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Locavore: If You Visit Only One Restaurant in Bali

I didn't expect it to be this remarkable, even though people who had been to Locavore said it was an extraordinary restaurant. If you're going to visit just one restaurant in Bali, without a doubt, make it Locavore. It's my top recommendation—a unique restaurant that deeply considers the role food plays in our lives.



From the moment we arrived, we experienced eight hours of uninterrupted awe. The busy hours flew by with activities like exploring locally cultivated crops, witnessing the lab-like kitchen in action, visiting the mushroom farm and rooftop garden, tasting coffee, and enjoying a wooden villa. The three-hour meal was just part of this comprehensive experience. Two years ago, Locavore, located in the heart of Ubud, Bali, began its gourmet journey in earnest when it was renovated and reopened as the expanded Locavore NXT. Led by chefs Elke Plasmeijer and Ray Adriansyah, Locavore offers an unprecedented dining experience by discovering and exploring local ingredients.


Dining at a restaurant is great, but if you're more curious, I highly recommend staying at the Woodrooms in Locavore for a day to experience the "Locavore NXT Full Experience." You might wonder why you need to stay overnight at a restaurant, but it's worth it! Experiencing how Locavore's 100 employees work, their research, and how they redefine "dining in a restaurant" with their unique expertise is truly special.





Woodroom at Locavore

The Woodroom, which accommodates two people, costs around 250 USD per night, including breakfast prepared at Locavore and a two-hour restaurant tour. The tour can be scheduled for the afternoon on your check-in day or the morning of the next day, so be sure to ask in advance.





ocated about 300 meters from the Locavore restaurant, the Woodroom offers a serene view of Bali's rice fields. Each room has a private terrace where you can enjoy welcome drinks and snacks from Locavore. Despite previously staying at a luxury resort pool villa costing at least 2K USD per night, the beauty and tranquility of this place at just 1/10 of the price were so captivating that I wished time would stop while watching the sunset. However, be prepared for mosquitoes since the area is connected to rice fields. Mosquito repellent is essential. When traveling to Southeast Asia, including Bali, always bring mosquito repellent and sunscreen.




The room itself is very pleasant. Only a year old, it is in excellent condition with a minimalist design in wood and white tones, enlivened by paintings created by the restaurant's design team. The refrigerator is stocked with undiluted cold-brew coffee made from locally sourced Indonesian coffee beans, carefully selected by Locavore. The minibar features freshly baked chips from the restaurant, which you must try. The coffee is perfect to enjoy cool with ice and snacks.




Locavore NXT Full Experience
: A Unique Culinary Journey at Locavore

Any serious foodie knows what a typical kitchen tour at a restaurant is like. Guided by the staff into a large, impressive kitchen, you're shown the cold cooking section, the hot section, and so on. It's always intriguing to see where the magic happens and to hear the explanations. So, when you hear about a "full package tour" that involves spending a day and night at a restaurant, you might wonder what makes it special.


Locavore exceeds all expectations. Anyone who has visited Noma in Copenhagen or Central in Lima knows that top-tier restaurants often resemble laboratories, filled with fascinating things to see. In many ways, Locavore can be considered the Noma of Asia. It's not just a kitchen tour; it's an immersive two-hour experience that delves into the restaurant's philosophy and research.


Due to my flight schedule, I had my tour (originally scheduled for the next day) right after checking in. While it might have been a delightful surprise the next day, learning about the restaurant's workings before dinner enriched my dining experience.




The tour began with a "cupping" session. Did you know Indonesia is the world's fourth-largest coffee producer? Not only does it produce a lot, but Indonesians also consume a significant amount of coffee. Historically, most coffee production was robusta, leading to the consumption of "old coffee" with a lot of sugar. However, since the 2000s, the production of Arabica has increased, and specialty coffee, drip coffee, and espresso have become more popular. It's noteworthy that many world barista champions are from Indonesia, highlighting the country's rich coffee culture.


During our cupping session, we sampled four types of coffee. Cupping helps objectively assess the quality of coffee beans, and we explored how different terms and tastes could be through a comparative tasting of four pre-selected beans. From clear and fruity flavors to savory and unique notes like durian, the variety was impressive. Two of the beans were currently used in the restaurant, while the other two were new additions being considered. For reference, the cold brew coffee in the Woodroom features traditional beans with a clear, juicy, cherry-like flavor.




Next, we visited the "Research Kitchen." This is not a kitchen for immediate food preparation but a lab for experimenting with new recipes and ingredients. When Locavore discovers new local ingredients, they test various recipes to find the best way to cook them. They also create unique recipes by combining global techniques with local ingredients. For example, they might make corn wine using sake brewing methods with local corn or experiment with kombucha at different temperatures and fermentation periods. This kitchen is led by a Mexican chef, supported by a Korean team member, adding an international flair to their innovative work. Interestingly, one of their team members previously worked at Allen, a two-star restaurant in Seoul, making the experience even more special for Korean visitors.





Next, we explored the "fermentation chamber," where recipes from all over the world come to life. From fish fermentation to various Asian soybean fermentations—like soybean paste, miso, soy sauce, yeast, and kimchi—there was so much to see. One example was an umami sauce made by filtering the liquid from fermented beans. Opening the kimchi container made me feel like I was at my grandmother's house. Although fish fermentation isn't usually part of the tour, my curiosity led them to show me the walk-in section. The tour could be adjusted to go quickly through less interesting parts or dive deep into fascinating areas with more questions and discussions.







In the middle of the tour, we passed through the staff lounge, a central area that felt both indoors and outdoors. Unlike in Korea, where smoking is less common among young people, many Locavore employees smoke. It was impressive to see a large designated smoking area for them. The lounge also had a grand display of portraits of past and present employees, highlighting the restaurant's appreciation for its team.


We then moved through the main dining hall, which offers a beautiful view of the paddy fields. Although it can seat up to 60 people, they usually use an average of 35 seats per day.






Next was a magical space for alcohol lovers—the distillery and alcohol fermentation area. In Indonesia, a traditional distilled beverage called arak is made from coconut fruit, palm sap, and rice. Locavore not only makes arak but also various other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Seeing this space made me eager to try their drink pairings at dinner, which turned out to be both delightful and fun.






The mushroom culture room was divided into two sections. One area is where mushrooms actually grow underground, and the section we visited is where they manage and manufacture mushroom fungi. Locavore grows all the mushrooms used in their cooking, allowing them to control size, shape, and cultivation period. They primarily grow pink oyster mushrooms, some of which are turned into powder for use in dishes. While shiitake mushrooms are not yet cultivated, there are plans to start growing them within the year. Fewer than ten types of mushrooms are cultivated here, and they even have dedicated staff for mushroom management and growth.


Moving to the next building, we encountered a large waste disposal facility. Interestingly, the person who welcomed us was the restaurant's sous chef. It was impressive to see the importance Locavore places on waste management, with the sous chef also overseeing this area. In Indonesia, recycling is less common, with waste often being collectively dumped. However, Locavore is committed to thorough waste separation to lead and change the culture. They compost food waste using biodegradation facilities, ensuring low-energy composting.







This comprehensive tour showcased Locavore's dedication to innovation, sustainability, and excellence in every aspect of their operation. After more than an hour and a half, my eyes were still gleaming with excitement, and I was filled with enthusiasm, thinking of how much my chef friends would enjoy this experience. Sensing my excitement, we finally headed up to the rooftop garden. Although the rooftop garden isn't part of the standard tour, it's accessible upon request. Up there, I saw basic herbs and even beekeeping boxes, and I had the chance to learn about the various crops and processes they use.


After this comprehensive two-hour tour of the entire restaurant, I took a short break. Walking through a garden filled with chrysanthemums, I returned to the Woodroom to prepare for dinner. The closed-loop ethos of Locavore, which involves growing most of their own crops, researching new methods, and minimizing waste to reduce their carbon footprint, was truly inspiring. It's a dream many chefs have but find difficult to realize.






For a detailed review of the three-hour dinner experience, please visit the following article:

[Read Locavore's Dinner Experience]

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