As Indonesia’s sole entry on Asia’s 50 Best List (rising from no.49 in 2016 to 22 ), Locavore has the culinary weight of a nation resting on its shoulders. The name should hint as to exactly what their ethos is – local produce (as their hats say, ‘go local or go home’). Serving up a creative take on Indonesian flavours and ingredients, this is exactly what you would hope to discover in Indonesia’s most visitor friendly region, Bali.
A petite eatery tucked into one of culture capital Ubud’s busy streets, Locavore’s earthy yet modern fit out feels right at home. With only a handful of tables and a bar, however, you’ll need to book well in advance for dinner (we recommend the lunch sitting with its lovely natural light).
Sitting in our window table perusing the admittedly unusual menu, we could only imagine that the unhappy looks on the faces of the patrons at the pizza bar opposite were due to their disappointment at not having booked across the road instead (or maybe, some sort of travelers spat).
I chose a cocktail from the intriguing list to kick of proceedings and it didn’t disappoint – it looked like most of the diners in the room made the same choice of beverage too (the Citrus, if you’re wondering). We had been cautioned by a friend who had dined previously that the beverage pairings were very small, so opted for a decently-priced-by-Bali-standards bottle of Wild Rock Pania Chardonnay from the homeland.
A parade of snacks kicks off proceedings and team Locavore is kicking goals right out of the gate. First up is a betel leaf wrapped cone of peanut and chili, with three solitary salt crystals on the side. Not sure we really needed the salt crystals served separately, but hey, whatever floats your presentation boat…
Crispy tempura cumin leaves, compressed pineapple with curry leaf and an elegant dish bringing together hot and cold tastes of tomato (tomato sorbet, consommé and fresh tomato) continue the amazing journey of snacks. Clearly we are not the first diners to swoon over the tomato creation, as this dish has remained on the menu since Locavore opened its doors.
Banana blossom 2.0 is my first course of the meal proper, served with roasted green banana crème, peanut oil emulsion, lime pickled shallots, coriander and marigold petals. Its pink and yellow hues are easy on the eye, but if by chance you have tried banana blossom, you’ll know it’s sadly not as easy on the palate. If you’ve ever eaten banana peel, the blossom offers the same experience – a chalky consistency that coats your mouth with its unusual texture instantly. Having had this in Thailand recently, I think it’s definitely a regional acquired taste…and not one I enjoy personally.
All things Lobak (radish) features braised daikon in tangerine juice, lobak leaves, lobak oil and a lobak & salt koji crème (my favourite part of the dish). Turns out that while it looks all too beautiful, all things lobak are a few too many for me.
A dish not so appetizingly titled, ‘Are they really called stinky beans?’, doesn’t appeal on the plate any more than the title, and Umami 5.0 has me unfortunately leaving most of its contents uneaten, much like the previous courses.
At this point we are feeling a little perplexed – the meal started in spectacular fashion with superb snacks that held the promise of many more tastebud-pleasing courses to come, but the following courses didn’t hit the same moreish highs.
Thankfully though, the meat courses get the meal back on track, delivering the satisfied oohs and aahs we’d hoped for from our Locavore experience. Bangkal Hitam is the course of the meal – pork leg Karo style, cauliflower ham stock, pickled genjer, serundeng powder and sweet bacon looking as good on the plate as it tasted. The duck that followed came very close to surpassing the superb pork – another excellent dish.
Desserts ticked the necessary sweet boxes in fine fashion, a take on mango sticky rice being all but essential. The huge array of petit four make for a visually impressive finale, but don’t impress to the same extent when it comes to taste. I’m not really surprised by this, however, as it seems a universal problem that petit four disappoint in the flavor stakes. I can’t help but feel all the effort put in to crafting so many tiny morsels isn’t worth the payoff.
Coming to the end of the meal, we concluded that we loved the start and the finish of our Locavore dining experience – but the first 5 proper courses, as interesting as they were, just weren’t delicious. Too many courses by went with just a couple of bites tasted, when we’re looking for dishes that have us wanting to lick the plate and steal the recipe.
Cocktail lovers, don’t forget to to complete your Locavore experience with a concoction or two at their newly opened bar, Night Rooster, just around the corner. Opening at 4pm, it’s perfect for some pre or post dinner imbibing. There are some truly unusual cocktails on the menu heaving with local inspiration and ingredients – jack fruit, fermented salak juice, cassia bitter, turmeric kencur and kemangi leaves to name a few. I recommend the ‘Pigshare’, a fruity number featuring the irresistible combo of rum, mango, passion fruit and ginger beer.
Have you dined at Locavore? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this unique spot in Bali’s cultural heartland. Let us know in the comments below…