Ubud is the epicentre for craft and culture in Bali. It is home to lush greenery, scenic waterfalls, terraced padi fields, and one of the first places that comes to mind for an idyllic retreat. This time however, I’m here for something other than yoga and green juices.
Aperitif restaurant is set within the luxury hotel property of Viceroy Bali. Not just another fine dining restaurant in Bali, Apertif aims to showcase a menu that transcends Balinese shores. The cuisine at Aperitif represents Chef Nic Vanderbeeken and team, and an amalgamation of their individual travel experiences and DNA. Aperitif’s menu can be described as ‘diverse, global cuisine’, representing more than one culture.
The alluring Apertif restaurant overlooks the vast greenery that Ubud has to offer. The design of this freshly minted restaurant displays Dutch-colonial influences, with some warm rattan elements to contrast against the generally cool tones. A towering chandelier accentuates the entire space. The attention-to-detail is remarkable from the way the restaurant is designed and the way it is executed. Things are custom made here, from the high-tech kitchen down to the ceramics (Gaya Ceramics) used to serve the dishes. Foraging from the greenhouse and hydroponics farm on the hotel grounds is commonplace for Chef Nic and team.
An apéritif is the traditional European practice of enjoying an alcoholic drink before dinner, to whet one’s appetite. As the restaurant’s name suggests, guests can enjoy a cocktail or two at the adjacent room before their meal commences. The cocktail list includes Tamarillo Negroni, the former is a fruit native to Bali. The room is dimly-lit with opulent leather armchairs and contemporary art paintings, setting the vibe for the evening. On top of that, the menu boasts an expansive wine list to complement your food.
The 10-course dinner degustation menu reflects the cultural diversity of the power duo in the kitchen: Nic Vanderbeeken and pastry chef Alexander McKinstry, both of whom have Michelin-starred restaurants on their resume.
I was excited to begin dinner after the canapes and cocktails teaser at the bar.
First course was this dish of local Lombok oysters that is lightly poached, creating a creamy mouthfeel. The seaweed adds a tinge of sweetness to the fresh flavours of the oyster.
Tomato Tart. The saltiness of the sundried tomato is heightened by the use of parmesan, while the lemon thyme cuts the strong flavours. The chewy tomatoes lend a nice contrast against the crumbly buttermilk tart.
Fresh parrot fish is used to create this ceviche. This classic Peruvian dish has an eclectic spin to represent three countries on one plate. Can you make a guess? Hint: It’s in the homemade Tiger’s Milk (Leche de Tigre).
Papua Crab, an Indonesian-inspired dish yet still European in its core. A seasonal poached crab topped with benkoang (jicama), a kind of Mexican yam bean. It is constructed to look like something from a contemporary art gallery, studded with citrus gel and ikura. The star of this dish is in the gulai, a Indonesian curry-like sauce, containing spices such as turmeric and coriander. More of the gulai, please.
Main course: Duck Magret. Chef Nic explained that the duck is imported from France, as it’s more suited for this dish compared to the local ducks. The fermented fennel and orange spice sauce cuts the richness of this red meat. The dish came with a bowl of heartwarming duck consomme which I liked to drink.
Venison Wellington. The venison was unlike anything I’ve previously encountered- boneless venison meat, pre-shaped, and of a luminious pink, I noticed its ability to keep a nice fluorescent hue after cooking it within the puff pastry.
Who grew up eating cake batter? This is a play on your Mom’s original cake recipes, with an added fun element. Dip the brownie cubes into the ‘cake batter’ or lather it on with a golden spatula. Promise I won’t tell anyone that you double-dipped.
A cheese course like no other. The winner in this is the Milk Skin coated goat’s cheese. Milk skin is the layer that forms when you heat up milk. An explosion of flavours by combining two kinds of dairy and a clever play of textures.
PB & J – peanut butter pannacotta, mulberry and meringue. A nostalgic classic and winning combination. This was a delish end to the meal. Thankful for the thoughtful lunch bag that will help me fight those cravings for more.
For those heading to Ubud, do make a beeline for Aperitif Restaurant and you will be in for deliciousness. I look forward to seeing how Chef Nic and Chef Alexander will continue to create inventive dishes that makes waves in Ubud’s jungly plot of land. If you have the chance to meet the lovely Chefs, strike up a conversation with them, ask them about music and other fun things in life, and they will be happy to share it with you.