“Order in! One Ceasar Salad, one onion soup. Followed by one Salmon, pink, one Angus Tenderloin, medium rare, truffle mash.”
There has always been some form of excitement hearing the busy bustling sounds of the Chef calling out the orders, with their crew hustling after every order. Being able to hear your order being called out is like preempt to what is about to come, a foreplay to the meal. After all, food is not just fueled to keep you breathing, it has to have a form of nurturing, a pampering of the body and soul, a pazaz as I would call it. And when it comes to most chefs their food is their way of communicating and expressing themselves. They are artists. It was this artistic charm which led me to be in the restaurant business and jumping into several kitchens to work alongside these artists. Having years of doing so, I have come to understand that it is the kind of food which comforts your soul and not only your hunger that really makes the impression. It is not always top quality products cooked by a Michelin Chef that is impressionable. Many nights I have found myself eating simple home cooking with great chefs and am easily content.
With the ever-growing restaurant scene in Jakarta, the options to your culinary desires are almost endless. As the population grows more and more multicultural, so does the diversity of cuisines, personal taste buds and preferences. Personally, this is an exciting time in the food and beverage sector to go out there and seek out the food that speaks to you. Here are a few of my soft spots to visit, some new and exciting, some old tried and true, yet all speak to me with pazaz.
Please allow me to confess one thing. I am not a morning person. Breakfast at 7 am is not something I would get out of bed for. The standard eggs over easy with a side of toast are not usually on my menu. However, when the yearning does arise, Antipodean café does a delicious all-day breakfast menu with eggs, sausages and bacon. They also roast their own coffee beans, making a good cup of Joe. If you’re not able to sit and indulge in the beauty of breakfast, pick up a bagel sandwich at Bagel Bagel. Homemade bagels with a variety of toppings to your liking, this may be the power breakfast for those on the go.
Brunch… The way to start a weekend
Push the hours a little later when brunch is served and you will see me bright eyed and bushy tailed. Now we are talking about one of my favourite meals; Chinese brunch, dim sum. Freshly steamed dumplings, crispy and succulent barbeque meats and slowly cooked rice porridge that coats the tummy like a warm blanket. There are heaps of Chinese restaurants to choose from these days. Long gone are the days when the only places for dim sum were in North Jakarta (yes, I am not that young). I have found Maystar and Crystal Jade Chinese Restaurants tend to be consistent at maintaining a good variety and quality. If you are looking for a more Chinese ambience, try Sun City in Kota area.
Other brunch options would be Koi Restaurant, with their Western-style options or Four Seasons Hotel where the weekend brunch buffet includes Foie Gras, oysters and Sparkling wine if one desires.
I have found lighter meals such as sushi or salad usually hits the spot nicely. Fresh fish dipped in soy sauce with a healthy kick of wasabi has always been a personal favourite, accompanied by a nice salad with sesame dressing. Sushi Tei is scattered generously around major malls in the city, serving well-priced items that can suit the lunch budget. You can generally grab your lunch and be back at work within the hour if you don’t include the queuing, traffic, coffee break with friends, telephone calls, window shopping and impromptu meetings…
If Western is more delectable to your palate, try Negev in Wisma Mulia. Chef Chandra’s influences haul from his experiences in five-star hotels, bringing together Spanish, Italian and French cooking. A fairly broad yet focused menu has proven to work for people in the mood for modern European cuisine. Desserts at Negev are also not to be neglected. Executive Pastry Chef Eric Gouteyron is making magic with stunning results.
The Union is another choice spot, the latest effort from the people who brought Loewy, Cork and Screw and Canteen. Nothing short of a hit from the get-go, the food is unassuming yet with a twist. Find bistro staples such as cured meat platter and grilled steaks alongside local comfort food such as bakmi ayam Foie Gras (Indonesian chicken noodles with Foie Gras). Their Red Velvet Cake is currently the talk of the town where it is common to see a slice or two on almost every table. Located in Plaza Senayan, lunch easily turns into coffee time and into dinner and drinks.
Tea for Two and Coffee Talks
All the malls here have major coffee shops that are popular for afternoon hangouts and chats. Café Victoria in Plaza Senayan is one of the long-standing outlets that is still going strong for meetings and somewhere to see and be seen. If you are in Pacific Place, check out Liberica where the house coffee blend is no joke. Rich and robust, these guys have done their homework to find their own unique blend. Non-coffee beverages are also popular, including the Bali brewed beer, Stark.
I’ve always enjoyed dinner time as this is usually more relaxed and involves my favourite beverage, wine.
For those who know the culinary scene in Jakarta, Chef Gilles Marx is no stranger. Hailing from Alsace, France, he brought his Michelin star talent years ago to Riva in the Park Lane Hotel. Years onwards, he now is Chef-owner of Amuz. Clean and refined French cooking here, perfect to have with your special bottle of vino.
If a relaxed ambience is your calling, Elbow Room in Kemang may be your choice. Jakarta’s 1st gastropub concept, the food is generous and unassumingly delicious. The ambiance is nothing short of comfortable where live acts perform on Friday and Saturday nights. Drinks will surely follow.