Jakarta based cookbook author
Bookshelves at the Bistecca steakhouse, South Jakarta. (JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)
We all agree that 2016 has been a delicious year for the capital’s gastronauts, yet some players in the industry feel that the excitement has been nothing more than oral imagination. When doom seems to have swept away some of the city's culinary avenues, we can be comforted by the openings of new restaurants throughout the capital.
Even though according to some research, the growth of restaurants in Jakarta in 2016 compares lower to 2011-2015, we do believe last year there was a much-improved focus on quality.
The first decade of the second millennium was a golden age for restaurateurs, but trends today have shifted toward coffee shops, modern art and graphic design-based creative industries. Restaurants on the other hand are experiencing a decrease in income as they have felt the greater competition—very much so—but while we do believe their declining incomes can be partly attributed to patrons’ boredom of the restaurant scene, today's appreciation for originality and honesty is a much harder sentiment to satisfy, where exalted, multicolored wall décor and overly plated desserts just don’t cut it.
Solid concepts, fewer menu items that rather emphasize on quality, genuine service and less gimmicks—those are what customer genuinely appreciate the most, in contrary with what the majority of restaurant and café nowadays display; gargantuan shaved-ice, overly cheesed dishes, so-called Instagrammable seatings that make you feel you are eating in a maiden's room or a Tim Burton film.
Yet, I was surprised by these names, the latest members of Jakarta’s restaurant scene. They first captured my attention through word of mouth. Although, I need to confess that I have been infected by boredom regarding the capital’s eating scene, the names below are a noble cause in putting my hopes back again for a flavorful Jakarta. In this dawn of 2017, this is the time to cherish my 2016 experience of oral gratification granted by the capital's newest restaurants.
The Signature Bistecca Fiorentina. It is made from a Tuscan native breed of cattle Chianina that is dry-aged in a special chiller for 45 days before it is grilled over customized charcoal grill.(JP/Masajeng Rahmiasri)
The shrine of dry-aged beef in the city. Bistecca is a luxury restaurant that displays a beautiful marriage of New York’s steakhouse masculinity with graceful Italian trattoria. Where oh where in Jakarta can you find a handsome slab of genius-grilled steak Florentine, with refined chunkiness that is seasoned to perfection? Albeit Bistecca is famous for steak, their brilliantly executed Caesar salads and almost-divine truffle ravioli.
(Read also: Dry-aged steak, pushing beyond the beef boundaries)
Bistecca, Lot 18, Parc Place SCBD, Jl. Jenderal Sudirman. ( 021 ) 5151660. $$$$
Li Feng's swan dumpling with duck meat dish. (Mandarin Oriental Jakarta/-)
Li Feng has brought Jakarta into the new glorious era of Chinese cooking without the fear of breaking your bank. Their fantastic collection of thoughtful and flavorful dim sum is something to start your meal. Sticky sweet and sour pork ribs, refined Szechuan beef and crab fried rice should be some of the mains you should consider to sample. I adore their fine service and greatly executed dishes, as well as their historic décor. In a city where traditional Chinese restaurants and Chinese casual eateries are omnipresent, Lifeng has done well.
LiFeng, Mandarin Oriental Jakarta, Jl. M.H. Thamrin. ( 021 )29938888. $$
Albeit the end of one legendary Indonesian fine restaurant, Oasis, was heart breaking news to all Jakarta foodies, a new hope has arisen in the form of a modern Indonesian courses menu being led by chef Ragil Imam Wibowo, Nusa. Imagine having a regional dish like belut goreng balado (spicy fried eel) for your first course, or deep and robust ikan tempoyak (fish and fermented durian) as the main. Situated at a white pillar colonial house, eating at Nusa sways grand memories of the old and transforms them into delectable dishes in modern Kemang.
Nusa, Jl. Kemang Raya, No. 81. ( 021 ) 7193954. $$$
Expect the unusual when an alumnus of three-Michelin-star establishment Manresa heads a restaurant. He is Jacob Burell, leading one of Jakarta's most creative kitchen brigades. Attarine, the latest offspring of the Potato Head Family in the capital is the epitome of creativity beyond borders. They make use an endless repertoire of global spices, taking inspiration as far away as from the shores of Casablanca, to the beautiful island of Bangka (by utilizing their exotic jamur pelawan). I relished on the most delightful fried chicken and spiced honey on a bed of green lentils, as well as on their attentive hospitality.
Attarine, Jl. Gunawarman, No. 11 A. $$$
VIEW at Fairmont
Fairmont as one of the newest members of luxury hotels in Jakarta is also a home for many restaurant outlets. Yet I have found that their high-ceiling, city-looking, View on their 22nd floor, happens to be a place where you can example executive chef Andrew Zarzosa's playful creations while sipping on kecombrang and pandan cocktails. From all of his playful manifestations, a tribute to seasonal ingredient dishes are worth sampling for their brilliant cooking and beautiful presentation.
VIEW, Fairmont Hotel, 22nd Floor, Jl. Asia Afrika, Senayan. ( 021 )29703333. $$$$
Maple & Oak
Odie Djamil, dubbed as Jakarta “prince of pastry”, in 2016 tried something out of his comfort zone, hot food. By recruiting fellow Jakarta young and passionate cooks, he has created one of the city's most beloved brunch spots. And for me, my most favorite restaurant to munch on homemade soft serves topped with house made streusel, berry coulis and crystal honeycomb. But sample yourself their handsome burger using a champion brioche bun among other worthwhile simple brunch items.
(Read also: Where to have an awesome brunch in Jakarta)
Maple & Oak, Jl. HOS Cokroaminoto, No. 91. Menteng, Central Jakarta. ( 021 )3906757. $$
Although BEAU originally stands as a bakery and patisserie, their latest headquarters at Cikajang also serves a light brunch menu, as also an eye-opening, mouth-watering Danish smorrbrod—or open sandwich—that will take anyone's attention when a waiter takes one out from their open kitchen. Not only serving five-star patisseries by Talita Setyadi, and a vast hot food menu by Putri Mumpuni, a long-time protégé of Indonesian culinary guru William Wongso, BEAU also offers you a solace from Jakarta's hasty lifestyle. My personal favorites are the Bali Brest, using Balinese nuts instead of staple hazelnut and ooey, oozy, buttery, flaky, bicolor chocolate croissant.
BEAU HQ, Jl. Cikajang, No. 29, South Jakarta. ( 021 )27517454. $$
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