The Face Bar: A Face-to- Face Delight

Indonesia Expat - - NEWS - By May Tien

Nes­tled away from one of the busiest

in­ter­sec­tions in all of Jakarta, on a quiet and leafy cor­ner close to the most glam­orous malls and ho­tels this city of­fers is the his­toric Face Bar, Lan Na Thai and Hazara In­dian restau­rants. Fa­mous for its calm and Zen-like at­mos­phere where busi­ness men and women whet their gul­lets af­ter a long day with a cold draught beer, cit­rus-y cock­tails and de­li­cious bar snacks dur­ing the gen­er­ous happy hours – the restau­rants also serve some very tra­di­tional and de­li­cious In­dian and Thai cuisines.

Any­one who has ever set foot in the Face Bar can at­test to the in­cred­i­bly rich dé­cor and an­tiq­ue­filled din­ing rooms. In­dian wood carv­ings, Chi­nese sculp­tures and South­east Asian friezes line the walls and cor­ri­dors with taste­ful paint­ings and pho­tographs from across the re­gion, telling the story of the in­ter­con­nected and in­ter­de­pen­dent cul­tures in Asia. That all of this is also housed in a re­ha­bil­i­tated Dutch colo­nial build­ing ties the restau­rants’ theme of trade, cul­tural plu­ral­ity and rel­e­vance to its In­done­sian home.

How­ever, let us not for­get about the food, dear read­ers. I have fre­quented the Face Bar time and again, not just for drinks, but also for the de­li­cious meals. Lan Na Thai and Hazara op­er­ate out of two sep­a­rate kitchens, which ul­ti­mately aid in pre­serv­ing the in­tegrity of flavours. As a diner, you can choose from ei­ther menu and cre­ate an In­dian-Thai feast that caters to each per­son’s pref­er­ence at the ta­ble. Or, if you wish, you can stay true blue to each restau­rant’s of­fer­ings.

From Lan Na Thai, my favourites in­clude the Pan­dan Chicken and Pomelo Salad. I can’t help my­self, as the aroma the pan­dan leaf lends to lightly mar­i­nated chicken, which is then gen­tly fried, leav­ing the meat ten­der and ever so suc­cu­lent. The juicy pomelo (large Asian grape­fruit) is mixed with as­sorted spices, peanuts, co­conut and lime juice to cre­ate the clas­sic sweet- sour- spicy- salty com­bi­na­tion for which this type of cui­sine is renowned. For seafood afi­ciona­dos, the Deep Fried Soft Shell Crab is a must-try. The savoury crab and its crispy ex­te­rior is bal­anced by the tangy and spicy chilli- lime juice in which it is served.

Chef Thaman Budha from Hazara Restau­rant is a mas­ter of North­ern In­dian cui­sine. He has been hon­ing his skills in the pro­fes­sional kitchen for at least two decades, and cred­its his grand­mother and fa­ther as the most im­por­tant in­flu­ences on his ca­reer. The flavours he cre­ates at Hazara are a tes­ta­ment to them.

Based on the del­i­cate and sub­tler flavours of the north­ern sub­con­ti­nent, Hazara’s menu reads like the rap­tur­ous foodie ver­sion of the Bha­gavad Gita. There is the tan­doori rotiyan sec­tion, which is all about the naans, ro­tis and paron­thas. There is also the rice sec­tion with pul­laos and birya­nis. Then there are two main sec­tions: one with dishes cre­ated in a handi (large brass cook­ing pot sim­i­lar to a wok) and the other from the tan­door clay oven. Ev­ery dish I’ve eaten from Hazara has been a lyri­cal ode to the flavours of North­ern In­dia.

I can at­test to the Ro­gan Josh, ten­der pieces of lamb in a rich and onion-y gravy. Their okra and tomato stew are es­pe­cially good with saf­fron rice. Do not pass up the op­por­tu­nity to or­der the Dhaal Hazara. Creamy black lentils are sim­mered slowly over the tan­door to cre­ate a smoky and umami-rich taste. It is at once spicy and not, most likely at­trib­uted to the un­der­ly­ing creami­ness of the sauce. I could not stop eat­ing this dish, and it serves as a great ex­am­ple of the sub­tleties that ex­ist in In­dian cui­sine. I also en­joyed on my last visit the Murgh Malai, which is chicken mar­i­nated with gin­ger, green chill­ies, cheese and gar­lic. It is ba­si­cally a creamier (and greener) ver­sion of your stan­dard chicken tikka ke­bab. All the same, it is de­li­cious and ten­der with the gor­geous aroma from the tan­door. I am also a sucker for sheesh ke­babs and or­der them when­ever I can. At Hazara, they are juicy, ten­der and well bal­anced with heady spices as they are cooked over char­coal.

The venue is as ver­sa­tile as the restau­rants and menus them­selves. Dark and invit­ing, ro­man­tic and en­dear­ing; the space is per­fect for a ro­man­tic ren­dezvous or first date. The mu­sic wafts lightly in the back­ground — no bass pump­ing or over-am­pli­fied techno to com­pete with your lovely sweet noth­ings. At night, the gar­dens light up out­side as do the lan­terns adorn­ing the ceil­ings. Dur­ing the day, busi­ness meet­ings and lun­cheons of­ten take place in var­i­ous parts of the venue. There is room for cor­po­rate events and pri­vate par­ties. What­ever your plans are, though, I would rec­om­mend stop­ping in for a meal at Lan Na or Hazara restau­rants to sat­isfy your crav­ings for out­stand­ing Thai or In­dian (or both) soon.

The Face Bar Lan Na Thai Restau­rant Hazara Restau­rant

Ad­dress: Jalan DR Kusuma At­maja, No. 85, Imam Bon­jol, Men­teng, Jakarta 10310 Tele­phone: +62 (0) 21 3192 5037 Email: jakarta@ face­ Web­site: www.face­

“That all of this is also housed in a re­ha­bil­i­tated Dutch colo­nial build­ing ties the restau­rants’ theme of trade, cul­tural plu­ral­ity and rel­e­vance to its In­done­sian home.”

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