Booking your holiday to Bali previously required a relatively straightforward packing list as well as a to-do list once on the island. These days your list may also include things such as a drone or two, a GoPro with its plethora of attachments, an open-water diving course and for a real gastronome – possibly a reservation at Restaurant Locavore in Ubud.
Ubud which comes from the ancient word Ubad – meaning medicine in Balinese, has long been known as a destination for healing practitioners, hippies, yogis and all sorts of wellness gurus, along with those seeking to escape the infamous party scene to the south of the island. The central town of the island is home to some of the world’s famous destination resorts, spas and wellness centers and, until recently, to the best restaurant in the country and one of the best in Asia.
Tribute goes to some of the humblest heroes in the gastronomy world – the duo behind Restaurant Locavore, dutchman Eelke Plasmeijer and Indonesian born and bred Ray Adriansyah. The two met at a restaurant in Jakarta, when Plasmeijer was visiting one of his mentors from Amsterdam and was offered a job at one of the capital’s newest ventures. Adriansyah applied for the Sous Chef job at the same restaurant and they have worked together ever since – wherever they went – spanning almost over a decade in Indonesia.
Having closely worked at Alila Ubud in Bali with local ingredients and a major focus on seasonal and sustainable menus – the duo decided to take it one step further when they went out on their own to push their love for local produce to the next level. Thus, Restaurant Locavore was born.
Having previously worked with some like-minded and passionate farmers and producers across the archipelago, the dream was to bring all of them together as one family, supplying the restaurant with the best produce available.
The modernly created term “locavore” is best defined as “a person who makes an effort to eat food that is grown, raised, or produced locally, usually within 100 miles of home.” Although the term was only coined recently, the philosophy does not reflect a new phenomena, yet it is only now making waves across the culinary world in Southeast Asia.
Plasmeijer and Adriansyah are at the very forefront of this locavore movement with their creative take on Indonesian cuisine, with 95 percent of the ingredient-driven menu being sourced within the 17,500 islands of the Indonesian archipelago. This is far from a marketing drive to give their restaurant profile a boost; it is a true philosophy deeply rooted in the love for the land and the ingredients, respect of the animal welfare and all the relationships they have built along the way with local farmers and producers.
With five or seven course tasting menus changing with the season, diners are in for a treat year-round. Cohesively labeled “carnivore” or “herbivore,” these menus attract diners to make reservations at least a month in advance. Regardless of which menu you choose – be assured that both chefs have painstakingly sourced these ingredients with a team of dedicated and hard-working cooks transforming them from ingredients to a carefully crafted dish.
The Ingredients & Creators
The happy chickens and ducks come from Jon Leonard – an Australian expat who has spent years training and educating the local farmers in free-range and organic practices, he is also the driving force behind the “SameDayFish” project – paying real salaries to local fishermen to sustainably catch fish and eliminate any use of chemicals for the seafood.
This year Leonard has also started making cheeses from the milk of free-range dairy cows, one of the first to be made on the island of Bali. Air-dried hams and preserves are all projects on hand and even the chicken eggs have a season – since during heavy monsoon rains the chickens lay less eggs and it is more difficult to find them in the muddy fields.
Bruno is an Italian-native residing in Indonesia with years of fish mongering expertise that he brings to the archipelago and sources the best in shellfish and fish from the neighbouring Lombok and Sumbawa islands, with strict regulations in place for the handling of each catch; from how the fish is caught to how it is delivered to Locavore’s kitchen.
There is Owen providing Locavore with year-round lamb from the central region of neighbouring Java and all the colourful and chemical free vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. Pak Parsa (Mr. Parsa) – raised free-range pigs exclusively for the restaurant and the sister butcher shop “Local Parts,” another venture by the duo opened in mid-2017, providing all the meaty goodness from the farms.
Pak Komang works in the cooler parts of Bali in the mountainous region of Baturiti where he has been working on organic vegetables ever since Plasmeijer started working in Bali, and to this day, supplies seasonal vegetables.
Pak Warsa focuses on organic rice since converting to chemical farming just short of ten years ago and Cyril helps with raising ducks that may eat just as well as the diners in the restaurant – feeding them organic grains, vegetable and fruits.
Although the chefs and contributors have created a legacy, the faces behind Locavore are not stopping; they are working on a few projects aimed at exciting the gastronomy fans for years to come. With a fully detailed encyclopedia of Indonesian ingredients via their LocaPedia project and their never-resting LocaLab test kitchen, the duo is able to experiment with all their new ingredients and combinations for future menus.
The driving force of Plasmeijer and Adriansyah has not only caught the attention of the world gastronomy but has also help shape the future of Balinese farmers through close work, educational programs and initiatives for more sustainable businesses to do the same…in their simple words, it’s “Go Local or Go Home”.
Restaurant Locavore has been awarded the best restaurant in Indonesia by Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards for 3 years in a row (2015, 2016, 2017), landing for the first time on the top 50 list at #49 in 2016 and climbing to #22 in Asia in 2017, grabbing 3 awards in one single night.
Photography by Thom Rigney