Fine-dining Restaurant Apéritif
As the sun dips below the horizon, casting its warm glow over Apéritif, a fine-dining establishment situated in a colonial-style mansion amidst the lush surroundings of Viceroy Bali, the stage is set for dinner service. Before stepping inside the elegantly adorned building, reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties, I express my gratitude to the restaurant’s executive chef, saying, “Thank you for plating that gloriously pink sunset; it’s an enticing appetizer.”
“I’m sorry, but I can’t see it,” he responds. “I’m colorblind.”
Nic Vanderbeeken, hailing from Belgium and boasting two decades of culinary experience worldwide, may struggle to distinguish red from green, but this doesn’t deter him from creating dishes that not only taste exquisite but are also visually stunning.
Having called Bali home for the past five years, Vanderbeeken finally decided to launch his own venture, Apéritif, located just steps away from his former kitchen at CasCades, Viceroy Bali’s award-winning dining destination. Apéritif’s gastronomic approach showcases global haute cuisine with a touch of Indonesian influence.
One notable creation on Apéritif’s meticulously curated eight-course menu is an artistic interpretation of karedok, a raw vegetable salad from West Java, typically served with a peanut sauce. Precision-cut strips of pickled cabbage, cucumber, lettuce, and various greens are carefully arranged to resemble a blossoming flower. This colorful appetizer pays homage to both the restaurant’s Indonesian surroundings and the peanut sauce recipe contributed by the chef’s Indonesian wife.
Vanderbeeken’s color blindness becomes a minor hurdle when it comes to meat selection. “It’s like having night vision, so I either rely on my sense of smell or simply seek assistance from my team,” he explains. However, the Apéritif team prioritizes the quality of ingredients above all else. To ensure the best possible flavors, they source Spanish ibérico pork and blue crab from Papua New Guinea.
While many essential ingredients are imported, Vanderbeeken has successfully found high-quality pork raised in Bali’s northern highlands, which is currently being cured in the kitchen. Fresh fish is sourced locally in Bali, taking advantage of the island’s renowned seafood. Additionally, the majority of the vegetables come directly from Viceroy Bali’s greenhouse.
Lombok oysters have also passed the taste test, impressing guests as an amuse-bouche in the adjacent bar. Served with a delightful dressing of yogurt, lemon whey, spirulina seaweed, pickled mustard seed, and smoked oyster emulsion, these fresh mollusks are just a glimpse of the culinary delights that await in the restaurant.
Staying true to its name, Apéritif invites guests to embark on a journey that begins with a round of aperitifs. Once the drinks are savored, patrons are ushered into the spacious dining area with a clear view of the open kitchen. Here, Chef Vanderbeeken and his team work their magic, using cutting-edge, custom-made equipment designed specifically for the restaurant.
The dining experience commences with a delectable tomato tart, followed by a tantalizing parrotfish ceviche. “The ceviche is a fusion of flavors from three different countries,” Vanderbeeken explains. “Japanese hijiki seaweed wraps the fish, dressed in Peruvian Leche de tigre. We’ve also incorporated coconut milk, reminiscent of kinilaw, a native dish from the Philippines.”
For an all-encompassing experience that bridges continents, consider the wine pairing option, which elegantly accompanies the karedok with a Chilean Chardonnay. Entrées include a choice between ibérico pork and duck magret or Papua crab and Canadian lobster. I opted for the pork, served with piccalilli, pumpkin, and chicharron, as well as the lobster, immersed in an earthy emulsion of salsify from Bedugul, a town renowned for its vegetables in Bali’s central highlands. Every diner is treated to a sumptuous serving of venison Wellington, featuring a foie gras core, expertly carved tableside by Chef Vanderbeeken himself. This dish pairs beautifully with a sip of South Africa’s the Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block 2016, a complex blended red wine.
Desserts offer a choice between apple and brownie cake batters, complete with spatulas for dipping, as the culinary team channels fond memories of baking with their mothers.
Alternatively, savor Indonesian rujak, a beautifully elevated version, or PB&J – a peanut butter panna cotta enveloped in chocolate crafted by a Belgian chocolatier based in Yogyakarta. This delightful treat is served alongside a classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich in a brown paper bag for a nostalgic twist. To enhance the sweet finale, pair it with Hatten Wines’ Pino de Bali, a locally produced dessert wine.
Despite being led by a colorblind chef, Apéritif’s culinary offerings are undeniably vibrant and captivating.