In the mountainous heart of Ubud in Bali, a new restaurant is cooking with sustainably sourced local ingredients. Hardwi Satrio Pinandityo sampled the menu and discovered the story behind Locavore.
In Bali, it’s rare for restaurants to serve local seafood – why do so when it’s easier and more crowd-pleasing to offer Normandy oysters or Hokkaido sea urchins? But Locavore takes a different approach, with dishes such as local spiny lobster poached with Lombok seaweed butter, slices of raw Balinese abalone and Sumbawa Island oyster, all drenched in a complex clam juice with local sea urchin roe. With so many great ingredients on your doorstep, why go further afield?
Local spiny lobsters from Tabanan (south-west of Bali)
As the name suggests, Locavore uses only sustainably sourced ingredients from the island itself. Even the plates and silverware are made locally. Interested in buying that cocktail glass made from fragrant cinnamon wood? Just head to the workshop next door and grab one.
Local beef striploin from Malang, mustard leaves, Piccalilli Indian pickles (using Eelke's mother's recipe) and crispy pommes dauphine
The only thing that is imported is one of the chefs. Eelke Plasmeijer started his kitchen career at the age of 14 in a restaurant in his Dutch village. He worked his way up through the ranks, finally training at then-two-Michelin-star Restaurant Vermeer in Amsterdam. Ray Adriansyah, on the other hand, is an Indonesian who attended business school in New Zealand. He grew up in his mother’s kitchen and his interest in food never faded, so he decided to quit his business studies and switch to culinary school.
Chef Eelke Plasmeijer (third from left) and chef Ray Adriansyah (first from right) with the Locavore team
The two eventually met when Eelke was running a restaurant in Jakarta and Ray was his sous chef. They hit it off and soon moved to Bali where they ended up running the kitchen at Alila Hotel in Ubud. There they met Adi Karmayasa, a native Balinese who was the manager of the hotel’s restaurant at the time. The trio gradually discovered the richness of Indonesia’s offerings and finally conceived Locavore in late 2013, with Eelke and Ray heading the kitchen and Adi overseeing the front of house.
The restaurant serves two types of set menus of five to seven dishes – a “Locavore” and a “Herbivore” menu. They use only locally grown ingredients to conjure up modern dishes that are influenced by European (largely Dutch, French, Scandinavian) and Indonesian cuisine. It’s the first restaurant in the country that has managed to do so – and it’s hard to figure out why no one did it sooner.
Indonesia is a tropical archipelago of about 17 thousand islands, giving Eelke and Ray a cosmos of ingredients to work with. Why order Australian asparagus when they can pick up a fresh batch from a nearby farm? Why order a pack of frozen sea bass when they can fetch some from the Balinese shores?
Green asparagus served warm, 64 degree kampung egg, herbed brioche croutons and wilted leaves from Locavore's vegetable garden
Bruno, an Italian who lives in Lombok, supplies Locavore with various types of seaweed, scallops and other seafood three times a week. An Englishman named Owen brings almost every kind of vegetable to the restaurant from a nearby farm. They also buy whole organically fed pigs from Pak Parsa, a local breeder, and break the pig down themselves. As mentioned on their menu, "it just didn't make sense to cook with imported ingredients when we were surrounded by Indonesia's bounty." So it was only natural for them to proceed in that direction.
But Locavore is not just a gimmick. If it was, it wouldn't be permanently fully booked a couple of weeks in advance. The ingredients speak for themselves.
Similar to the spiny lobster dish, a dessert called ‘Merah Putih’ (meaning ‘Red and White’, referring to the shades of Indonesia’s flag) also boasts the island’s best offerings. It consists of white mango, beetroot, watermelon and coconut, all made into different textures such as molasses, sorbet or kerupuk (crackers). People don’t really go to Bali to eat foie gras or caviar. “They can do that in Europe”, says Eelke.
Merah Putih (Red and white) dessert with white mango sorbet, beetroot reduction, sweet beetroot kerupuk, frozen watermelon, coconut ice cream and lime meringue
It seems that Locavore has been hitting a lot of the right buttons as they’ve just opened a casual eatery called Locavore Deli across the street, serving comfort food like tuna confit sandwiches or homemade pork sausages. They are also planning to open a bespoke cocktail bar soon nearby (their cocktails also use homegrown tropical ingredients like lemongrass, pomelo and beetroot).
Invigorating cocktails at Locavore
All this will surely result in more jobs for locals and an improved business for local farmers and fishermen, making them an authentic member of the community.
Locavore wants to be the best restaurant in Indonesia. It has never become so officially, but maybe it has become something better. I’m just glad to have them here, and I’m pretty sure the island is too.
Jalan Dewi Sita, Ubud
+62 361 977733
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