Locavore Bali @ Rijks Restaurant* – Amsterdam (May 2019)

No need to travel over 12,000km to enjoy the fantastic food and cocktails of Indonesia’s best restaurant, Locavore, as they took over the Rijks* kitchen last week!

About Trading Places
Joris Bijdendijk of Rijks Restaurant* has already chalked up quite a few impressive collaborations over the past couple of years. Chefs from some of the most high regarded restaurants around the world were responsible for curating half of the menu of the 2-3 day events. Ray Adriansyah and Eelke Plasmeijer from Bali’s Locavore – which is a mainstay in the Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants since 2016 and currently at #42 – also enjoyed their 2017 stint at Rijks so much that they together decided to take things a step further with this “Trading Places” concept and swap restaurants for about a week.

The chefs travel to their temporary environment without ingredients, set recipes, and with only a few helping hands. They will soak up the local culture and produce for a couple of days before eventually preparing and serving a signature menu for 4 or 5 days at their “new” restaurant with locally available ingredients and supported by the resident staff.

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We have visited Locavore on holiday in Bali back in 2015 as well as the 2017 Locavore x Rijks* collab and love their food and creativity. Consequently, a lunch booking was made within minutes of the announcement and it surely did not disappoint!

For foodies, Trading Spaces provides a unique possibility to experience restaurants that you normally would not be able to visit and fully immerse yourself rather than just sampling a couple dishes by the visiting chef. With an entire week, there are also more opportunities to visit these already limited events. I can imagine that it has benefits for the chefs as well. It is obviously not as extreme as temporarily relocating entire restaurants to the other side of the world (like Noma and The Fat Duck did), but with this concept, chefs are pushed to really try something new rather than churning out the same signature dishes for a couple of days before traveling to the next city. Not wishing Joris Bijdendijk being abroad all the time, but I sincerely hope that Trading Places really takes off ;-).

About the lunch:
As we were about 15 minutes early (Amsterdam public transport was efficient for once), they asked to sit at the bar until our table was ready. Already 15 minutes into service and with plenty of people already eating, I would surely hope that they would not need to set any tables. Just a couple of minutes later – we barely got in our order for cocktails at the bar – they ushered us to our table, explained the concept and asked if we wanted to order a cocktail whilst browsing the menu options…

Still somewhat confused why we hadn’t been seated right away, but under the enjoyment of our delicious Fennel Sling and the Boulevardier cocktails (EUR 15 each), we browsed the nicely designed menu cards. The 6-course lunch was EUR 85, but for dinner, you had the option for 2 additional courses (bone marrow and cheese) and extra friandises  which would be EUR 120 in total. At the 2017 event, I recall that there were only limited possibilities for cocktail pairings, but now Locavore went all out and brought along one of their bartenders to sling cocktails: 5 signature cocktails were available as an aperitif and 4 different ones were the pairings for the menu. Consequently, the beverage pairing for 6 courses consisted of 4 cocktails and 2 white wines and was EUR 56. For the 8-course dinner menu, 2 beers from Amsterdam brewery Brouwerij ‘t IJ would be added to the fold, thus totaling EUR 68.

We kicked off our lunch with 3 amuse dishes:

Flower Power (Assorted fresh and fried Spring Flowers, Wild Rose Kalamansi Vinegar Emulsion, Flower Salt, sprayed with Rose Kombucha).

Missing the North Sea… (North Sea Shrimp, blanched in Sea Water, served on Seaweed and Ice, Oyster Emulsion and Lime Leaf Oil); Delightful and pure saline flavors and textures. Chantal had some super crispy radishes instead of the shrimps and a slightly sweeter codium seaweed emulsion instead my oyster one.

Hot Tomato, Cold Tomato (Tomato Sambal Sorbet, Warm Tomato Consommé, Sliced Sherry Tomato, and Celery Salt).  The hot and cold sensation between the consommé and the tomato sorbet is amplified by the same feeling that the sambal brings to the sorbet itself. Amazing start of lunch!

Roti Introduced as “roti with sunflower oil, peanuts, and herb butter” which was way off from the “Fermented New Potato Flatbread, served with Huttentut oil, Hempseed Dukkah and Stinging Nettle Butter” printed on the menu on the table. This Huttentut oil (‘Gold-of-pleasure’ or ‘Camelina’ oil in English) was new to us but tasted quite nutty and reminded us of flax seed. The roti and condiments were supposed to last the next couple of dishes, but they were so good that they didn’t even make it through the next one.

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The first dish from the menu was White Asparagus (Charred and Pickled, Roasted Garlic Miso Vinaigrette, Young Garlic Chips, Goose Egg Yolk Emulsion, and Wild Watercress Leaves). The pairing was a fresh 2018 Müller-Thurgau white from Apostelhoeve, Maastricht, The Netherlands.

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The second course was Goat Tartare (Goat Leg, wrapped and barbecued in Ramson Leaves, served almost raw, Pickled Wild Garlic, Andaliman Pepper Crème Fraîche, and grated Goat Heart). Chantal had barbecued watermelon instead of goat. For some reason she wasn’t all that interested in the microplane grating of the barbecued and then dried goat’s heart which gave my dish a smokey, umami hit. This spicy yet creamy dish’s pairing was a delicious yet equally “out there” cocktail with Mescal, Fresh Goat Whey, Tarragon, and Agave syrup, finished with a grating of goats’ cheese.

The third course was Otak Otak (Leek stuffed with Minced Mackerel, Barbecued on Charcoal, Burnt Leek Powder, Cured Duck Egg Yolk, Chive Vinaigrette, and Chervil Leaves). Chantal had more leeks instead of the mackerel. A second Dutch white wine paired this dish: a more full-bodied 2017 Johanniter by Aan de Breede Beek Wijngaard, Nijkerk, The Netherlands.

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Up next was the highlight of our lunch: Black is the New Orange; a fantastic take on “different preparations of carrot”. (Carrot Steak, roasted in smoked (Beef/Vegetable) Fat, Spiced Carrot Puree, Carrot and Passion Fruit Reduction). The bold and complementing cocktail was made with Chili-infused Vodka (hot hot hot!), smoked Carrot Juice, Apple Cider Vinegar, and a super-Fragrant Cumin mist.

The final savory course was Goose à la Royale (Wild Goose Ballotine, Very Intense Sauce, Fresh Morels, Glazed Spring Turnip, Wild Green Asparagus). Chantal had a barbecued celeriac “steak” instead of the goose and a miso sauce. Together with the obvious North Sea amuse, this was the only dish that didn’t have a distinctly Asian flavor.  The refreshing cocktail did, though: Naked Grouse Whisky, Purple Basil Blossom Syrup, White Wine, Nutmeg and a sprinkle of dried Pandan leaves. It paired remarkably well with the thick sauce à la royale (which is typically made with livers and blood of the animal in question, but I can imagine that “very intense sauce” looked a tad better on the menu…)

The first sweet dish was Bubur Sumsum (Frozen Rice Porridge, Rhubarb Granité, Ginger torch poached Rhubarb, Crispy Rice). Spot on: fruity and refreshing as a pre-dessert should be.

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The menu’s finale was Kue Beri Hitam (Blackberry Tart, Cacao Oil Crust, Coconut Blackberry Sorbet, Egg White Coconut Crème) served with a cocktail of Pandan infused Sweet Vermouth, Roasted Coconut, Gin and Angostura Orange Bitters. Again fresh and not sweet at all and the cocktail was top-notch.

Service itself was a bit of mixed bag. All very friendly, but individually ranging from very good and attentive to uninformed, off-timed and disconnected to the rest of the teams. Unfortunately, this was similar to our previous visits to Rijks and in our experience unfitting for a Michelin-starred restaurant.

No sweet treats to go with our tea (which was Green tea instead of the Earl Grey we both ordered). As the “koektrommel” (cookie jar) would have been served during dinner, it felt like a missed opportunity. However, as a perfect nod to the longstanding tradition of intercontinental flying in KLM’s business class, we did receive a Delfts Blauw miniature statue of a Balinese temple as a souvenir. Instead of jenever, it contained a hibiscus-infused vinegar.

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A great closing of a wonderful lunch!

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