Aperitif injects creativity into Ubud's dining scene

Aperitif at Viceroy Resort Bali, Ubud

By: Jade Yong

For years now, quintessential island paradise Bali has been receiving Singaporean visitors on quick weekend getaways. And with every visit, the island amps up its star power with more and more exciting things to see and do, as well as places to indulge your culinary senses.

The F&B scene in Bali has been booming with a new restaurant or eatery opening every few months. One of the islands latest exciting additions is Aperitif, a fine-dining restaurant hugged by Ubud’s lush, green rice fields on one side, with the luxurious Viceroy Resort Bali on the other.  One only has to visit Ubud once to undeniably note the magic in its air.

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Aperitif.

This magic permeates Aperitif with large windows framing views from the outside, with the interior of Aperitif no less stunning. Designed by its owner, the standalone white bungalow is airy with Dutch colonial-style trimmings.

Indicative of the restaurant’s name, the best way to begin your culinary journey with Aperitif, is with a complimentary pre-dinner aperitif and canapes at the Bar. We loved the Aperitif bar, with its deep brown hardwood fittings juxtaposed against rich dark green walls dotted by images of the last Dutch-Indonesian Viceroys of Bali and Yogyakarta.

Canapés pictured here are beetroot meringue, bull frog betawi, and fish skin. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

Glasses of aperitifs and three tasty, and beautifully presented canapes having awoken our palates, we moved to the restaurant and found a calm and quiet – but no less bustling – kitchen helmed by Belgian Chef Nic Vanderbeeken, who was flanked by a mostly female, mostly Indonesian, and very capable kitchen crew.

We took our seats in the middle of Aperitif’s dining room. A giant wrought iron chandelier, as wide as the opulently marbled top of our 8 seater table, poses an elegant and extravagance presence overhead.

Oysters. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

Our first dish from the Classic Degustation Menu arrived gurgling, and as soon as the dry ice cleared, what emerged was a delight of spirulina and seaweed dust with smoked oyster emulsion, beautifully laid out over a bed of stones. The oyster in Aperitif is sourced locally from the cool waters of neighbouring island Lombok, and tasted earthy and briny, as fresh as it could possibly be.

Heirloom tomato. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

Next up was a tomato tart with parmesan, lemon thyme and buttermilk, followed by a choice of either the beautifully done ceviche with leche de tigre, coconut milk and hijiki; Or an elegant, creamy martino – reminiscent of the chef’s home country, Belgium – which is wagyu beef tartar, topped with a grated cured egg, black rice kroepoek, mustard leaf, shallots and turmeric-pickled cucumber seeds. Light on the palate, with little explosions of flavours and textures, the martino was nothing short of a delight.

Canadian lobster. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

Next came a handsome pickled pumpkin dish, which could have used a bit more ice cream on top, to balance out the tartness. A pescatarian-friendly main of butterfish or Canadian lobster followed. Both dishes are impeccably executed, with the flavours of the lobster a tad more delicate compared to the butterfish, which was served with avocado, nori, antiboise and Japanese Beurre Blanc.

Duck magret. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

If you are torn with selecting between two great sea-based dishes, wait till the next main, which were the two highlights of this writer’s night. The duck magret is served with fennel, spiced orange sauce, carrot, a very tasty consomme on the side; and the iberico pork comes with beetroot, horseradish, apple, rawon.   

Venison Wellington. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

The final main, an Indonesian inspired venison Wellington, is subtly flavoured compared to its traditional rendang counterpart, but made all the more indulgent with foie gras, truffles and shimeji mushrooms. The dishes are gentle yet complex, and comes together beautifully, reflecting Aperitif’s nod to local flavours whilst injecting a generous dose of its own personality.

Goat cheese cake. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

That wrapped up the savouries, but what was to come blew us out of the water. Boy, oh boy, did Aperitif’s Pastry Chef Alexander McKinstry deliver! The desserts, understatedly named Goat Cheese, Bubur Injin and PB & J, were works of art both for the eyes and the tongue.

Looking like the cutest little cheese wheel in the world, the ‘goat cheese’ is really a burrata and goats cheese mousse encased in milk skin, topped with burnt butter ice cream, and made all the more attractive by colourful accompaniments like hibiscus pickled apple, cashew raisin purée and rum raisins.  

At the end of the culinary adventure, we finished with something closer to home. The PB&J is stuff made of peanut butter, mulberry, meringue, generously infused with your best, most comforting childhood memories.  

First from right: Pastry Chef  Alexander McKinstry and Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken. (PHOTO: Aperitif)

There are already some powerhouses in the form of restaurants that Bali has to offer, and the latest addition Aperitif puts them on the map as a force to be reckoned with – a kitchen that is creative, adventurous, yet respectful. The passion for food is apparent, with ingredients sourced as fresh as possible – some even grown on site in Viceroy Bali’s own greenhouse – and reverent odes to the land and geography that Aperitif dwells in.

Apart from the Degustation Menu, Aperitif also has a Vegetarian Menu for return diners.

For more information, or to make your reservations, visit Aperitif.com.

This story was the result of a trip paid for by Viceroy Resort Bali.