A majestic yet approachable fine-dining experience in the heart of the city, at Keraton at The Plaza.
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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!
Gado-gado Margarita Syaiful Bahri