Tantri Yuliandini, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Although home to a vast array of delicious cuisine, Central Jakarta's Kota area was not a place where the hip and happening would be caught dead on a Saturday night (unless, of course, they did get caught in one of the seedy bars or gambling dens).
All this may be about to change, however, with the establishment of Kuala Lumpur-based Italian restaurant Modesto's, straddling the Pecenongan and Pasar Baru areas in Central Jakarta.
""For a long time now the compass for clubbing in Jakarta has turned to Kemang in South Jakarta. We want to shift that focus a little more to Central Jakarta,"" Modesto's Jakarta director Marcos Iteh said recently.
Expecting to spur the same rejuvenation of the ""old city"" scene like it claims it has done in Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur, Marcos hopes the opening of the restaurant will also prompt other proprieters to open their businesses in Kota.
Bangsar Baru was a former rubber plantation area that was developed as a housing suburb during the 1970s. Now, with its international mix of restaurants, pubs, bars, grills, bistros, cafes, fast-food joints, coffee shops and ice cream parlors, it is frequently referred to as Kuala Lumpur's Picadilly Circus.
Embarking from the original concept of Modesto's -- created by restaurateur Bob Wong, who also owns Singapore's Zouk -- the restaurant is designed as a one-stop entertainment place offering a club with full-service bar, live band and dance floor, as well as a cigar and wine lounge, besides its indoor dining and al fresco areas.
""We want to change the image of fine dining from a formal wear event to more laid back fun, besides fine, dining,"" Marcos said.
The fine dining at Modesto's is, of course, its Italian cuisine, created by chef Modesto Marini and touted to offer the authentic flavors of southern Italy.
Those all too familiar with the Indonesianized Italian food more commonly offered here could now give a big sigh of relief with the coming of Modesto's.
Digging into the antipasti Lumache Alla Crema was a taste of the wonderful feast to come. Priced at a reasonable Rp 35,000 (about US$3.80) the gratinated snails in a creamy garlic sauce will have you begging for more.
Pastas on offer include the lip-smacking Linguine Alla Modesto's (Rp 48,000), and the Gnocchi Zola E Radicchio (Rp 45,000), with a blue cheese cream sauce that is simply divine.
Modesto's specialty is its range of thin crusted pizzas, baked in a specially constructed wood oven using seven different types of wood to add that special flavor. There are 21 types of pizzas on offer, including four vegetarian choices.
The Dragone pizza (Rp 59,000) -- a dragon shaped pizza with a choice of turkey or parma ham, egg and mushroom -- has a liberal dousing of mozzarella cheese. But with the topping actually inside the dragon crust, it is not your usual pizza fare.
The range of I Dolci, or desserts, besides the usual fare of tiramisu and apple pie, also includes the insanely delicious Tortino Al Cioccolata Con Gelato Alla Vaniglia (Rp 35,000) -- dark chocolate brownies topped with vanilla ice cream -- and Panna Cotta Alle Noci E Miele (Rp 25,000) or creamy pudding with walnut and drenched in honey.
Modesto's is a wonderful, and delicious, way to celebrate being alive in the city.
Ground floor, Classic Building
Jl. K.H. Samanhudi No. 43-47, Central Jakarta
* Open seven days a week for lunch (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and dinner (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.).
* The club is open 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., and the cigar lounge is available on request. For reservations, call 021-3503679.