la vida locavore
ubud’s latest gem, locavore, has a knack of turning local produce into the most enticingly delectable delights
Few things in life are as satisfying as enjoying a good meal, but what I really live for are those occasions when I feel utterly spoilt by highly imaginative cuisine imbued with wonderful flavours and sublime textures. Such is the case at Locavore, where quality local ingredients are skilfully crafted into inspired modern European cuisine. “Good food is good food, but it is more special when it comes with a story,” says co-founder Eelke Plasmeijer. I have to agree. And the tale of this highly contemporary restaurant, set right in the thick of Ubud, is an inspiring one.
The term “locavore” was coined in San Franciso in 2005 and refers to the concept of sourcing food from within a roughly 100-mile radius.
The idea is that local, predominantly organic produce delivered fresh from the farm to the kitchen is better tasting, more nutritious and healthier than items that stock supermarket shelves – which have often been transported thousands of kilometres and are laden with preservatives and pesticide residue. Taste and health issues aside, using locally grown/raised produce drastically conserves fuel, thus cutting green house emissions, as well as providing valuable support for local farmers, businesses and communities.
Of course, here in Bali it’s easy to be a locavore if you stick to traditional dishes, like pepes ikan made with Jimbaran fish, spiced with homemade chillis and wrapped in freshly plucked banana leaves, but it is rather more challenging for chefs who want to prepare western-style dishes using only locally sourced ingredients. Yet this is the challenge that Plasmeijer and his co-founder, Ray Adriansyah, respond to enthusiastically. From the renowned restaurant Shy in Jakarta, and onto the kitchens of Ma Joly and Alila Ubud in Bali, the two have been collaborating to fabulous effect over the last five years, and the locavore movement is one close to both their hearts. As Plasmeijer cheerfully acknowledges, the ultimate dream for a chef is to start your own restaurant, and the pair clearly relish the chance to create cuisine that truly reflects their beliefs.
The menu is ingredient-driven – celebrating farmers, fishermen and artisans across the island. “Why import everything?” asks Plasmeijer. “It doesn’t make sense to bring in food frozen; it can’t be as good as food at the source.” He explains that here in Bali we are lucky to have an abundance of fish and seafood, but points out they only choose sustainable varieties, like the sea bass that is baked whole in salt crust, or the pan-fried king prawns and green clams which grace the coconut and lime leaf-infused seafood bisque. Free range chicken comes from Kintamani, rabbits are farm-raised, and pigs are fed on a traditional diet of banana stalks, rice bran and greens, before being transformed into the daily changing “pork combination with mulberry jus, braised pineapple and pomme fondant”.
The result is a constantly updated a la carte and seasonal tasting menu that reflects produce at hand. In homage to the Ubud location – and the restaurants own thriving organic gardens in the nearby hills – the tasting menu also comes in a vegetarian version. While in some places vegetables are often treated as an afterthought, here they are treated with the utmost respect and subject to whimsical conceptions. Plasmeijer explains, “When you cook this way your thinking changes, you have to become creative in a different way. And what are we going to do with the ten kilograms of cucumbers ripening on the vines in our gardens?” The answer is a delicious cucumber and mint gazpacho which takes what is – let’s face it – a rather unexciting vegetable, and turns it into the most delicious, delightfully cool and refreshing soup with dollops of fluffy cucumber mousse, pickled baby cucumber, slices of young coconut, and glass-like slivers of transparent potato.
Rabbit is served three-ways; a mildly sweet and sour leg confit with flesh literally falling off the bone; bitterbal – a crispy Belgian-style croquette blending shoulder with palm sugar, dark wheat beer vinegar; and a tender, robustly flavoured loin, cooked sous vide. Roasted baby carrots, caramelised candy-like shallots, and crunchy pommes dauphines make tasty accompaniments. Eelke and Ray are also huge fans of charcuterie items, gleefully crafting salamis, sausages, head cheese and pates, explaining that, “It is much more respectful to an animal to buy it whole and use all of it.” Some of their creations include a pork terrine with cashews and sultanas, served with homemade pickles and chutneys, while the fresh duck sausage has hints of sage and mango and is drenched in a rich and slightly sweet caramelised duck jus, complemented by a beautifully smooth potato mousseline.
Excerpt from the Feb 2014 issue of Hello Bali Magazine
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