Taking Comfort in Fabulous Food
Dalton Tanonaka, The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Thu, 04/23/2009 6:39 PM |
A critic is like that grumpy older guy in your office. Nothing ever makes him happy. Not even an autographed Julia Perez t-shirt. That she actually wore once.
So I didn’t pay much attention to the movie critic who thought Titanic was depressing because the ship sank in the end. Or the one who criticized Slumdog Millionaire because it made people in Mumbai look poor (uh, they are poor).
Nope. I just know what makes me happy. And good food will do that every time. So in that spirit, I point you to the following recommendations I guarantee you’ll find delicious even though I’m no food critic.
Here are my “Five Favorite Food Finds” in Jakarta:
“12-HOUR BRAISED PORK BELLY,” CASSIS (JL. KH. MAS MANSYUR, PAVILION APT.)
If you are Muslim, please forgive me or you can skip right down to the next item. But if you are able to eat babi, let me tell you about some beautiful bites of heaven on a plate. Executive Chef Stephane Simond continues to carry this one-of-a-kind creation on his menu. It’s a simply seasoned slice of the most tender part of the pig, served with a side of more pork (barbequed ribs). I can’t tell you how nice it goes down. Price? A reasonable Rp 186,000 with a celery root and apple mash.
“NACHOS FIESTA,” AMIGOS (MEGA KUNINGAN AND KEMANG)
Owner Ron Mullers celebrates his 30th year in the business this year, so he’s definitely been doing Tex-Mex right. The perfect starter at the flagship restaurant in his food empire (which includes the Papa Ron’s Pizza chain) is this basic chips-and-dip appetizer. “Everything on it is fresh,“ says Mullers, an Indonesia-born, U.S.-raised entrepreneur. “The guacamole, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, beans and cheddar cheese are all the real thing.” At Rp50,000, you’ll be asking for extra chips and a second margarita in no time.
“TOAST PASCAL,” SIGNATURE RESTAURANT, HOTEL INDONESIA KEMPINKSI
The landmark Jakarta hotel recently reopened after a five-year renovation and media representatives were invited to tour the property and sample cuisine from its main restaurant. Yes, the sop buntut was tasty and the sushi was fresh. But what jumped out at me like octopus sashimi that isn’t quite dead was a creation standing tall among the sweet treats.
“Let’s call it ‘Toast Pascal,’” proclaimed General Manager Gerhard Mitrovits, about the dessert that was conceived just a few days earlier. Executive Pastry Chef Pascal Clair puts together some basic ingredients that work perfectly and is particularly appealing in its similarity to a couple of Indonesian dishes.
All he did was sandwich some praline cream and banana between two pieces of brioche (French pastry), toasted it, and then drizzled chocolate sauce over the upright concoction. A cross between pisang goreng and roti bakar pisang, Toast Pascal is a crunchy explosion of comfort with every bite. “This is a recipe that I like very much,” says Clair of the item that’s part of the dessert line.
The only way it could be better? If it were molded in the shape of MONAS. Sales to tourists would double.
GRAND CAFÉ BUFFET, GRAND HYATT HOTEL
Everyone wants to get value for their money, and buffets often fill that quest. But let me ask you this – just how much food can you actually eat?
Just about every 5-star hotel in town offers an all-you-can-eat buffet. Some are so huge you need a taxi to reach the other end. But unless you just returned from being shipwrecked on Komodo Island, quality is what you should be seeking, not quantity.
So for my money, the efficient Grand Café buffet in the still Grand Hyatt Hotel takes the cake. There are more than 50 items here including the biggest shrimp to be found, and there’s little filler anywhere. Executive Sous Chef Emanuel Ciarravano takes pride in his daily menu and presentation and it shows. From hot, steaming dim sum to homemade coconut ice cream, the Rp165,000 price tag is a bargain.
There are more extensive buffets in Jakarta. But none are better from beginning to end.
“GINGER CHICKEN,” TIO CIU, JL. MANGGA BESAR RAYA
Finding good Chinese food is an easy task in any city with a sizeable Chinatown. But discovering a unique Chinese dish is another thing. The Jo family opened in this location in 1978, and business sustained mom and pop through 12 children. The fried oysters with egg and the soyu swan are customer favorites. But if it’s your lucky day, and no. 3 sister Meng-Lang is in the mood, she’ll whip up her mother’s private recipe for ginger chicken. It’s not on the menu, and only she in the family can make it. The combination of ginger root, garlic, sesame oil and chili is a winner. If you ask for it and it comes, you’ll pay only Rp 38,000 if at all.
“We usually only eat this at home,” says no. 4 sister Meng-Jun. When it comes right down to it, there’s nothing like home cooking.
Hawaii native Dalton Tanonaka is the co-anchor of Metro TV’s "Indonesia Now" program, seen on Saturday mornings at 7 a.m. and Sundays at 1 a.m. He can be reached at email@example.com.