Wow! Such a lot has happened since I last posted. I took a couple of years off to concentrate on a new job. That contract is now coming to a close and I realised that I was missing reviewing Jakarta’s culinary roller coaster. Restaurants have come and gone, and I hope to tidy up this blog, and bring it back to being an accurate gauge of the restaurants that we have available to us. You may not agree with my reviews, but I’ll try to update the ones that are still available, and close down the defunct pages. I have noted some concerns that people have visited certain restaurants based on old information, and for this I can only apologise.
What inspired this phoenix-like revival, I hear you not-ask. Well, I have had several hundred meals of differing quality in the meantime, but the place that excites me most is a new place on Jl. Johar called ‘Gallery Makan’. Hygiene meets flavour, meets a very pleasant vibe, with attentive service and music at the most conducive volume for a decent nom/conversation.
I had the lamb chops, which were succulent and served with a delicious gravy, and home-style chips (fries). The vegetables, a mix of cauliflower, broccoli, carrot, and baby sweetcorn were cooked so that they retained bite. The chops were slim, but not too fatty.
I will do a full review when the manager, an affable chap named Josh, gets the place rigged out with the paintings and sculptures that he believes will tie the whole concept together. I was quite happy spending an evening with bare walls listening to the music (non-Jaksa-like, thank God) and enjoying a few beers.
It’s good to be back in review-land. :-)
Double Bay Restaurant Review, F1 Building, Plaza Menteng, GF 9-10, Jl. Hos Cokroaminoto 79, Central Jakarta 103010, Indonesia
Welcome back! Or rather someone should be saying that to me, but I can’t hear them because this is a blog and last time I looked they were a fairly silent medium. Apart from the ones which aren’t. Anyhoo, I have had a rather protracted absence from the blog due to ‘one thing and another’. My heart hasn’t really been in the right space for blogging and I thought a little sabbatical was in order.
Now this silence has probably been a calm, reflective period for all who casually read this blog but spare a thought for those poor folk who had to TALK to me while I wasn’t getting the cathartis of moaning about food online.
So, down to business. I read about Double Bay in the Jakarta Globe and did my usual reading between the lines of their review. They always read like they are written by the happiest customer on earth for whom each meal is a visceral treat on par with fellatio/lady love from their favoured porn star. I guess negativity loses column inches (no, not going there) of advertisers.
According to their Facebook page, Double Bay specialise in:
The first time I went there I was less than impressed. The waiter did that increasingly prevalent thing of reading the menu to me as I was trying to choose. I am actually quite good at reading – people often pay me to teach their children how to to do it – so I pointed out to the waiter that this wasn’t necessary as I had thought ahead and packed my eyeballs.
At the time I ordered the Breakfast Burrito and it was absolutely meh. It had all the advertised ingredients inside, but not one of the flavours was strong or defined enough to inspire an appetite. I pushed it around for a bit and then left (I paid first, in case you think my ninja-stylings include disappearing in improbably-coloured smoke-clouds).
I decided I would go back another day in a better mood and that day was today, mood-followers. Tonight I ordered the pork medallions in red wine foie gras sauce and mashed leek potatoes. It looked a great deal like this:
The pork medallions were fantastically tasty with just the right amount of saltiness. The carrots arranged around the side appeared to have been briefly introduced to hot water before serving and were still quite crunchy. As someone with a Bugs Bunny-like happiness to chow down on raw carrots, this texture worked well for me with the toothsome, chewy nature of the pork and the softer, smoother consistency of the mashed potato. The latter could have easily been improved, however, with more leek. The sauce was well-rounded and balanced out the pork nicely.
The venue is dark, with animal prints in abundance on the walls and as stool coverings.
Deerie, deerie, deer…
One thing that struck me as a good sign for this restaurant is that both times I visited, also in attendance were two Italian gentlemen – let’s embrace stereotypes and call them Mario and Luigi. The Mario brothers, who chatted like flamboyant regulars with the waiters, were ordering Italian fayre both times which made me think that the chef must be creating authentic flavours to satisfy their tastes.
The barman/PR-spouting dude I chatted to informed me that Tuesday and Saturday were band nights and on Fridays they have one of those new-fangled DJ people to make music on the wheels of iron (see, I am hip to the trends!). This helped me to ascertain which days I wouldn’t be returning. I will endeavour not to eat at 120 BPM.
But based on tonight’s meal, I can’t help but recommend this restaurant. Double nom!
William Dillard said famously that the three most important things in the world of real estate were ‘location, location and location’. The same could also be said to be true for a restaurant in a city so spread out and unnavigable as Jakarta (I know it‘s not a word!). I can think of many restaurants I have been put off going to, not because of their fayre or service, but simply for the sheer hassle of the journey. But Ocha & Bella on the corner of Jalan Wahid Hasyim and Jalan Jaksa thumbs its nose at such conventions. Not because it is difficult to find – being slap-bang in the middle of the city – but because of the connection with the infamous Jalan Jaksa.
Jalan Jaksa’s danger and seediness lives on mainly in the minds of people who have never been there. In truth, it is a fairly shabby strip of poorly-lit bars and cafes ostensibly catering for backpackers but which should really be associated with English teachers refreshing their over-worked and underpaid throats with large bottles of inconsistently chilled Bintang. It is cheap and cheerless, but it serves a function in making sure that English teachers aren’t always calling for pay rises by anaesthetising them on a working budget. The mere mention of Jaksa usually raises unnecessary hackles, and Ocha & Bella have taken a gamble on this ‘guilt by association‘.
A mere five minutes in the place and you realise that this is a whole different kettle of cod. Ocha & Bella pulls no punches with its décor, its prices, or its standards. All are top notch. The service is excellent. I was seated outside as it was busy. It was nice to be outdoors and as mosquitoes have decided that I am poisonous to them, I was quite happy. Every member of staff greeted me cheerily as I walked past them, whether busy or not. The waiting staff are lightning-fast with their ‘your welcomes’. A waiter proffered a bottle of Soffell (a mosquito repellent) as it were Dom Perignon. I gracefully declined to either use it or drink it.
I ordered the bruschetta pomodoro and the grilled chicken tacos with wasabi guacomole (which I was really excited about). I received the bruschetta. It was just the right mix of salty and oily and the tomatoes were just the right temperature. Sometimes if the tomatoes are too cool they don’t carry the warmth of the other flavours but these were perfect and had the decency not to spill into an undignified mound in the crotch of my trousers, which is also a near-first for me.
Here things took a bit of a stagger, though.
The tacos did not come. I asked the only waiter in the place who appeared not to like his job what might have become of them. He looked as unconcerned as if I had told him Glentoran would not win the football league in Northern Ireland. It was like a cloud of typical (I know, I know..) Indonesian service had passed over an otherwise sunny picnic. Another fifteen minutes passed as I listened to a jazz band making Christmas carols camper. I hadn’t thought that possible.
When they finally arrived off the train, or wherever they had been, the tacos, or tortillas as they actually were turned out to be delicious. A perfect blend of seasoning, chicken and peppers and the wasabi dip was a mouth-tingler. But you know how food always tastes better when you are laughing with friends? I was alone and a bit peeved so the food wasn’t as good as it could have been. I know I wasn’t eating rations in a ditch in Fallujah and I may be making a drama out of a sinetron, but if you are charged high prices the restaurant is setting its own bar.
I wrote the first part of this review prior to the taco disappearance and I am going to leave it written that way because I don’t want to see one bad apple to ruin the barrel.
I’d say Ocha Bella’s main problem is not location, location, location, or even decoration but plain, old-fashioned communication.
Having finished some pretty arduous proof-reading work in Anomali on Senopati, I didn’t have to stroll too far to have my interest piqued by one of the many steak houses that are popping up in this area seemingly every day. This place (which is next door to the coffee house) has been open for two months apparently and I seem to have had my blinkers on every time I went to Anomali (which could do with a service shake-up, incidentally). I say blinkers because this place is not backward in coming forward, it is not shy and retiring and quite frankly strikes me as being as camp as Christmas.
The whole place has a Wizard of Oz pre-twister vibe. It is chintzy and twee and seems to revel in its faux American mid-West imagery. The waiters are in dungarees and straw hats. Your drinks are served to you in an entirely pointless wooden contraption that is usually used to carry milk bottles.
Sinou Steak is still in soft opening mode and the menu is very limited and not at all vegetarian-friendly, which would be self-evident, but for the fact that most places are making an effort in that direction.
I ordered the Wagyu Rump and went for a wander around the knick-knacks and what-not.
My steak arrived and it was served with the Jakarta-standard frozen vegetables, but with a twist. Fresh carrots had been grated into the mix before cooking and they provided a much needed flavour to the texture.
The steak was undeniably delicious. It melted in my mouth and I had that rare sensation of eating meat without putting in any effort (enjoy, innuendo fans). The mash potato was bland but inoffensive. The meal was rescued by the quality of the steak. I was super-impressed and after editing 27 mangled pages of fawning rubbish about Starbucks, that is no mean feat!
If you find yourself in that locale, Steak Hotel now has a worthy competitor. Let battle commence!
Mad For Garlic Restaurant Review, Grand Indonesia Shopping Town West Mall – Ground Floor-20A, Jl. MH Thamrin No. 1, Jakarta
Mad for Garlic is connected to the Tony Roma’s chain and I am glad that I didn’t know this before I went in as I would have been subconsciously comparing the two throughout. They are very different beasts, however. Whereas Tony Roma’s has a paint-by-numbers Western saloon style, MFG goes with a European theme which is glossy and darkly opulent. The main eating area is long and densely packed, but the smoking area, in a separate side-room is spacious and airy.
The menu is, of course, a garlic-lover’s dream, but I have always been fairly ambivalent about the stuff. I remember being told as a kid that if you rub the bottom of your foot with garlic, your breath will smell garl-icky in 20 minutes. Perhaps the feet/garlic connection is just too strong in my mind.
I chose the Sweet Pepper Steak, while Mz had the Suicide Rice. It was at this point that I realised I had forgotten my phone and couldn’t take photos of the interior, which is normally my way of filling time until the food comes during a review. This was a great pity as the Sweet Pepper Steak was a stunner in terms of presentation. The suicide rice looked, well, like a pile of rice, garlic shavings, and chopped up ex-floating things (squid and octopus to be precise). I am not sure how they could improve the presentation, but this dish needed work.
After a while, the waitress served us with cutlery. Well, when I say ‘served’, I mean she clunked down a basket of cutlery safely out of our reach and hoped that the jangling of metal within would serve as notice of its late arrival. No-one asked if we would like condiments on our table and the waiters scarpered out of sight, leaving only the barmen.
The steak needed a side dish, especially given the price, as it was just too overpoweringly peppery to eat with the minimalist vegetables provided. I ordered a second drink to quell the pepper-fire in my face and the waiter opted to pour it onto the napkin below the glass rather than into the glass. Given the oral inferno I was experiencing, I made a note to myself to use the diet coke-absorbing napkin as a tongue-balm later.
Upon examining the napkin, it was then that I saw the Tony Roma’s branding. I am not sure if this is such a slick marketing move as it seems to shift the brand perception away from Paris and dump it closer to Vegas.
This sums up my entire experience of this restaurant. They did so many things right, but in the end, treating diners like soul-less money donators will result in a significant paradigm-shift by the end of a meal.