To be sure, Jakarta’s dining establishments haven’t scored a placing on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurant List (in the meantime, Bali has one). But this is no way an indicator of the city’s rich culinary history.
As with many global cities of today, Jakarta is home to many restaurants representing a variety of foreign cuisines and a massive congregation of Indonesians and their respective cultures, each with its own unique identities. The city is the historical home to Betawi cuisine which was born from a rush of Chinese, Malay, Arab and European immigrants centuries ago. The best way to experience it would be to hit the streets where hawkers peddle humble fare from their food carts.
To understand Indonesian cuisine, however, one must also explore the light flavoured Sundanese cuisine and sweeter palate of Javanese cuisine. Thankfully, Jakarta’s leading restaurants are a cosmopolitan lot and offer progressive insights into the country’s cuisines as a whole. Think Nusa Gastronomy, which presents authentic and long-lost traditional recipes, or Namaaz Dining with a molecular take on local flavours.
If you’re travelling to Jakarta soon, keep these restaurants on your list.
Being the first molecular restaurant in Indonesia, Namaaz Dining prefers to take a more playful approach with its dishes. Here, chef Andrian Ishak presents a 17-course menu that changes themes every six months. Diners can expect a theatrical experience here, to the point of eating a ‘pencil’ that’s actually opor ayam, edible QR codes (Black Mirror much?) or wearing a raincoat throughout dinner. Namaaz is almost meme-worthy, but its successful mix of innovation and flavour has parked it as one of Jakarta’s best restaurants.
Namaaz Dining, Jl. Gunawarman no. 42, Jakarta 12110, Indonesia 62 21 29054084
Daun Muda Soul Food
Chef-restaurateur Andrea Peresthu is best known for his Spanish restaurants in Jakarta. Yet his latest venture, Daun Muda, focuses on his culinary heritage which consists of dishes from Palembang, Manado and east Sumatra. As such, diners can be guaranteed a very spicy and tantalising meal here. The menu is kept straightforward and there are dedicated sections for chicken, beef or mutton, seafood and vegetables. Dishes are served in generous portions, so be advised to bring a party when dining here.
Duan Muda Soul Food, Jl. Wolter Monginsidi, No.2A, Melawai, South Jakarta, Indonesia 62 822 97777136
The Sriwijaya Restaurant
Sriwijaya is a fine-dining restaurant that takes inspiration from the historic Kingdom of Sriwijaya in Sumatra, located in luxury hotel The Dharmawangsa. The plush interiors recall French colonial designs, with Indonesian motifs and influences. It’s also reflective of the restaurant’s cuisine which sees local ingredients and flavours prepared using French techniques. Some of their signature dishes include spring chicken ballotine done opor ayam-style and lobster consomme with a lemongrass and galangal infusion. Besides degustation menus, diners can also have the a la carte menu for a more casual meal.
The Sriwijaya Restaurant, The Dharmawangsa, Brawijaya Raya No.26, Kebayoran Baru, Jakarta, Indonesia, 62 21 7258181
More than two years after its opening, Nusa Gastronomy has often been considered one of Indonesia’s most innovative and important restaurants. Chef Ragil Imam Wibowo showcases dishes from various regions in his menu, taking diners on an ‘edible journey’ through Indonesia. Passionate about preserving Indonesia’s traditional foods, Wibowo is adamant on using forgotten recipes as well as ingredients from local farms.
Nusa Gastronomy, Jl. Kemang Raya, No.81, Kemang 12730, Jakarta, Indonesia, 62 21 719 3954
Named after the year of Indonesia’s declaration of independence, the fine-dining restaurant is patriotic but not overbearingly so with its contemporary interiors. Traditional Indonesian food is the core inspiration here but is reimagined with modern cooking techniques and quality ingredients. Take beef rendang for example, which is reinterpreted with Tagima wagyu and garnished with potato glass chips.
1945, Jl. Asia Afrika No.8, Gelora Bung Karno, Jakarta, Indonesia 10270, 62 21 2970 3333
(Hero image: Nusa Gastronomy, Featured image: Fairmont Hotel Jakarta)