The Jakarta Post
Sweet treat: Crema Catalana, served with a strawberry and mango sorbet, is similar to the crème brule. (Courtesy of Mare Nostrum/-)
Most diners may think that chefs responsible for Michelin-starred restaurants would always bring an exclusive, high-end dining experience that can be enjoyed by a select few.
Then you might be pleasantly surprised when visiting Mare Nostrum, a newly opened restaurant in Jakarta that promises a communal vibe with a taste reminiscent of its illustrious fine-dining roots.
Situated on the 18th floor of Grand Sahid Jaya hotel in Central Jakarta, Mare Nostrum – which means Our Sea in the Latin– is headed by the same chefs responsible for the 2 Michelin-starred Disfrutar in Barcelona, Spain: Mateu Casañas, Eduard Xatruch and Oriol Castro.
Our sea: Jakarta’s newly opened restaurant Mare Nostrum is helmed by chefs responsible for the two-Michelin-starred Disfrutar in Barcelona, Spain. (Courtesy of Mare Nostrum/-)
The three chefs first met in the elBulli restaurant in Roses, Catalonia. After the 3 Michelin-starred restaurant closed in 2011, the trio decided to become business partners, opening their first restaurant – Compartir – in 2012.
Disfrutar came about in 2014, and Mare Nostrum is the first international advisory project the chefs have taken.
Like Disfrutar, Mare Nostrum takes inspiration from the Mediterranean, albeit more oceanfront for the latter compared to the Barcelonian cityscape vibes from the former.
Unlike Disfrutar, however, a lunch at Mare Nostrum with your friends generally will not run you the equivalent of the provincial minimum wage.
Marc Mallolas, Mare Nostrum managing partner, told The Jakarta Post following invited preview for press members that customers would generally spend somewhere between Rp 200,000 (US$13.79) and Rp 500,000, although the final bill could be much higher if they decide to spring on the wine.
“We’re not aiming to be high-end dining, extremely expensive restaurant,” he said.
Dishes came in rather generous servings, to emphasize the sharing concept of Mare Nostrum.
Scrumptious: Brown spanner crab with avocado and salmon roe is one of the restaurant’s dishes that are inspired by Mediterranean cuisine but utilize local products. (Courtesy of Mare Nostrum/-)
Casañas, who takes the role of gastronomical director along with Xatruch and Castro, said that sharing the first courses of a meal is common in Catalonia, where he and Xatruch hail from. This concept of sharing became the name of Compartir – meaning “share” in Spanish.
“We don’t do tasting menus here, with individual portions. We do a sharing menu for all the people, to share in the table,” he said.
As for the menu, Xatruch said it meant to be the “essence” of Mediterranean cuisine, but modernized and tailored to the palate of Jakarta.
“What that means is that in most of the dishes, you can find Mediterranean flavors and combinations, but we try to use local products and adapt the tastes to the tastes of Jakarta,” Xatruch said, revealing that the amount of salt and other condiments in the dishes are adapted in a way that people from Jakarta and other places can enjoy.
Dishes like the Vitello Tonnato, which consists of sliced veal in creamy tuna-flavored sauce, provide an enticing entry to the main course. Though the serving size is enough for one person, it is meant as an entree and therefore should ideally be shared to make room for subsequent dishes.
Those preferring something lighter would do well to try one of the restaurant’s more interesting choices of salads.
Juxtaposing the sweetness of strawberry with the freshness of tomato, the salad is lightweight but full in taste, thanks to the parmesan and basil that made the dish run the full gamut of flavors.
As for the main courses, the open-face omelet might sound simple, but it is elevated by its additional ingredients. The egg itself tasted rather light, but perhaps it serves as the base for the prawns and mushroom, the stars of the dish.
Another highlight of the main course is vegetable rice. Perfect for those looking for something heavier, the full flavor of the rice is contrasted with the tang of burrata cheese and the umami from the pesto.
If you still have room for dessert, you can wash down the remnants of your savory meal with the crème brûlée-like crema catalana, which is served with strawberry sorbet. Also of note is the liquid chocolate bonbon with blackcurrant sorbet, which tastes as good as it is to look at.
One thing for sure, the desserts are one that you might keep to yourself.
Have a sip: Alongside the food, Mare Nostrum also has a dedicated bar with its own range of cocktails. (Courtesy of Mare Nostrum/-)
For first-timers, Xatruch recommends ordering one of Mare Nostrum’s cocktails before a meal, with another one after dessert along with a cup of coffee.
The meals and dessert can be accompanied by any drink of your choice.
However, if you want to get the full Mediterranean experience, you’ll want to have some sangria, which has more zest than regular red wine and is very much enjoyable as you take in the view of Jakarta on a sunny day.
“Here at Mare Nostrum, we think that people arrive at the entrance, they realize they are in a different place because you have the light and the colors of walls that is fresh and very Mediterranean,” Xatruch says.
“When we think about the Mare Nostrum project, we realize that here in Jakarta there are amazing restaurants, and with our style of cooking, we can make something different with this Mediterranean essence and modernity.
“The final objective is to create a pleasant and different experience for people in Jakarta and travelers around the world; to have a different experience to the Mediterranean philosophy, modern cuisine but thinking that we are in Jakarta.” (ste)
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