Apéritif Restaurant & Bar recently burst onto Bali’s fine-dining scene with its gorgeous colonial and Roaring Twenties setting, cool bar and intriguing degustation menus packed with Executive Chef Nic Vanderbeeken’s one-of-a-kind creations. Exquisite Taste sat down with Nic to talk about the restaurant and his inspiration.
E: Would you explain the Apéritif concept?
Nic Vanderbeeken: At Apéritif, we strive to showcase our unique interpretation of global eclectic cuisine. The food we present is based on our experiences during our travels around the world, our memories, so we find commonalities between different cultures’ cuisines. This way, we can create new flavours and merge different styles of cooking and flavour profiles. It’s food that has universally familiar flavours that can’t necessarily be pinpointed straight away. Ultimately, we always seek to present the best produce possible and to ensure that everything we do enhances that produce.
E: In what ways does Apéritif stimulate your creativity?
N: We have such an international and multi-cultural team that it is always stimulating to hear everyone’s experiences and stories. Everyone has their own memories from their homes or travels, which adds to the diversity at the restaurant and pushes us to interpret things creatively. We also live and work on an island where our guests are often international travellers, which allows us to listen to their stories and experiences, whether it is about local food, Michelin-starred experiences or award-winning restaurants. All of this motivates us to push the boundaries and be creative when interpreting each other’s experiences into a dish.
Being based in Bali also pushes us to be creative with produce. What is available one day might not be the next day. I love to challenge myself each day and work on new dishes that may end up on our menus. The adaptability of our team pushes us to always think outside the box.
E: You have become well known for cross-cultural collaborations, will you be continuing with these at Apéritif?
N: Absolutely. We have quite a few upcoming collaborations with our chef friends from around the world. We always ensure that with each collaboration we not only inspire each other, but that we share our creativity and bounce ideas off one another. Bali is, of course, a destination that many people travel to and we would like to be able to showcase the diversity and richness of Bali’s culinary scene.
E: Do you make an effort to stay up to date with the latest techniques and styles in other countries or do you find Indonesia sufficiently stimulating?
N: Yes, I believe that it is important to always stay up to date, but not to lose who you are as a chef or a person in the process. Many other countries have easy access to produce and equipment, but here in Bali that isn’t so easy. We have to have more patience and creativity, which leads us to using more classical techniques to create new ideas.
Ultimately, we do not simply follow a particular style or the latest techniques. We cook from the heart to showcase who we are, while still respecting where we are located. I believe that more chefs are becoming aware of the global environment and are trying to use local produce as much as possible without losing their sense of identity. To me, it’s all about respecting who we are as a team, our personal styles, as well as the smaller farmers or producers and what they are trying to do.
E: What is your best memory of chef life?
N: Probably becoming a chef, although after 24 years in the kitchen, I have many great memories. Opening Apéritif is definitely one of my best memories in recent times. Another one was when my head chef trusted me to be his sous chef in his Michelin-starred restaurant ‘t Convent.
E: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
N: That’s a good question. I’ve never really thought of being anything else but a chef.
E: What are your professional goals?
N: To continue being successful and to deliver amazing dining experiences that our guests continue to enjoy.
Papua Crab Gulai
- 1 Papua crab or mud crab
- 3l water
- 90g salt
- 50g red chilli, chopped
- 100g shallots, chopped
- 50g garlic, chopped
- 10g ginger, chopped
- 10g turmeric, chopped
- 2g coriander seeds
- 3 candlenuts, chopped
- 1g nutmeg, ground
- 20ml vegetable oil
- Crab shell from the Papua or mud crab
- 5 kaffir lime leaves, whole
- 2 lemongrass sticks, smashed
- 3 Indonesian bay leaves (daun salem), whole
- 800ml water
- 200g coconut milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 50ml lemon juice
- 50ml lime juice
- 50ml yuzu juice
- 50ml calamansi juice
- 5ml pickled ginger juice
- 50ml simple syrup
- 0.5g agar-agar
- 0.5g gellan gum
- 1 whole kohlrabi, sliced 2mm thick with mandolin
- 1 parsley root, peeled
- 100ml milk
- 100ml cream
- 100ml chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon sour cream
- 4g Italian parsley, chopped
- 3 drops lemon juice
- 7 ikura eggs (per dish)
- 4g Oscietra caviar (per dish), optional
- Dill sprigs
- Combine salt and water then simmer crab in the liquid for 7-10 minutes.
- Remove the crab meat, set aside crab shell.
- When cool, mix crab with sour cream and chopped parsley. Season to taste and add a dash of lemon juice.
- Place red chilli, shallot, garlic, ginger, turmeric, coriander seed, candlenut and nutmeg in a mortar and pestle and grind until it forms a paste.
- Fry the spice paste with kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass and Indonesian bay leaves in vegetable oil until fragrant, then add crab shell.
- Add water to spice paste mixture and simmer for 1 hour to infuse flavours.
- Strain spice mixture, returning liquid to the pan. Add coconut milk, simmer on low heat until creamy.
- Season to taste.
Citrus gel and parsley root crème
- Combine all ingredients, bring to the boil.
- Cool until gelatin sets.
- Blend the gel in a blender and strain.
- Marinate sliced kohlrabi in gulai sauce.
- Boil parsley root in milk, cream and chicken stock until soft, roughly 10 minutes. Once soft, blend to form parsley root crème and season to taste.
- Spoon crab mixture onto sheets of sliced kohlrabi and fold in half like a half-moon dumpling.
- Place ikura eggs and caviar on top of the dumpling.
- Dot citrus gel and parsley root crème on the dumpling.
- Garnish with sprigs of dill and pour gulai sauce on the side.
Jalan Lanyahan, Nagi, Ubud
Bali 80571, Indonesia
T: (+62) 3619082777
Exquisite Taste September – November 2019