Fast & Fine
Value-conscious millennials dominate the fine-casual dining segment in Jakarta and Bali. Eve Tedja singles out the major F&B players on the scene.
It’s Friday night and Plaza Indonesia at the heart of Jakarta’s Bundaran Hotel Indonesia is swarmed with beautifully clad revellers and chilled-out office executives. All of them are eager to welcome the weekend and make sure that their evening is worth the time that they have spent navigating the city’s notorious traffic. Long queues started to form in front of the swanky mall’s popular restaurants, including Mother Monster.
With a catchy tagline of ‘Mother by day, Monster by night’, the restaurant is separated into four different areas to cater to different customers: a café with coffee and a tempting display of cakes at the front; a salmon pink dining area; an adjoining contrasting dark bar with well-stocked spirits in the middle; and a semi open-air dining area at the back. Led by Indonesia’s rising chef Gloria Susindra whose work experience included a stint at Nancy Oakes’ Boulevard, San Francisco, Mother Monster features modern American and comforting Indonesian dishes with a twist. Be it a bowl of Salmon Dynamite or a Deconstructed Tiramisu, Susindra and her team prepare the dishes in the same meticulous way a mother would for a weekend family feast.
Fine-casual dining here to stay
Mother Monster is one of many dining establishments under the Biko Group, whose portfolio includes LOLA - Espíritu y Libación and Pao Pao Liquor Bar & Dimsum Parlour. It offers fine-casual dining experiences to the city’s young, mid- to high-level income earners who opt to socialise over food and dine out on daily basis. Fast fine dining restaurants can be defined as an experience that ditches the struggle for reservations, complicated menus, formal ambience, long wait for food, and hefty bills. Instead, it offers customers gourmet fare in a more relaxed manner while maintaining an affordable price point. In a densely populated city like Jakarta, this configuration definitely makes sense.
This trend benefits restaurant owners as well. Quicker turnover, efficient operations and opportunities to experiment with new ideas or menu are some of the perks. With lower labour costs than most Western countries, Indonesia’s restaurateurs and chefs have the flexibility to pursue their gastronomic endeavours, be it curing their own meat in-house or baking their own sourdough breads on top of running a full-fledged kitchen.
Since he co-founded Biko Group with Freggy Yohanes Effendy and Agung Prayudi in 2012, Mikael Mirdad has been unstoppable in his pursuit of “creating funky places that make people happy”, as he puts it. Through good food, friendly service, catchy playlists, offbeat locations, and an exuberant millennial customer base, Biko Group has grown into seven outlets and counting. “We don’t want to repeat a concept. If there’s a common trait in all of our establishments, be it a bar or a restaurant, it has to be a place where people can have a good time. Our patrons have to be happier when they leave our property,” states Mirdad.
Another fresh approach to fine-casual dining can also be found at VIN+. With more than 10 years of experience, VIN+ is one of the first names in mind when Jakarta’s oneophiles want to dine out. Owned by a wine importer holding company, it comes as no surprise that VIN+ claims to have 18,658 bottles and counting in their inventory. At the moment, VIN+ has six outlets in Jakarta and Bali; each of them showcases the group’s magnificent wine collection for retail and passion for fine food. Every outlet also has a dedicated wine butler to offer recommendation on wine and food pairings.
“VIN+ started off as a wine retailer and by focusing even more on providing good food and nice ambience, we are transforming to become a purveyor of dining in style,” explains Jefry Budi Mardianto, general manager of VIN+ Senayan and the group’s business development manager. With two talented chefs, Djoko Suwarno and Deni Sugiarto, VIN+ constantly looks for ways to cater to different markets at their separate outlets.
VIN+ Kemang, for example, is a casual all-day dining outfit catering to a wide segment of customers. Meanwhile, VIN+ Senayan is the place to be for business executives looking to unwind after work or build relations with their clients. With a comprehensive international menu – from pan-seared foie gras to prawn ravioli to premium meat offerings, each VIN+ serves up different signature dishes. “Red wines are popular in Jakarta, while we see a growing demand for white wines and particularly rosé in Bali. Therefore, we opened a special summer bar at VIN+ Seminyak,” says Mardianto. Pretty in pink, The Rosé Social at VIN+
Seminyak is the crowd favourite with its wide offering of selected rosé wines and French-inspired tapas. This attention to market demand and egalitarian efforts in changing the notion of wine drinking as something exclusive and therefore elusive, have made VIN+ a brand name in Jakarta and Bali’s fine-casual dining scene.
More competition, more choices
Meanwhile, 6,000km away, Indonesia’s top holiday destination is experiencing a different growth of fine-casual dining. Bali has always been attracting the attention of international restaurateurs and chefs. With five million global visitors per year, tourism and F&B businesses are closely entwined and have the potential to be extremely lucrative – if one can make it past the fierce competition in Bali’s busiest tourist spots, such as Seminyak or Ubud.
When LACALACA Cantina Mexicana opened its doors in 2012, Seminyak was on its sure way to become the hottest neighbourhood to dine, drink and party. Mexican cuisine, however, was non-existent, an observation by Will Lovejoy which developed into an idea to build a restaurant in Bali. Adelaide by origin, Lovejoy’s hallmark restaurant-cum-bar successfully captured the ambience of being at an open-air Mexican fonda, adorned with cactus and cheerfully coloured furniture that greets hola warmly. Lovejoy’s perfect sense of timing and location scouting led to Lacalongtime group’s second restaurant,
LACALITA Bar y Cocina in Canggu. The surrounding area was still sleepy when the restaurant opened in 2014 and brought their jalapeño infused tequila siesta into town. Skilfully combining Mexican classics such as the Red Mole Beef Cheek with crowd-pleasing quesadillas, the restaurant is recognised as offering the best Mexican fare in Bali.
“What is fine dining anyway? We put the same extra effort in every little thing that we do. We make our own salsa, source the freshest ingredients, and train our staff to take care of guests attentively. I firmly believe that good food should be accessible to more people,” says Lovejoy at the recently opened LACASITA Fonda Mexicana. Embracing Ubud’s increasing millennial visitors who always seek something exciting, digital nomads and cosmopolitan globetrotters, the Ubud outlet focuses on authentic Mexican fare, such as the seafood cocktail Vuelve a la Vida and Ceviche Clasico with tasty tigre le leche sauce as well as vegan friendly dishes. Adaptability and consistency have definitely been the keys to Lacalongtime’s success for the last six years.
Shy from celebrating its first anniversary, Folie Kitchen & Pâtisserie is another model of fast fine dining in the heart of Canggu. Shy from celebrating its first anniversary, Folie Kitchen & Pâtisserie is another model of fast fine dining in the heart of Canggu. Led by chef Stephane Simond and backed by his vast experience working at Michelinstarred establishments, such as Auberge Lamartine and Relaix and Chateux’s Hôtel Le Toiny in St. Barts, the all-day dining restaurant caters to a wide market with its bistronomy concept, from the morning croissant fanatics to holidaying family who wanted to indulge in 15 Hour Slow Cooked Balinese Pork Belly with iberico chorizo and Cabernet wine sauce. “Our restaurant’s principles are to simplify the menu, work with seasonal produce and make affordability as a consideration,” says Simond.
Simond is keen to introduce his signature style of marrying French techniques with Asian flavours to a larger audience. The next Folie Kitchen & Pâtisserie opens at the end of the year and will be located in one of Bali’s premium shopping malls. “I think the whole point of fast fine dining is to expose more people to gastronomy, to dare them trying something that they have never tried before - and if the mall is the place to do it, then let’s do it,” says Simond about his next venture.
Biko Group’s Mother Monster at Plaza Indonesia
Mother Monster’s Salmon Potato Bites VIN+’S Pan Seared Barramundi LACALACA’S Quesadillas
LACASITA Fonda Mexicana offers a vibrant spot to dine and mingle in the heart of Ubud. Authentic Mexican fare presented in a modern fashion at LACASITA Fonda Mexicana
Stephane Simond of Folie Kitchen &Pâtisserie VIN+ Senayan is catering particularly to business executives who love to unwind and share some fine bottles of wine with their colleagues. Australian Stockyard Wagyu Beef “Stroganoff” a la Folie
Djoko Suwarno, one of VIN+ talented chefs