SondangSirait, WEEKENDER | Tue, 04/03/2012 3:15 PM |
A crush at first sight.
If there was anything perfect in this life, I had found it: three layers of bright red cake, with rich, creamy, white frosting, covered with soft red crumbs. One bite later, I was falling hard.
I’ve tasted many red velvet cakes and cupcakes in this city of flourishing patisseries, but this one had it right, in both color and taste. Oh, the moistness, the deep chocolate flavor, the cream cheese frosting, tangy and tender. I could eat it everyday, if it weren’t for my waistline. Sure enough, the bakeryenters my Personal Directory of Good Food as “That Red Velvet Place”.
Wait, “Personal Directory of Good Food”? Umm, yes.
If you care to look at my list, you’ll find not store or restaurant names, but rather, nicknames: “That Duck Place”, “That Seafood Place”, “That Breakfast Place” and so on. I have to admit though: I’m still torn when it comes to deciding the best place for noodles and sotoayam.
My habit has spread to close friends and family. Glad to say, some picked it up quite readily, especially those who share the same taste buds. Whenever we make plans to meet, we’ll just text or say to each other, “That … Place for lunch or dinner?” Replies come as short as “OK”. Saves plenty of characters!
Asa self-declared foodie, I have plenty of company in this town. While we’re not as professional as BondanWinarno, we claim to know our stuff. We’re never shy about sharing, throughblogosphere reviews andTweeted raves, accompanied by pictures. We’re intense people, with deep appreciation for the little things in life –by which I mean food. Price is no issue.As for taste, merely satisfactory will not do; satiating is a must.
Some days luck comes knocking at the door.
Like the day Istumbled on a hole-in-the-wall no-name eatery in the Dharmawangsa area that sells mouthwatering home-cooked dishes. Literally wedged between the walls of a high-end spa salon and a Montessori, the warteg serves a wide array of clients, from young urban moms to nannies and drivers to passers-by, like me. Because there isn’t enough room inside, most people end up sitting outside, holding their plates in their hands.
While the food is considerably cheap, as in most warteg, this particular joint is unusual in its menu. A generous portion of stir-fried vegetables with shiitake mushroom sells for Rp 5000. Equally delectable are the tuna chunks in spicy chili sauce and Manado-style stir-fried papaya leaves with tiny driedshrimps. All that plus a mountain of white rice goes for Rp 11,000.
In a country where most people spend half of their income on food, quantity matters as much as price, whilequality often comes second. That explains why many eateries sellingcheap but mediocre food survive, or even proliferate.
Butthose who can afford to spare more to satisfy their appetite tend to be picky.These middle-class spenders are behind the recent surge in both local and franchise eateries, turning this country into a food haven. It’s public knowledge that they devour good food and detest anything less than that. For these proud foodies, eating itself represents a burgeoning lifestyle.
Thanks to media exposure, this newreality has been broadcast to those outside Indonesia. Indonesia might not have made the “eat” part of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love journey,but rendang and nasigoreng did garner enough votes to rank first and second on CNNGo.com’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods. That, and seeing Bobby Chinn or Anthony Bourdain treading through the streets of Jakarta sampling this and that, is almost priceless.
Back to my Personal Directory, I have new categories and candidates.One of them is “The All Indonesian Place”. Bon appetit.