How A Belgian Chef Is Making Magic In Bali
In the realm of fine dining, the spotlight often shines on sumptuous cuts of marbled wagyu or plump Canadian lobster. Yet, a culinary gem, Aperitif in Ubud, takes a different path. While the menu boasts these luxurious ingredients, its true stars are the sauces.
Nestled within the Viceroy Bali, an exquisite resort with 25 villas offering sweeping views of Ubud’s lush landscapes, Aperitif introduces a new dimension to the resort’s dining experience. Owner Anthony Syrowatka has transformed it into a visual masterpiece. Slate-grey walls provide a contemporary backdrop, while the smooth black-and-white floor tiles exude an elegance that echoes with every step. High above, rococo chandeliers glisten like precious gems.
Belgian Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken, who has called Bali home for the past six years, has honed his skills in the art of Asian spices. This expertise is evident in the exceptional sauces he crafts at Aperitif. Take, for instance, his Sumatran-inspired dry rendang.
“The first time we made this, the sauce was not strong enough. It didn’t have enough flavor. It was too creamy and had too much coconut,” recalls Vanderbeeken. However, doubling the ingredients made the sauce overpowering, while using dried coconut rendered it too watery. “It was a lengthy process to perfect,” he notes.
The painstaking journey of trial and error eventually led Chef Vanderbeeken to master the art of dry rendang sauce. This velvety sauce, drizzled over a slice of venison wellington, is brought to the table on a trolley and deftly carved before your eyes. The result is a decadent ensemble of game, foie gras, and flaky pastry, with the rich sauce elevating it to the level of Aperitif’s pièce de résistance. To savor this dish, a Shiraz-Viognier blend from Barossa Valley is the perfect accompaniment.
In addition to sourcing spices from the Old Spice Islands, Vanderbeeken excels in building flavors through the use of fermented ingredients. His ‘tasty paste,’ a blend of miso, kombucha, and trimmings from fermented vegetables, transforms into an umami spice sauce that enhances the flavors of a traditional duck magret. This culinary creation pairs harmoniously with a robust cup of duck consommé.
Vanderbeeken, reflecting on his culinary journey, states, “If I ever go back to my country, I’ll know my cooking has definitely changed. I’m not content with just a sauce anymore. It has to be something more; it has to be interesting.”