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Bali: Apéritif Serves Global Fine Dining with an Indonesian Twist

Bali: Apéritif Serves Global Fine Dining with an Indonesian Twist

At Bali’s Apéritif Restaurant, the cuisine is anchored by key Indonesian ingredients, combined with techniques and inspiration from global fine dining.

Apéritif, Viceroy Bali’s fine dining restaurant, sits lush in an earthy valley amidst Indonesia’s rice terraces. The restaurant transports diners to the roaring 20s with its colonial backdrop complete with high ceilings, marble accents and vibrant lighting. Travelers come from far and wide to indulge in their seven-course degustation menus, which showcase global cuisine paired with lesser-known Indonesian ingredients.

At the helm is Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken, who works to mesh cultures to create what he terms a borderless experience. Chef Nic spent time cooking across countries ranging from Viet Nam to Belgium and France, where he honed his skills in Michelin-starred establishments. He maintains an open-minded approach to cooking, embracing his identity as a world traveler while honoring the culinary traditions of the country he finds himself in – “it’s a beautiful balance of incorporating diverse influences while staying true to the essence of the region’s cuisine” he tells us.

Apéritif’s Cocktail Lounge

Your experience will kick off at Apéritif’s cocktail lounge to embrace the European tradition of indulging in an aperitif—a pre-dinner drink and snack to whet the appetite. Set in a 1930s art deco style room, a rich, dark brown hardwood bar takes center stage, juxtaposed against striking emerald-green walls. Adding to the ambiance is a wine cellar that features over 180 labels, including vintage selections dating as far back as 1855, and an expansive cigar humidor curated to feature some of the finest cigars found in Asia.

The bar is manned by head mixologist, Panji Wisrawan, who suavely looks like he stepped out of a 1930s GQ magazine. Clad in his iconic bowtie and waistcoat, Panji wasted no time cracking a few witty remarks before handing us leather-bound menus filled with libations that pay nod to famous artists who visited in the 30s and helped put the island on the map. There’s a theatric drink inspired by Charlie Chaplin, and a musical one for Colin McPhee, paying ode to the first Western composer to contribute to Bali’s music scene.

While sipping on our beverages, we devoured a round of canapés and were handed personalized menus sealed with our names, detailing our Signature dining experience. Not before long, we were ushered inside Viceroy’s 1920s-inspired dining hall for dinner.

The Restaurant’s Degustation Menus

Apéritif’s flavor-driven degustation menus span five to seven courses, and include the option of adding a top-tier wine pairing. Dishes are anchored by several key Indonesian ingredients, such as ginger, curry leaf, turmeric, cloves, and lemongrass – all sourced directly from Bali’s farmers and suppliers. Coupling them are Indonesian spices, known for their complexity, the pair unearth a depth that awakens even the most adventurous palates with new flavor profiles and sensations. “One of the most intriguing aspects I encountered while cooking in Ubud is undoubtedly the concept of ‘Bumbu,’ which encompasses the diverse spice mixes utilized in numerous dishes and sauces, like raw sambal. Even after a decade of working with these spices, I continue to unearth new Bumbu blends every month. It’s fascinating to witness our guests’ reactions when they receive a dish they think they know, only to experience an entirely different sensation upon tasting it,” says Chef Nic.

“I don’t like to keep a dish forever on the menu, so we created the Avant-garde menu, which changes every three months.” Despite such an effervescent and evolving menu, Chef Nic has curated a series of dishes that pay homage to our nostalgic pasts – think dishes rooted in Indonesian gastronomy but inspired by grandma’s broth or that first family feast during the holiday season. Yet somehow, all the dishes feel like edible works of art.

The Signature Degustation kicks off with several impressive courses. A one-bite Charcoal Puff stuffed with a creamy smoked mackerel. A seared Hokkaido Scallop that bathes in a light pineapple sambar and chowder sauce. There’s also the Tokusen Wagyu, rich with black garlic, bone marrow and mustard seeds, it’s sourced from Sumatra and stays true to its locally sustainable ethos.

The star of the show was the Venison Wellington, with a foie gras center and topped with Rendang sauce. Describing it as one of his favorite dishes, “it harks back to cherished days when family feasts were always celebrated around an impeccably baked meat dish wrapped in a perfect puff pastry. The spices are infused in a Rendang sauce, a distinctly Asian dish that, like the Wellington, meticulously takes hours to make and is best shared with those nearest and dearest. Rendang’s history tracks the journey of Indian spices and slow cooking techniques making their way to West Sumatran shores centuries ago,” says Chef Nic. Paired with a Chocolate Block wine, the Venison complements the acidity in the wine’s berry notes, and like clockwork, the chocolate ties it together creating a depth of flavor in every bite.

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For dessert, a one-of-a-kind PB&J made from a biscuit shell and infused with peanut butter mousse, raspberry, and blackberry teleports diners to childhood memories like biting into a midnight peanut butter and jelly sandwich. If you’re anything like me and find yourself with no room left for the second dessert course, the staff will kindly package up a box of Petit Fours, crafted by the restaurant’s in-house pastry chef for you to enjoy at home.

Paired with the kind of attentive service that anticipates your next need before you finish your bite, the experience here is impeccable. For high-end dining set against an elegant colonial-style backdrop, we highly recommend making your way to Apéritif to try one of the most innovative fine dining menus you’ll find in Bali.

Apéritif Restaurant
Jl. Lanyahan, Br, Nagi
Ubud, Bali, Indonesia
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