Beyond Indonesian fare
With Jakarta often selected as a launch pad for many Asian restaurants to introduce their cuisines to Indonesian diners, there’s no lack of great options. Divya Pridhnani sussed out four of the top dining destinations in the city, from Indian to Japanese. Keyaki
For more than 40 years, Keyaki Japanese Restaurant – housed in Sari Pacific Jakarta hotel – has been serving authentic Japanese cuisine. It has managed to withstand the test of time and stay true to its concept of offering classic Japanese delights against a slew of younger competitors who are dishing out fusion fare.
“Jakartans love the fact that we are able cater to the Indonesian palate without compromising on authenticity,” said Japanese executive chef Masani Okamoto. And their diners have voted with their fingers as evidenced by the many times Keyaki snagged awards for The Best Japanese Restaurant in Jakarta, including Best Single Japanese Restaurant in 2017, at the Best Restaurant, Bar and Cafe Awards (BRBCA).
Diners are still greeted with enthusiastic cries of ‘irasshaimase!’ as they enter the restaurant. Every design detail is well thought of, such as the white walls decorated with wooden squares accents, which evokes the feel of a shoji, a traditional Japanese room divider made of translucent paper and wood frames. The tatami dining area and waitstaff dressed in kimonos set the mood, including a massive ‘Keyaki’ tree painted on the glass at the front of the restaurant.
The food is prepared in various styles: robatayaki, teppanyaki, sukiyaki, yakiniku and shabu-shabu. Some of the dishes that stand out include the gindara or yellowtail fish cheek, which is grilled for 30 minutes, then drizzled with a delectable sauce made from boiled fish bones, soy sauce and sake. Another comfort food favourite is Nabeyaki Udon, served with vegetables tempura and a choice of chicken or beef. And of course, an authentic Japanese dining experience isn’t quite complete without sashimi and sushi rolls, especially Keyaki’s salmon avocado rolls, spicy smoked salmon roll and Rock ‘n Roll; the latter consists of scallops, grilled eel and prawn. Rp300,000/person without alcoholic beverages. Keyaki also offers a five- or seven-course omakase. Keyaki Restaurant, Sari Pacific Jakarta, Jalan M.H. Thamrin No.6, Central Jakarta. Tel: +62 21 2993 2888
When it comes to spicy, tangy and savoury flavours, Thai food shares a close profile with Indonesian cuisine. The newly opened So Thai in Plaza Indonesia is fast gaining a reputation as one of the best Thai restaurants in town. So Thai is another brand offering from Indonesia’s leading Thai restaurant chain Jittlada Group.
“Since our opening in November 2017, our restaurant remains packed with curious and enthusiastic diners. They are
aware that Jittlada Group always delivers the best Thai cuisine experience,” said Lucky Soebyantoro, president director of Jittlada Group.
So Thai is a departure from restaurants that sport traditional Thai interiors. The sheer detailing in the main dining area – from the iconic Thai-street graffiti and carvings to wall murals and sculptures – reflect a more modern vibe. Adding to the splendid dining experience is a cosy bar at the entrance and a patio.
Expect to savour some of the most popular Thai dishes here. Think Tom Yam Goong – a traditional spicy and tangy Thai soup teeming with prawn, mushroom and lemongrass; Pat Graprao – stir-fried chillies and holy basil leaves with a choice of chicken, beef or seafood; and Gaang Mussaman – a southern Thai curry. Another must-try is the steam fish manaow – fresh fish sea bass or grouper, steamed with fresh lime juice and chili sauce. It’s the perfect and rich balance of sweet, sour and spicy in one dish. Rp300,000/person excluding alcoholic beverages. So Thai by Chandara, Plaza Indonesia Lantai 1, Jalan M.H. Thamrin No.30, Central Jakarta.
Tel: +62 21 2992 1935
Indian food aficionados who are already familiar with Kinara in Kemang are in for a surprise, as the restaurant has recently changed its name to Fez Kinara. It has extended its repertoire from Indian-only dishes to Middle Eastern and Maghreb fare as well. But fret not, crafted by experienced executive chef Challiou Rachid and Indian chef Bashir Ahmed, Kinara’s wildly popular dishes are still available.
“We want to take our guests on a culinary journey through India as well as the Middle East and Gulf regions. There are a lot of similarities between these cultures in terms of food and entertainment,” said Mohamed Ahmed, manager of Fez Kinara.
There are a few dishes that will never disappoint. One is Dahl Kinara, which is made of black lentils, tomatoes, ginger and garlic. The ingredients are simmered overnight on a charcoal fire, then drizzled with cream. The Tandoor Platter offers an assortment of kebabs including prawns, lamb, fish and chicken. Rogan Josh – a Kinara speciality – comprises tender lamb morsels simmered in curd and infused with Kashmiri herbs and spices. Murgh Makani, of Indian char-grilled chicken, is served in velvety tomato gravy enriched with honey. To cool off one’s burning palate, order the Kesari
Kulfi, a rich and creamy homemade Indian ice cream, flavoured with pistachio, almond and saffron.
Dining at Fez Kinara will make you feel as if you have been transported to an Indian palace, so come dressed the part to bask in the majestic ambience. Furnished with teakwood and sandstone, the restaurant sports a grand 400-year-old ancient gate from the state of the Maharajas, Rajasthan. Thanks to
the dramatic stairway that leads up to the dining room, regal traditional aesthetics and exquisite carpets, along with warm ambient lights, Fez Kinara is a classy venue to enjoy the royal spread that awaits. Rp400,000/person excluding alcoholic beverages. Jl. Kemang Raya No 78B, Jakarta Selaton 12739. Tel: +62 21 7192 2677
For a long time, the classic Xin Hwa was Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta’s drawcard for traditional Cantonese cuisine. Taking its place since is Li Feng, which offers a more modern ambience.
The immersive experience starts as diners are surrounded by works of art literally above them. A beautiful art piece hangs on the ceiling showcasing the historic voyage of junk ship and the spice trade between the South Chinese Sea and Batavia - the name Jakarta was previously known as - depicted as an upturned “sea” made of handmade amber crystal glass. The subtle use of earthy colours and streaks of blue throughout the restaurant is a welcome change from the overly used red and gold hues in many Chinese dining venues.
Li Feng, which means ‘beauty in abundance’, offers notable delicacies that are a feast to the eyes. The menus are personally
handcrafted by two toques, chef Fei (who owns a famous and top-tiered Chinese restaurant at Mandarin Oriental, Guangzhou – Jiang) and chef Chang See Loy.
“I created the dishes at Li Feng in a style that is true to its Cantonese and Sichuan roots. Some of the dishes are also spicy and rich with flavours – which are suitable to the Indonesian palate,” said Chang.
Among the many signature dishes, some of the must-tries include the Deep-fried Swan Dumpling with Black Pepper Duck meat and the Beggar’s Chicken, which is a traditional dish from Changshu, Jiangsu Province. The latter is made of lotus leafwrapped stuffed chicken, baked for three hours, which is then ceremoniously cracked open to reveal soft, succulent meat that falls off the bone. Also, do not miss out on one of the most addictive dishes – Deep-fried Salmon Skin with Salted Egg Yolk sauce, and Spicy XO Scallop and Black Squid Ink dumplings with seafood and fish roe – thick, fresh, juicy, and well-seasoned filling sheathed in thin elastic skin. Rp350,000/person, without alcoholic beverages. Mandarin Oriental, Jakarta, Jl. M.H. Thamrin, Central Jakarta. Tel: +62 21 2993 8825
Keyaki Japanese Gozen
Gaang Mussaman So Thai Steamed Fish Manaow
Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk at Li Feng Deep-fried Swan Dumpling with Black Pepper Duck Meat at Li Feng Li Feng’s main dining room