top of page

Locavore NXT: Putting Indonesia on the Table

Many restaurants claim to emphasize "local ingredients" and "local culinary culture," but few execute this philosophy with as much passion and dedication as Locavore. If Europe has Noma and South America has Central, then Asia certainly has Locavore.

Locavore is driven by ingredients rather than tradition. Chefs Elke Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah have created a dining experience that isn't about modernizing traditional Indonesian dishes but rather about exploring and experimenting with unique ingredients found in the jungles of Ubud or Java. This makes it challenging to answer, "Is this the most delicious dish I've ever eaten in Bali?" The most delicious and familiar dishes are often traditional ones that have evolved over time. However, the innovative and exciting attempts at Locavore make it a must-visit dining experience.

Having signed up for the Locavore NXT Full Experience, I checked into the Woodroom, completed the restaurant tour, and changed for the three-hour dinner. It's a five-minute walk from the room to the restaurant, and once I notified them via WhatsApp, an employee came to escort me.

The first stop was the reception hall and distillery space. The high ceilings created an airy atmosphere, and the view of Ubud's green rice paddies through the barrels was stunning. Here, two bite-sized dishes were served with a welcome drink. You can choose an alcoholic or non-alcoholic welcome drink; I opted for the alcoholic version, intrigued by the distillery.

The first stop was the reception hall and distillery space. The high ceilings created an airy atmosphere, and the view of Ubud's green rice paddies through the barrels was stunning. Here, two bite-sized dishes were served with a welcome drink. You can choose an alcoholic or non-alcoholic welcome drink; I opted for the alcoholic version, intrigued by the distillery.

The first dish, called "The Whole Banana Tree," showcased the various uses of a banana tree. Indonesia boasts hundreds of local banana varieties. This dish featured the fruit of the ripe Ladyfinger banana, a salad made from the banana stem with Indonesian red curry sauce, and banana vinegar. The snack utilized the fruits, skins, stems, and leaves of the banana, highlighting the restaurant's philosophy of maximizing ingredient use. This dish has remained on the menu despite many changes because the chefs love its flavor.

As I enjoyed this snack, I noticed numerous banana trees growing indoors behind the bar. Inspired by this space, the chef's team has experimented with 19 different banana varieties, culminating in the current menu. They use the fruit for puree, the skin for condiments, and the stem for salad mixed with curry.

The second snack was cassava bread, tight and chewy, inspired by cireng, a traditional Javanese dish. Thinly sliced frog legs were cooked and served on top. Locavore uses no dairy or flour, developing various gluten-free bread options over the years. This snack was particularly enjoyable with drinks.

Descending to the Mushroom Culture Room

Next, we passed through a large door and descended to the basement. The server used a flashlight to guide us down the dark stairs to the cellar, filled with intriguing scents. During the restaurant tour, I visited the lab that makes mushroom spores, and now we entered a nearly 100-pyeong culture room for growing mushrooms. The moisture and unique scent of the red-lit room created a new sensory experience.

A modern touch panel on the wall allowed us to explore various ingredients studied and archived by the restaurant team in 3D, which was fascinating.

In a glass case resembling a frog kennel, the next snack awaited us. Two types of mushroom-based snacks were served. The first, a blend of all the mushrooms Locavore produces, was placed on a corn chip, offering a burst of umami and aroma in one bite.

Seated on a natural stone-like bench, we were served a mushroom broth in a unique cup made by a local potter. The cup looked like a rough-cut stone, and the rich, flavorful mushroom broth left a lingering taste.

Main Dining Hall Experience

We then moved to the third space, the main dining hall. Interestingly, all seats were arranged to face one direction, allowing diners to look into the kitchen. The hall's huge glass window provided a view of the rice fields, and as night fell, the open-plan kitchen became the focal point. All the chefs worked in a visible space without any blind spots.

Locavore NXT's culinary style is unique, blending modern European techniques with Indonesian ingredients to create dishes that highlight local farmers, fishermen, and producers. We experienced both alcoholic and non-alcoholic pairings.

The first dish was ceviche, topped with a tamarind-based ceviche sauce (Leche de Tigre), lacto-fermented tomatoes, palm fruit, lemongrass oil, clear tomato jelly, and deep-fried seaweed. This ceviche-inspired dish used no seafood, instead adding flavor with deep-fried seaweed.

The next dish featured chayote, a tropical fruit also known as Mexican pumpkin. Native to South America, it is widely grown in Southeast Asia. Like the earlier banana snack, this dish used various parts of the chayote—leaves, sprouts, flowers, and fruit. Topped with cured egg yolk from a local native chicken called Kampung, the dish also included ant eggs, a delicacy in Thailand and Southeast Asia. Though hesitant about eating ants, I opted to have them served separately. The taste and texture were akin to blanched salted shrimp.

Tempeh, a staple of Indonesian cuisine and popular among Korean vegan dieters, is traditionally made by wrapping soybeans in banana leaves and fermenting them. Lisa and Tim, the heads of fermentation at Locavore, have created several versions of tempeh, with the combination of canary nuts and black beans being the most popular. This dish, made with black garlic, mushrooms, cashew milk, and tempeh, lacks the typical pungent flavor associated with fermented beans. Instead, it leaves a unique, intense tannin sensation on the tongue, showcasing the distinctive taste of Locavore cuisine.

The lobster dish features tender, soft-cooked lobster meat paired with a rich lobster bisque sauce. To add Locavore’s signature twist, the dish includes palm kimchi and baked pineapples, which surprisingly taste like traditional kimchi. Lemongrass foam is added on top, enhancing the dish's complexity.

Mid-meal, I was invited to the open kitchen in the center of the hall. There, I chatted with Chef Ray in a cozy corner and tasted a unique drink made from marigold flowers and papaya stems, harvested right next to the wood room.

Back at my seat, the course continued with duck meatballs served on a large bouquet of flowers containing a staggering 37 ingredients. These meatballs were accompanied by Indonesian mole sauce, thanks to the influence of the head of the research kitchen, a Mexican chef. The dish also included a papaya flower salad and a creamy broth.

The next dish featured abalone and radish. A clear broth made with local crab accompanied soft-cooked radish and abalone. This dish celebrated a staple of Asian cuisine: rice. The Locavore team aimed to convey the earth's energy through this dish, which combined rice, squid, kimchi, and crab meat beautifully colored with yellow tamarind. It tasted like kimchi fried rice, making it delicious, fun, and heartwarming.

Following that, a dish with seven-day-aged duck was served with red cabbage and house-made miso sauce. The duck was flavored with garlic sticks and accompanied by stir-fried duck brisket and a juice sauce. Local ferns resembling bracken added texture and flavor, while the sauce combined the sweet and tangy elements of red cabbage.

In Western cuisine, a sorbet often serves as a palate cleanser. Here, the transition between the main course and dessert was marked by organic Bali Oolong tea and a sour snack made from pickled tea leaves. The complimentary dessert featured sweet potato fermented yeast mixed with alcohol, sour Oolong tea pickles, and local flowers, perfectly paired with the clean tea.

The final course revisited the banana theme. Guests could either return to the earlier welcome drink area for a leisurely experience or continue dining in the main hall. Due to my night flight schedule, I chose the latter. The main dessert, inspired by the classic combination of chocolate and banana, featured banana peel kong pot, banana molet sauce, jelly, and Aliman red pepper ice cream—a complex dessert bursting with spicy and sour flavors.

The final course! There were options for coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to share, but I decided to order hot chocolate on a whim, even though I've never had it after a meal before. The hot chocolate was quite unique too. It was smooth, almost like drinking thick cocoa water with a hint of cacao nibs, lightly sweetened, and impeccably rich. Despite being served in a small cup, its texture made it feel incredibly substantial. Savoring each sip felt indulgent enough for two.

As I enjoyed the chocolate, the sorbet arrived. The menu described it as "steel fruit," leading me to anticipate a delectable assortment akin to a sushi omakase fruit platter, but I was pleasantly surprised. It turned out to be a sorbet made from the remaining caramelized watermelon used in an earlier chayote dish, complemented with a Mexican-style sauce featuring spicy tamaryl.

Just when I thought the meal had concluded, it continued. Similar to exiting a museum or gallery, the restaurant's exit led to a souvenir shop!!! It showcased local craftsmen's pottery, glassware, leather, and textiles. Amidst the intriguing items, I discovered a hidden gem—a selection of Indonesian Chocolate Bonbons! The drawer revealed chocolates with four distinct flavors. Despite feeling quite full, I couldn't resist and opted for all four to savor.

Curious about the chefs behind this remarkable dining experience?

Co-owner Chef Ray Adriansyah, born in Jakarta to Sumatran parents, developed a passion for both traditional and modern cuisine, influenced by his mother's exceptional cooking skills. After studying business in New Zealand, he pursued his culinary dreams, training in Christchurch before working under Chef Elke at a downtown Jakarta restaurant, eventually rising to Sous Chef.

Elke Plasmeijer, Chef Ray's longtime collaborator, hails from the Netherlands. Starting in restaurants at just 14, he amassed experience across various roles in hotels and Michelin-starred establishments. Nearly two decades ago, in 2006, he journeyed to Jakarta, where he began working under a senior chef, later joining forces with Ray in Bali. Their shared commitment to utilizing local ingredients drove them to establish their own restaurant, continuously innovating with a steadfast focus on "only local ingredients."

In their newly established space, I sensed the chefs' genuine dedication. "We aim to create the best possible restaurant for the community, Bali, and ultimately, the planet. We now have all the facilities we've always dreamed of. In the past, we felt limitations in doing more and better, but now those constraints are gone, leaving no excuses."

Locavore isn't just about serving exceptional food; it's also about educating, inspiring, and offering solutions and alternatives. It's a rebellious and revolutionary culinary destination that leaves you pondering, "What's next?" I highly recommend visiting Locavore to experience it firsthand!


bottom of page