Life

Kitsch food court at the
northern tip of Jakarta

Old cracker jars and bicycles give a kitschy touch to every corner of the food court. JP/P.J. Leo

Kelapa Gading, situated at the northern tip of the city, has grown into a haven for Jakarta culinary lovers, as everything is on offer to anyone in the area. New restaurants and cafes offering specialties are sprouting like mushrooms in the rainy season.

One of them is the Eat and Eat Food Market which boasts culinary delights dating back to the 1950s. This facility is located on Kelapa Gading Mall's third floor. The interior is heavily decorated with Cina Peranakan - referring to descendants of early Chinese immigrants who partially adopted indigenous customs through either acculturation or intermarriage with indigenous communities - touches.

"For two years I've been looking for ideas to make this food court concept. I spent a lot of time visiting *traditional* markets in different places to see what kinds of food were on offer there," the Eat and Eat Food Market founder Iwan Chandra says.

"You'll probably find it hard to get a traditional ongol-ongol cake *cassava-based cake* in a Jakarta caf* or in shopping mall food courts, but here we have this kind of delicacy and it comes with an authentic taste."

"Our food court serves our parents' childhood delicacies, to bring back their memories. So dining out is not only about savoring food, but it's also an adventure in itself, especially if we remember our favorite childhood dishes and cannot find them anywhere else. Eating here will be like finding a treasure if you can find your favorite snack or dish here," Iwan says.

It took six months to collect chairs and doors from old houses around Indonesia to be used inside the food court. The eatery, according to Iwan, has a retro concept, taking people back to the old days.

"It's against the mainstream because now restaurants and caf*s are racing to give customers modern interior designs and Western food. We've gone the other way," he says.

"This old door, for instance, was taken from an old house," Iwan says pointing to a door used as a decorative ornament at one of the food stalls.

The 1950s ambiance is instantly felt upon entering the area that has a total width of 2,350 square meters. Wood and red colors dominate the interior, enriched with ornaments from the past.

The dining hall of the “Eat and Eat Food “Market” is decorated with ornaments from the past. JP/P.J. Leo

Eat and Eat Food Market is divided into two areas - halal (sanctioned by Islamic Law) and non-halal. There are 35 tenants all together, 15 hawkers and two beverage counters managed by the food court management.

"We are strict with our tenant regulations: Tenants have to comply with a set of cleanliness and hygienic procedures when cooking. All cooking and food preparation must conform to our regulations," says the food court general manager Deni A. Rachman.

Before joining the food court, some tenants and hawkers ran their businesses from the roadside, where cleanliness and hygiene standards are not high on priority lists. Despite the strict regulation, Deni says, there are still 100 potential tenants waiting to join the food court.

The food court, which opened in late 2008, can accommodate 600 diners at once.

"What we want is to have the young and older people dining here, not only to enjoy the food but also to celebrate our roots," Deni says.

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