Apéritif Restaurant and Bar, the latest jewel within the Viceroy Bali estate, promises to captivate visitors. Upon arrival, disregard the modest white facade of the standalone building, as it lacks the rustic charm of Viceroy. Instead, encourage your driver to hasten to the entrance. Yet, as you cross the threshold, you’ll find yourself immersed in a mesmerizing expanse, a sight to behold, especially for those accustomed to tight spaces, much like us urban-dwelling Singaporeans. Polished black and white marble floors, opulent chandeliers dangling from the high pyramid ceiling, and a state-of-the-art open kitchen evoke a sense of wonder akin to Anastasia Steele’s awe when Christian Grey whisks her away in his private helicopter. A cinematic backdrop, accompanied by Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” heightens the enchantment.
However, Apéritif Restaurant isn’t exactly on everyone’s lips just yet. It’s new, and the scent of fresh paint still lingers. Moreover, it’s not a casual stroll from the bustling tourist hub of Bali’s Seminyak; a taxing hour-and-a-half drive awaits from the airport. Expect the tumultuous symphony of motorcycle horns, a maze of sharp bends, and finally, a bumpy yet soothing journey through the rice fields before you reach your destination. Unless you possess Christian Grey’s resources, don’t anticipate a casual day trip to the restaurant. It’s an intentional and almost cathartic journey, one that will certainly leave you with a hearty appetite upon arrival.
Inspired by the Roaring 20s
The adjoining bar quickly soothes any frayed nerves. Exuding the essence of the Roaring ’20s, the space exudes Dutch Colonial chic. Rich teak furniture harmonizes with chestnut banquettes, complemented by warm gold and bronze accents, while Palladian windows unveil pristine views of the lush rice fields. The drinks are crafted to reflect Bali’s locale, infusing Southeast Asian twists into classic cocktails. The Lemon 3 Times combines the zesty powers of lemon juice, lemongrass, and kaffir lime syrup with the citrus tones of gin, creating a bright and cheerful libation. In line with the aperitif tradition, the Tamrillo Negroni tempers its innate bitterness with a delightful tanginess, courtesy of the clever addition of Tamarillo fruit. Apéritif respects island life and its avoidance of mundanity. The bar operates from 4 pm to 1 am, encouraging prolonged pre-dinner drinking sessions and perhaps a cheeky nightcap to quiet the inner demons.
Now, let’s delve into the culinary journey. Described as “Global Eclectic,” the menu is a creation of a whimsical and adventurous young chef, unbounded by culinary borders. Open-mindedness will thrive at this fine dining oasis, disregarding the misleading “fresh graduate on a gap year” cliché that it may initially conjure.
The gastronomic voyage commences with a delightful array of snacks. Lombok oysters, gently poached, strike a balance between succulence and brininess, complemented by spirulina’s earthy depth. The umami is further accentuated by seaweed and smoked oyster emulsion. The tomato tart arrives on a parmesan short-crust, adorned with lemon whey and kombu seaweed butter, a revelation that elicits shared enthusiasm among diners. An ornate bread trolley graces your table, offering choices between sourdough, fennel, and black rice bread. The staff readily indulges your desires, observing your every move as you slather truffle butter onto the toasted slices.
Chef Nic Vanderbeeken’s creativity knows no bounds. The Parrotfish Ceviche, salt-cured and dried overnight for intensified flavors, is a global amalgamation, infusing the Peruvian leche de tigre with Filipino influences from hand-squeezed coconut milk and a touch of lime, followed by Japanese notes of yuzu and mirin. While this approach may seem slightly contrived to some, the story behind the Martino provides a genuine connection. This wagyu tartare, rich with grapeseed oil, capers, and paprika, draws inspiration from the legendary Belgian sandwich—the Martino Baguette. The Filet Américain, based on Chef Nic’s grandparents’ recipe, is a delightful combination of quail egg, black garlic emulsion, and pumpkin meringue kisses.
Bold, memorable, and distinctly pickled, the subsequent dishes continue to captivate. The Karedok, a mesmerizing creation, assembles concentric layers of pickled kale, daikon, and eggplant, adorned with tofu cream, wet with the flavors of kemangi (Thai lemon basil) and tamarind peanut sauce. The Papua Crab, a masterpiece of blue crab enrobed in pickled kohlrabi and ikura, embodies the essence of Apéritif. The true culinary pleasure lies in the gulai sauce, and if you’re adventurous, don’t hesitate to ask for an extra serving.
And just when you’re waiting for that final showstopper, the Iberico pork graces your plate, confirming that meat indeed reigns supreme, at least in your world. This exquisitely prepared meat offers a tantalizing blend of Indian Picallili, pickled pumpkin, and crispy shards of chicharron for textural variety. The crunchy, salt-flecked skin provides a delightful counterpoint to the flavorsome meat, embellished with a kluwak nut-based sauce, imparting a robust coffee-like profile. The Venison Wellington is an olfactory delight, the aroma of buttery pastry heralding its arrival. Sliced open with precision, it reveals a trifecta of venison, kale, and foie gras. Bathed in a sumptuous mushroom rendang sauce and accompanied by black truffle mashed potatoes, this dish caters to your primal love for all things meaty.
Desserts at Apéritif are anything but an afterthought. The dynamic duo of Belgian Chef Nic Vanderbeeken and American-born Pastry Chef Alexander McKinstry delivers a charming pre-dessert, the “Cake Batter Memories.” This delightful experience may involve playful spills of apple cake and brownie batter, leaving you with fudgy smiles and echoing laughter.
The cheese course, conceived ingeniously, speaks with a singular voice, transitioning from a mound of goat cheese milk skin cocooned within burrata and goat cheese to rich brown butter ice cream, punctuated with traditional accompaniments. This combination is exquisite, but be sure to save room for the PB&J. This cocoa-rich, labor-intensive dessert takes the form of an American school lunch’s showstopper. Peanut butter panna cotta, adorned with chocolate crafted by a Belgian chocolatier in Yogyakarta, is complemented by a lavish peanut butter and praline base. The Kintamani Mulberry sorbet provides a refreshing contrast. A personalized doggie bag, presumably containing a PB&J hangover cure for the next morning, gives you the same cozy feeling as slipping your numb fingers into a warm cup of hot chocolate after enduring frosty snow conditions.
At Apéritif, passion and enthusiasm infuse every facet of the experience, from the impeccable cuisine to the meticulous restroom design. Selfie enthusiasts, don’t forget your phones. While it’s early days for the restaurant, the team exudes a strong and distinctive culinary voice, delivering an exhilarating sensory journey. I am an avid fan of Chef Nic and Chef Alexander, and unless you are averse to fun (they have a knack for music and other life’s pleasures), you, too, will learn to unwind and savor the experience.