Locavore is one of my favourite places to dine in and it’s only fitting to start my posts of restaurant experiences writing about them. I have now been there 4 times and the next visit is planned for June later this year. Annual trips to Bali are planned because my husband, Dushyant and I love how our hearts feel content in Ubud and the place has some of the best vegetarian food to offer with Locavore being a unanimous favourite.
Our love affair with Locavore and Ubud started over 3 years ago when we had just relocated to Singapore from India. We had the busiest few months before our move and Bali was our first vacation before we settled fully into our new lives in Singapore. Among the touristy things we planned to do in Ubud, we planned to have at least one special meal during our stay. It was sort of a travel ritual we wanted to develop henceforth, come back with memories of special meals and not a ticked off checklist of must-see spots in the destination. Dushyant’s online research kept throwing up Locavore’s name and we thought it was the perfect choice with their full-fledged vegetarian – herbivore – degustation menu. In all honesty, up until we dined here I thought our eating out expenses were moderate and this seemed a little far-fetched. We had just moved from India and like any other Indian were converting every penny back to Indian Rupees. Years later, today we conveniently convert our eating out expenses to Singapore Dollars and don’t feel as guilty about indulgent meals, after all, they still cost a fraction compared to fine dining meals of similar standards here in Singapore.
Locavore opened us to a world of vegetarian food we had never experienced before and changed our eating out preferences for the better. I was still in a MasterChef Australia hangover like many fellow Indians and had only seen such dishes on the show or food magazines, which continue to remain a great source of food inspiration. I love how Locavore’s and its food has refined over the years yet their humbleness maintained even though they are much more sought-after today. They have gone from being unknown in the Asia dining scene to be the best in Bali and 21st best in Asia per the 50 best restaurants in Asia 2018 list. Much deserved!
Restaurant concept and style of cuisine:
Locavore, as the name suggests, is all about making local produce shine. The restaurant serves modern European fare with an Indonesian flair. Almost all of their produce is sourced from different Indonesian islands and their food philosophy is respecting and maximising the use of produce – both plant and animal – with minimal wastage. Open for both lunch and dinner, reservations are recommended as the restaurant is very popular and fully booked weeks in advance.
Locavore is the creation of Chef Eelke Plasmeijer, a Dutch chef who moved to Bali after a short stint in Jakarta and Chef Ray Adriansyah, a business management student who switched mid-way to chef training and later started his career as Chef Eelke’s sous chef in Jakarta. They both have worked together since in Jakarta, Alila Ubud and shortly after opened Locavore alongside restaurant manager Adi Karmayasa who worked in the same capacity in Alila’s Plantation restaurant.
The restaurant offers a meat-based ‘locavore’ and a vegetarian ‘herbivore’ menu both in 5 or 7 courses with drinks pairing as an option. It is a rare menu where equal preference is given to both meat-based and vegetarian diners. Book ahead and let them know about any specific food preferences and they’ll be happy to accommodate your dietary needs.
The restaurant is constantly innovating and their menu changes every season. In my visits, almost all of the dishes were new concepts never served before barring some of their signature off the menu dishes.
A number of small courses served gratis set the tone for your meal at Locavore. One dish that has featured in all our meals over the years is a dish that heroes’ tomatoes. A quenelle of their bloody mary tomato sorbet perfectly balanced on a slice of cherry tomato finished with a serving of tomato consommé at the table. The flavours of tomato are sublime and the hot and cold is a constant play in your mind on what to finish with last.
We have had little bunches of leaves and flowers out of beautiful vases on one occasion. On others, there have been black bean croquettes, turmeric pillows with lemongrass cream that disappear in your mouth, local spinach tempura, the list goes on. Their pre-meal snacks also include bread which was previously a beautifully baked sourdough bun with a coconut oil passionfruit gel and a lemon basil pesto but in the recent years has been replaced with a local flatbread with sambal, peanut relish and coconut. Of the two, the sourdough with its sides is a clear winner.
Their main menu, of which we greedily always choose the 7 course is a play on different cooking styles, textures and flavours. Enjoy them with an open mind and most them should impress you. We have had a few mediocre dishes over the years but those are far and few and don’t dilute the overall experience.
One dish that has stayed with me over the years has been their ‘Umami’ dish we ate in September 2016 when I visited with my little sister. If Locavore gave me a choice to pick one dish to be re-created from their past menus, this one would win hands down. The intense flavours of Mushrooms were singing in our mouths long after we had finished the dish.
A Tomato Tartlet we ate in the same year has been another standout dish. A charred fermented garlic pie crust filled with baby heirloom tomatoes, beetroot, black pepper yoghurt, basil and young goats cheese.
Eggplant is another vegetable that has appeared a few times on their menu. Once as an eggplant in disguise, chargrilled and covered in a white curry sauce and crispy black rice. The dish looks deceptively simple but full of flavours. Another time steamed eggplant topped with a herbed brioche and aged goat cheese crumble served in a locally handcrafted wooden tray adorned with baby tomatoes, herbs and edible flowers.
Some other dishes that I enjoyed were the cucumber curry, a play on cucumbers and dill served on a dill flavoured bed of tapioca pearls. Another was a carrot and a perfectly made hasselback baby potato dish called selat solo, the sauce that brought the whole dish together.
Their desserts have equally been on par. Given their meat-based ‘Locavore’ menu has different desserts, we always request the staff to give one diner dessert from the Locavore menu. This means we have more variety to savour on our table!
On our first visit, we ate a dessert ‘banana and coffee’. I loved this because it’s the first time I enjoyed banana in a dessert. It included a coffee ice-cream and banana sorbet with the hero ingredients used in multiple textures on the plate.
Another time it was a fluffy cloud-like apple pie mousse. The light mousse came in a wooden tumbler topped with delicate cinnamon blossoms. Close your eyes and little clouds of apples and cinnamon are disappearing in your mouth.
Local chocolate desserts are another great feature on their dessert menus. Locavore makes it just the way I enjoy it – intensely dark with a mild sweetness. Don’t expect it to be the most luscious chocolate you ever tasted but they do a great job of marrying different local ingredients with the chocolate to present innovative desserts. Their kluwek dessert has been a standout here – kluwek a poisonous fruit made edible by fermentation is combined with local chocolate, nuts, banana, rice and pandan.
Bubur Sum Sum, a refreshing version of coconut and rice flour porridge is finished with all the great flavours of the tropics – gula Bali, lemongrass, mango, pandan leaves and lemon balm.
Just when you think you are finishing a fantastic meal with all those innovative desserts, the team presents you with a variety of beautifully made petit fours. On our first visit, we ate the most beautiful warm madeleines with a creamy vanilla custard. While I thoroughly enjoyed them, I felt they were too heavy after an already indulgent meal. Over the years, the restaurant has considerably changed the portion sizes, their petit fours are perfectly tiny and often just disappear in your mouth in one bite.
One of the most beautiful ones served was a pandan, passionfruit, ginger and coconut dollop of cream topped with delicate cinnamon flowers. Chocolate makes a regular appearance in the form of truffles. The flavours of madeleines still appear but they are now bite-sized topped with a blob of vanilla cream. They also feature a seasonal local fruit part of the petit fours – we once enjoyed juicy segments of chargrilled oranges; in another instance, a snake fruit jelly was served in a rather dramatic manner on a bed of snake fruit skins.
I haven’t touched upon drinks pairing with all the courses. While we enjoyed most of the drinks when we took pairings on our first visit, we thought it was too much alcohol for us with an already extensive meal. In our later trips, we have chosen to enjoy some of their innovative cocktails with the one with Tamarillo fruit my most preferred.
We usually finish our 3+ hour dining experience here with some local coffee sourced from Seniman Coffee Studio, before heading out on the streets of Ubud strolling and slowly digesting our indulgent lunch!