The Indonesian economy continues to be going strong, and one can really feel the buzz in the country’s capital Jakarta. But it is also a double-edge sword: the city’s infrastructure development fails to cope with the economic growth and traffic jams are everywhere. If you are in town and the urban chaos gets a bit much, here are five great restaurants where you can find some respite:
Where it is This 18-year-old Café Batavia, located at Fatahillah Square in the old town of Jakarta (Jakarta-Kota), near the northern shoreline. Depending on the traffic, it takes about 45 minutes to get there from Central Jakarta.
How it feels Housed in a restored 19th century structure featuring wood-frame windows and French window shutters, this venue feels like a time warp with the interior décor consisting of wood banisters, teak flooring, ceiling fans, dramatic floral arrangements and many framed pictures of 20th century entertainment personalities.
What’s on the table The menu features traditional Indonesian dishes as well as international favourites such as salads, burgers, spring rolls and spaghetti. The food is nicely presented, with the gado gado ingredients nicely arranged around the bowl of sweet peanut dressing and ready for mixing, and the nasi goreng presented as a half globe on a square white plate, accompanied by a small salad and fried chicken and topped with a prawn cracker.
The cool factor It’s not just the restaurant itself that feels like time travel, you are at the most historical part of town and you can look out to restored colonial buildings around, including the Jakarta History Museum.
The average bill An meal here with some drinks costs about $US25 per person.
Contact Fatahillah, Jakarta-Kota; tel +62 (21) 691 5531; firstname.lastname@example.org
Where it is This restaurant is located on Jalan Veteran, just off the city’s central Merdeka Square. From Plaza Indonesia, it takes about 20 minutes to get here, depending on road conditions.
How it feels This venue is located in a pair of 1940s shophouses, refurbished to look like the house of an affluent Babah family. Babah refers to the Peranakan community formed by cross-cultural marriages between Chinese settlers and native Javanese women during the Dutch colonial era. Different parts of the restaurants are decorated in different themes ranging from Javanese to the very Zen Kwan Yin Room graced by three statues and varied images of the Goddess of Mercy. There is also an outdoor garden.
What’s on the table Like in Macau and Malacca, mixed-race households in time created a unique cuisine of their own, incorporating into their food not just Chinese and Indonesian elements but also the Dutch influence.
The cool factor There are so many things inside the restaurant to muse over, including old photos on the walls and rustic housewares such as scales, meat grinders, pestles and mortars placed around the interior creating an authentic feel. The signboard of Hap Liong Tailor, the shophouses’ original tenant, has been retained and hangs high above the main dining area.
The average bill An meal here with some drinks costs about $US30 per person.
Contact: Dapur Babah, Jalan Veteran I, 18-19 Jakarta Pusat; tel +62 21 7060 2256, 385 5653; email email@example.com
Where it is This trendy eatery is located on the 6th floor of Plaza Indonesia, one of the city’s most luxurious commercial complexes, in Central Jakarta.
How it feels The interior has a deliberately created industrial feel to it, combining mud-brick arches and columns, brass ceiling awning and exposed piles with decorative elements such as an old metal industrial fan, little disco balls and silver “clouds” hanging from the ceiling. Styles of seating range from dark leather banquette booths and a long communal table to the bar counter and regular tables. There is a L-shape outdoor terrace looking out to the most bustling parts of Jakarta.
What’s on the table The menu offers grillroom cuisine, including good selections of pizzas, seafood dishes and steaks.
The cool factor This is a trendy hotspot frequented by the city’s most fashionable clientele. The bartenders are also able to shake up some very decent cocktails, although drink prices are quite high. Expect to pay about US$15 for a vodka martini.
The average bill An meal here with some drinks costs about $US50 per person.
Contact: 6/F Plaza Indonesia, 28-30 Jalan MH Thamrin, Jakarta; tel +62 21 3983 8257; www.immigrant-jakarta.com
Where it is It’s about 2.5km to the west of Plaza Indonesia, on a rather quiet street of the city.
How it feels Visiting here is like being the guest of a tycoon: The restaurant is housed in a two-storey mansion built in 1928 as the private residence of a Dutch millionaire, and inside, black-and-white checkerboard flooring, dark wood and ethnic wall tapestries complement the high ceilings and chandeliers. There is also a nicely landscaped garden with Balinese stone statues.
What’s on the table There are Western menus featuring dishes such as pasta, brochette of mixed seafood, steaks and even boeuf Bourguignonne. But the truly special experience here is the rijsttafel, a line-up of traditional home-style Indonesian dishes served to you by a procession of 12 maidens dressed intraditional costumes, each personally explaining to guests a different dish from the menu. Food featured ranges from Indonesian oxtail soup to salads to satays.
The cool factor You’re greeted by a doorman when you arrive, and as you enter through the foyer, a large ceremonial gong will be struck to announce your arrival while exotic music is being played by a Sundanese gamelan. It really makes you feel like a special guest, and indeed, diners who have visited include royals and dignitaries.
The average bill An meal here with some drinks costs about $US50-US$100 per person.
Contact 47 Jalan Raden Saleh, Jakarta Pusat; tel +62 21 315 0646; www.oasis-restaurant.co.id
For a report on Indonesia’s boom and the challenges the country faces, see story “Island mentality” in the October issue of Business Traveller Asia-Pacific (click here).