Reinventing Fine Dining in Ubud: A Culinary Journey
Ubud, a hub of art and craftsmanship in Bali, is often associated with verdant landscapes, picturesque waterfalls, and serene paddy fields. However, my visit this time is not for yoga retreats or health-conscious juices but to experience something unique.
Nestled within the luxurious confines of Viceroy Bali, Apéritif Restaurant offers an extraordinary twist on fine dining. It goes beyond the conventional boundaries of Balinese cuisine and aspires to create a culinary journey that transcends borders. The menu at Apéritif reflects the diverse global experiences and backgrounds of Chef Nic Vanderbeeken and his team.
This exquisite restaurant overlooks the lush green panorama of Ubud. The design embraces Dutch-colonial influences, accented by warm rattan elements that beautifully contrast with the cool tones of the interior. An imposing chandelier commands attention and underscores the meticulous attention to detail in both design and execution. Every aspect of Apéritif is custom-made, from the state-of-the-art kitchen to the Gaya Ceramics used to present the dishes. Foraging fresh ingredients from the on-site greenhouse and hydroponics farm is a common practice for Chef Nic and his team.
As the name suggests, an apéritif, or pre-dinner drink, is a customary European ritual to stimulate one’s appetite. Apéritif Restaurant offers a selection of cocktails in an adjacent room before the dining experience begins. The dimly lit space features opulent leather armchairs and contemporary art, setting the tone for the evening. The restaurant also boasts an extensive wine list to complement your meal.
The 10-course degustation menu reveals the cultural diversity of Chef Nic Vanderbeeken and pastry chef Alexander McKinstry, both with Michelin-starred restaurant experience on their resumes.
The culinary journey begins with local Lombok oysters, lightly poached to create a creamy mouthfeel, accompanied by a touch of seaweed for a hint of sweetness.
A tomato tart follows, where the saltiness of sun-dried tomatoes is complemented by parmesan, and lemon thyme cuts through the intense flavors. The chewy tomatoes offer a delightful contrast to the crumbly buttermilk tart.
Fresh parrot fish is used in a unique ceviche, blending influences from three different countries on a single plate. The dish is an exploration of the homemade Tiger’s Milk (Leche de Tigre).
Papua Crab, an Indonesian-inspired dish with European nuances, features a seasonal poached crab topped with benkoang (jicama), resembling contemporary art, and enhanced with citrus gel and ikura. The star is the gulai, an Indonesian curry-like sauce filled with spices like turmeric and coriander.
The main course is Duck Magret, where the duck is imported from France for a dish that combines rich flavors with fermented fennel and an orange spice sauce. A heartwarming duck consommé accompanies the dish.
Venison Wellington presents boneless venison meat with a striking pink hue and a crispy puff pastry that retains its vivid color.
For dessert, an inventive play on cake batter offers a delightful experience. Brownie cubes are paired with “cake batter,” creating a playful dessert.
The cheese course showcases a standout Milk Skin-coated goat’s cheese, a fusion of flavors and textures that impress.
A classic peanut butter pannacotta with mulberry and meringue provides a nostalgic and delightful end to the meal.
For those journeying to Ubud, Apéritif Restaurant is a must-visit, promising an extraordinary culinary experience. I eagerly anticipate the continued inventive creations of Chef Nic and Chef Alexander, poised to make a mark in Ubud’s lush setting. Should you have the opportunity to meet these talented chefs, engage in a conversation, inquire about their interests beyond the kitchen, and they will gladly share their passions with you.