GOURMET

A ma­jes­tic yet ap­proach­able fine-din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence in the heart of the city, at Ker­a­ton at The Plaza.

Exquisite Taste - - Contents - By Chris­tian Gal­braith

Take a peek at the hottest restau­rants in Jakarta, Bali, Sin­ga­pore, Hong Kong and even Surabaya! We have Bot­tega Ris­torante in Jakarta, the new Riviera Brunch at Cucina, Bali and Fratelli in Sin­ga­pore among oth­ers.

Above the hus­tle and bus­tle of the city on the sev­enth floor of the Ker­a­ton at The Plaza, a Lux­ury Col­lec­tion Hotel, Jakarta, we dis­cover a hid­den gas­tro­nomic gem, the lux­u­ri­ous hotel’s sig­na­ture restau­rant, Ben­gawan helmed by newly ap­pointed Ex­ec­u­tive Chef Syai­ful Bahri.

An ex­pan­sive and welcoming restau­rant, Ben­gawan, like the hotel, draws its design in­spi­ra­tion from the di­verse her­itage and

culture of In­done­sia. The con­trast­ing hues of the mar­ble, the rich woods, the Ja­vanese-in­spired pan­els and the in­tri­cate batik flo­ral pat­terns of­fer a con­tem­po­rary in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a by­gone era pro­vid­ing a won­der­fully at­trac­tive can­vas ac­cented by a sur­feit of el­e­gant artis­tic and dec­o­ra­tive high­lights.

Ben­gawan is open all day from 6am and of­fers guests an à la minute and buf­fet break­fast and sump­tu­ous à la carte lunch and din­ner menus. The fo­cus is on fine In­done­sian din­ing with plates like iga bakar and sate Padang be­ing par­tic­u­larly note­wor­thy, but there are a host of in­ter­na­tional op­tions such as the de­li­cious mas­saman lamb curry, lamb shoul­der slow cooked in a rich Thai mas­saman sauce with roasted pump­kin and served with roti canai, as well as a kids’ menu to choose from.

The restau­rant achieves an en­vi­able bal­ance of pro­fes­sional ser­vice, warm wel­come and a re­laxed, invit­ing am­bi­ence. For dis­cern­ing

din­ers it is an ex­cel­lent choice and a place that is easy to linger in, made even more so by its stock of wines, spir­its and su­perb se­lec­tion of pre­mium teas and cof­fees.

With com­fort­able high-backed bar chairs, the bar within Ben­gawan is the ideal place for a re­fresh­ing af­ter­noon spritzer or a re­laxed pre-din­ner cock­tail or two. We highly rec­om­mend the Gado-Gado Mar­garita and the sig­na­ture Kiwi Poh­po­han Mo­jito, a blend of white rum, In­done­sian lime, kiwi fruit, mint and popo­han leaf mud­dled, mixed and pre­sented with some style by the restau­rant’s tal­ented bar­tender.

The open kitchen is a boon for those who love to watch the chefs in ac­tion, but for those who want more pri­vacy the el­e­gantly par­ti­tioned din­ing space is de­cep­tively large and fea­tures ex­tremely com­fort­able and wellspaced seat­ing, in­clud­ing an out­side ter­race over­look­ing the Ker­a­ton Res­i­dences pool.

The rep­u­ta­tion of Ben­gawan for of­fer­ing guests an ap­proach­able fine-din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence has long been jus­ti­fied and is un­doubt­edly en­hanced by the ap­point­ment of Chef Syai­ful, who not only brings a wealth of in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence but also has a gen­uine pas­sion for lo­cal flavours, au­then­tic dishes and pro­duce.

Ap­pear­ing on the set and à la carte menus chef’s ren­dang Mi­nangk­abau is the per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of his orig­i­nal­ity, phi­los­o­phy and at­ten­tion to de­tail. Start­ing with the ba­sic ren­dang con­cept, he slowly cooks beef short rib un­til ten­der and serves the suc­cu­lent meat with truf­fle oil mashed potato, dol­lops of thick ren­dang sauce gar­nished with nas­tur­tium leaves and ed­i­ble flow­ers.

With all the au­then­tic taste, this in­no­va­tion is typ­i­cal of the ap­proach and beau­ti­fully pre­sented dishes that guests will en­joy as the menu evolves un­der the guid­ance and di­rec­tion of Chef Syai­ful and his team. It is early days but with the aim of bring­ing the flavours of the street and positioning them in a fine-din­ing en­vi­ron­ment as his goal; it is fair to say that the fruits of this labour of love are al­ready be­ing en­joyed by the restau­rant’s priv­i­leged din­ers.

Born and raised in Jakarta, Chef Syai­ful has al­ways been fas­ci­nated by street food, its flavours and colours and, after his own epi­curean ad­ven­ture he has re­turned to the city of his birth to take up the cov­eted po­si­tion of Ex­ec­u­tive Chef, at Ker­a­ton at The Plaza with the aim of bring­ing au­then­tic in­no­va­tive din­ing to the hotel’s dis­cern­ing guests.

: What brought you back to Jakarta? Syai­ful: Well Jakarta is un­like any other city, it’s a melt­ing pot of cul­tures and cuisines and de­spite the traf­fic it’s my home and al­ways in my heart. I wanted the unique and un­usual chal­lenge the city of­fers chefs and after years away I also wanted to come home. So when this op­por­tu­nity arose, I had no hes­i­ta­tion.

: Do you have a fa­vorite dish?

S: I adore street food, in fact it’s my pas­sion and driv­ing force and an­other rea­son I re­turned to Jakarta be­cause the city has, in my view, the best street food in Asia.

: You men­tion the unique chal­lenge, what do you think the big­gest chal­lenge to chefs is in Jakarta?

S: I think the big­gest chal­lenge to chefs to­day, no mat­ter where they are, is keep­ing up with chang­ing cus­tomer ex­pec­ta­tions. Social me­dia has rev­o­lu­tion­ized din­ing; no more can we rely on pro­duc­ing high-qual­ity dishes, to­day is has to be a work of art ready to be photographed and posted for the world to see – for bet­ter or for worse.

: How do you see the menu at Ben­gawan evolv­ing?

S: My aim is to fur­ther de­velop the Asian Modern con­cept, to bring the tastes of the street into the fine-din­ing en­vi­ron­ment, but re­tain­ing the au­then­tic flavours of course au­then­tic in­no­va­tion shall we call it?

: So can you give an ex­am­ple of au­then­tic in­no­va­tion in ac­tion?

S: Sure, take the Black Pearl from our set menu. We finely shred cooked veg­eta­bles, then com­press them into a ball around a core of spiced peanut and green pea sauce, coat it in fine bread­crumbs and squid ink then bake. Gar­nished with ed­i­ble flow­ers, I serve the pearl atop a sliver of the green pea and peanut sauce and shred­ded boiled egg and it’s crowned with shrimp cracker –au­then­tic tastes and tex­tures in­no­va­tively cre­ated and pre­sented. Black Pearl … gado-gado!

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Iga bakar

Gado-gado Mar­garita

Syai­ful Bahri

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