pesto and a passionfruit butter made with organic coconut oil is another simple yet beautifully executed expression.
Locavore stays true to its name in that almost everything is local, apart from the occasional bit of butter or olive oil. Ray and Eeelke are passionate about their charcuterie and have done numerous classes for the Slow Food Bali group where they showcased both their butchery and the depth of their commitment to the cause. This is an important marker in the progression of the journey they are on. Connecting with breeders and growers who share their views on food has definitely fostered their passion for organics, for sustainability and for ingredients grown close to their kitchen.
The only thing currently not on the menu at Locavore is beef. Eelke explains that the beef available locally just doesn’t cut it for him, but they are working on it.
Their organic plot provides them with a steady stream of herbs and vegetables. While they clearly love a well-bred beast and fresh, locally sourced seafood, these guys have a way with vegetables that will make everyone want to eat them. Playing with textures, adding interest with herbs and sauces and broths and their favourite kitchen toy, an Italian ice cream machine.
Eelke and Ray and their small team make sorbet and ice cream from just about anything, including an incredible avocado ice cream that is perfectly seasoned with salt, pepper and a little lime. That’s it and that’s all it needs.
Each day begins with a different variation on menu favourites; a new ingredient has arrived and the search for perfect pairings begins. One fruit or vegetable comes to the end of its season while another come into its own.
Tasting menus are offered for diners who choose to peruse the full extent of what these guys can do with food. Vegetarians will love it as they have their own tasting menu and it isn’t short on excitement.
Meat eaters may even choose it as there is still something quite wicked about it.
A sample vegetarian menu features beetroot cooked in its own jus with grilled watermelon, thick yoghurt, mint leaves and pickled beets, cucumber, coconut and mint gazpacho with pickled fennel, dried tomato, cucumber mousse, young coconut, transparent potato and crushed avocado. And so it goes from caramelised fennel crème; to roasted cauliflower with cashew nuts and a cauliflower mousseline; to herbed potato gnocchi with roasted baby carrots and locally made feta cheese.
Desserts here are of the to-die-for variety. Something like a chocolate mousse with salty cashew nut butter, passion fruit sorbet, passion fruit gel, cashew nut crumble, chocolate mint leaves and bitter chocolate ganache, may appear. Laid out like a painting, it is so good the flavours come back to me at random moments.
If there is one criticism that shows up on reviews it is that the portions are too small. For me, this is a plus, especially if you choose the tasting menus. The food is light, rather than heavy, but some of the dishes, like the gorgeous home-made duck sausage and the rabbit cooked three ways, are rich and you really don’t need a lot.
Locavore isn’t large and as Ubud has embraced this restaurant without hesitation, reservations are definitely recommended.