Stekky Leks, The Jakarta Post - WEEKENDER | Fri, 04/24/2009 3:54 PM |
Jakarta never seems to lack a new place to eat, with hopeful foodies heading off in search of their next good meal. Among all the new kids on the block, many of which turn out to be flashes in the pan, some legendary restaurants have earned loyal followers for a simple reason: They keep on serving good food. These small, family-operated (in some instances, for more than one generation) places, tucked away in side streets, stick to the recipes that made their name in the first place. Stelly Leks visited a few of these outstanding holes-in-the-wall.
Jl. R.P. Soeroso No. 29 A, Tel (021) 31936295
Open daily 10.30–14.00, 17.00–21.30
Established in 1947, Trio must be among Jakarta’s oldest surviving restaurants (it was a favorite family dining place for designer Iwan Tirta when he was growing up in Menteng). As its name indicates, it was founded by three people: chef Lam Khai Tjioe, Tan Lung and Tan Kim Po, and is now run by Effendy Sumartono, Lam Khai Tjioe’s son. Trio sits below a railway bridge and looks like a throwback to the homey eateries of the1970s, with sturdy old wooden tables and chairs, an antique menu board featuring the house specialties (it uses the old Indonesian spelling from the colonial era), ceiling fans and traditional folk songs playing quietly in the background. Experience counts among the all-male team of servers, who are all in their late 40s to 50s and wear old-fashioned uniforms.
Throughout its many years in the business, Trio has never swayed from serving authentic Cantonese-style cuisine, with its crockery containing the proud declaration “Famous Cantonese cuisine”. There is something for everyone on the extensive menu, which has more than 200 dishes in 16 categories, including pigeon, fish, shrimp, crab, chicken, pork, duck and frog.
Start with asparagus soup as an appetizer, presented in a stainless steel pot with a generous portion of crab roe, or treat yourself to some of the best lumpia (shrimp spring roll wrapped in crispy tofu skin) in town.
The all-time favorites, stated on the menu board, include the special ayam wudkee (fried dried chicken braised with oyster and soy sauce and then cooked with cauliflower, mushrooms, peas and spring onion) and the juan-lo (steamboat with a boat’s load of ingredients).
This is one of those rare restaurants where food, service and ambiance come together to create an authentic dining experience. After 60 years and counting, this place is still attracting crowds during lunch and dinner time. Most of Trio’s customers are regulars of all age groups who have found a comfortable place to sample classic dishes.
Jl. Hayam Wuruk No. 11, Tel (021) 3506182
Open Monday to Saturday 11.00–20.00, Sundays and holidays 11.00–16.00
A hidden treasure on the busiest street in downtown Kota, this Padang restaurant with a twist has charmed Jakartans for four decades, offering a sanctuary from the traffic outside. First things first: Unlike most Padang restaurants, Pondok Djaja’s window display of its food is a bit dim and the interior of the building has not changed for years. It might be a bit too simple to appeal to tourists but don’t let its humble appearance put you off. Pondok Djaja is still around because it serves Padang food in a class of its own, with a special touch of Chinese cuisine.
Daily selections vary according to what’s good and fresh at the market. The result is a plethora of fusion cuisine that caters to local tastes. Start your exploration of Minang food with rendang. This beef dish is a mainstay of Padang food, but the Pondok Djaja version is deliciously sweet and spicy, as though it’s been cooked for a day or longer (which is how they do it back in Padang).
Then taste the best fried village chicken in town. Served piping hot, it is probably the most popular dish here and you’ll understand why after trying a bite. With just a hint of garlic and salt, the minimalist seasonings enhance the moist, tender white meat better than any colonel could do with his secret recipe. Also check out their sundried beef – deep-fried and served with red chilies – and fish head in mild coconut curry, which is often sold out by noon. Everything is well prepared and sparkles with freshness and flavor, resulting only from the utmost attention to food quality.
Owner Sjoffian Chaedir is still greeting and serving his customers just as he did when the restaurant first opened its doors back in 1969. It may be old, it may be modest by flashy Jakarta restaurant standards, but it’s a place you should visit at least once in your life. And once you get the chance, try to persuade the aging owner to find a successor who can carry on his passion for quality.
Jl. Tamansari Raya No. 65, Mangga Besar, Tel (021) 6599958
Open Tuesday to Sunday 09.00–16.00
Who doesn’t know gado-gado? Diners get their greens with a plate heaped with chopped steamed vegetables, served with a spicy peanut sauce dressing and always topped with something crunchy – prawn or melinjo crackers. This all-day staple is served in hotels, restaurants and food stalls, and has become a favorite among vegetarians abroad. Among the new upscale gado-gado restaurants popping up, there are a few longtime ones still keeping to their tried-and-tried recipe.
Located inside an old house on quiet Jl. Tamansari with no signboard outside, this food stall refutes the location-is-everything credo of the restaurant business. Since the eatery opened in the 1960s, fans have flocked to get their plate of tasty vegetables. “The gado-gado here is different. The peanut sauce is different. This is my favorite version of gado-gado,” said one regular diner. Anyone familiar with this place would agree that this stall and another one nearby at Jl. Tamansari X No. 6 are indeed the places to go when it comes to gado-gado.
Want to know the secret of its sauce? Well, the key is in the combination of peanut and cashew nut in the sauce composition, ground with other ingredients in a cobek, a shallow stone mortar. The wonderful addition of cashew nuts creates a smoother, slightly less sweet sauce. Good accompaniments to the gado-gado are a side of rice or lontong (steamed pressed rice) and turmeric-marinated fried village chicken (served with peanut sauce), with green cincau ice (a fresh drink made from the green cincau leaf) making a sweet ending to your tasty meal.