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Jakarta Post

House of Raminten: Jogja'€™s diversity-embracing restaurant

  • Kwan Saleephol

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Mon, July 13, 2015   /  10:31 am
House of Raminten: Jogja'€™s diversity-embracing restaurant

Customers are queuing impatiently in front of the entrance for their number to be called. The waiters and waitresses, dressed in uniforms inspired by the traditional kraton jarit wrap-around, stroll around serving and taking orders.

A sign informing guests that '€œSabar'€ [patience] is the Best'€ is hung on one side of the Javanese terrace wooden house.

'€œWe serve slow food in keeping with the concept of Jogja cuisine,'€ Tofan Subiyanto, assistant manager of the House of Raminten, told The Jakarta Post.

He explained that all the restaurant'€™s dishes are fresh-from-the-oven and are made-to-order. '€œIf you're in a hurry, we cannot serve you. Many customers cannot tolerate this, especially Jakartans,'€ Subiyanto joked.

The House of Raminten was set up by Hamzah Sulaiman, a Yogyakartan businessman who retired early from his position as director of several family businesses in Yogyakarta.

The restaurant started in December 2008 as a cafe serving jamu, a Javanese herbal drink, and natural juices.

Hamzah'€™s retirement put him in a frustrated situation because he used to work a lot of hours. Therefore, he opened this restaurant to quell his boredom,'€ Subiyanto said.

However, the feedback was overwhelming. Currently, there are several branches of Raminten restaurants across Yogyakarta.

'€œI didn't expect the business to go so smoothly. More and more people are coming so I built the second floor and so on,'€ Hamzah said.

Memento: A kiosk selling memorabilia of the House of Raminten.Memento: A kiosk selling memorabilia of the House of Raminten.

The name, Raminten, comes from a character that Hamzah used to perform on a soap opera aired weekly on Jogja TV. '€œI acted as Raminten so I thought 'Why shouldn't I name the restaurant House of Raminten'€™,'€ Hamzah recalled.

Subiyanto thinks that the owner was fond of the character because it depicted a wandering jamu seller, an old woman who carried a basket on her back and sold herbal drinks.

The unique decoration of the House of Raminten immediately catches the eyes of new guests.

Cartoon pictures of Raminten in humorous poses and amusing provocative gestures are displayed around the restaurant.

Meanwhile, a statue of Mother Mary looks over a customer's shoulder in one corner of the restaurant. In the other, Buddha and Ganesh sculptures are standing side by side not far from a mushola (Muslim prayer room).

'€œSociety here [in Yogyakarta] is embracing diversity. Here we have various religious symbols because we're trying to represent as much diversity as possible,'€ Subiyanto said.

One of the restaurant's branches at Mirota Batik in Malioboro also features drag queen cabaret shows every Saturday. '€œIn Indonesia, it is a little bit inconvenient to be transgender. However, in Jogja it's okay,'€ Hamzah said, '€œThe Sultan of Yogyakarta does not mind at all about sexual diversity. I still work as the abdi dalem [court servant] of the Sultan.'€

Hamzah thinks that people should be more open-minded toward the transgendered and people of other sexual orientations in Indonesia. '€œTheir personality is different from the bodies they were born with. For example, they were born as male, but they have the feelings of women.'€

He also believes that it depends on God's will and that sexuality is just one'€™s own personal preference. '€œSome men like chubby or skinny ladies. They have different preferences about who they fall in love with, so why not just follow what you like,'€ the owner of the House of Raminten said.

The restaurant has a strong concept of Javanese wisdom, including the ambience of Bunga setaman (a local fragrant flower) and gamelan (a traditional Javanese music ensemble).

'€œOur strong concept, atmosphere and the traditional Javanese food we offer is what makes our customers return for more,'€ Subiyanto said.

The extraordinary cutlery and crockery at the House of Raminten such as breast-shaped mugs are all custom-made in Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

'€œOur signature is the way we serve. Certain drinks have to be served in particular glasses. Each different glass is designed for a different type of drink. Not all the drinks are served in the same containers like in a typical restaurant,'€ Hamzah said.

Es Cendol: A popular dessert involving green jelly noodles served with coconut milk and liquid palm sugar.Es Cendol: A popular dessert involving green jelly noodles served with coconut milk and liquid palm sugar.

The food and drink menu was mainly created by the owner. Subiyanto said that in Hamzah'€™s travels he had found some delicious dishes, but that he rarely knew the names and none of the staff did either. Hamzah would just take pictures, show them to the staff and say: '€œMake it!'€.

'€œAlso, our menu has some special meanings for specific people. For example, Susu Perawan Tancep and Ayam Koteka'€ Subiyanto added.

Susu Perawan Tancep, a spiced milk drink served in the aforementioned mammary gland-shaped cups, is a pun on the word perawan, meaning virgin in Indonesian.

Ayam Koteka, a combination of chicken and eggs baked inside a koteka, the male genital gourd worn by some indigenous ethnic groups in Papua, is one of the restaurant's most attractive dishes.

'€œWe use a koteka made out of bamboo rather than the original one made out of gourd because it's easier to cook,'€ Subiyanto said.

'€œSome people might think our way of serving food is disgusting, but the taste is really delicious.'€

Ayam Koteka: Baked chicken and egg inside a koteka, the penis gourd worn by some indigenous ethnic groups in Papua.Ayam Koteka: Baked chicken and egg inside a koteka, the penis gourd worn by some indigenous ethnic groups in Papua.

The writer is an intern at the Jakarta post

'€” Photos by JP/Kwan Saleephol

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