Tag Archives: Food Reviews

Trying out Pho24

 

It’s been a very, very, very long while since I last feasted on a good pho.

Following an afternoon of shopping spree, 10 and I were strolling down the mainstreet dining of Gandaria City, where we first tasted the fooking good food from Fook Yew. We spotted a couple of enticing eateries to fend for our starving bellies, namely Basilico, Munchies, and Marugame Udon, but we neither have the energy nor the patience to wait in line, so we decided to give Pho24 a chance.

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Apparently, the Nam Am Group-owned franchise has been around locally since 2005, with ten established outlets in Jakarta as well as the remaining 70+ outlets in Cambodia, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Though it’s dominated the Asian populations in its entirety, I think the staple Vietnamese dish has a particular allure that appeals to a worldwide audience and across all ages – it’s simple, it’s familiar, it’s inviting, plus it’s healthy.

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Enjoying the seaside air at Takigawa

 

Believe it or not, this is my first time ever trying out Takigawa.

The Japanese fusion chain has been around for a decade now, even expanded to some thirty outlets throughout the country.

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While I’ve seen Takigawa outlets in major shopping centers in Jakarta, I never seem to hop in and take a bite.  I guess I’m pretty skeptical when it comes to Japanese fusion restaurants just because they’ve grown to become a culinary convention, and consequently that makes authenticity a rare gem. So I think most of you are probably more familiar with Takigawa’s signature dishes than I am, and know the outlets around that are good. Despite so, I actually quite enjoyed my dining experience at Ancol’s Takigawa, albeit primarily for cosmetic reasons.

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Pepper Lunching again at Baywalk

 

At first it was only their DIY teppan. Then came the curry rice. I don’t know what it is about the Japanese, but obviously, I love their idea of fast food service.

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No wonder there are hundreds of these fast-service outlets in Japan alone, not to mention how they’re becoming a rife throughout Asia.

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Having one of those midnight cravings? Try Bakso Akiaw 99 Medan

 

If you’re a big fan of Medanese cuisine, there’s no place to explore in Jakarta like Pluit at night, particularly in the Muara Karang area.

All you see is rows of street vendors hawking passers-by with their specialty noodle dishes, such as bee hoons (rice vermicelli), kway tiaws (ricecake strips), la mians (hand-pulled dough noodles), yifu noodles, egg noodles, and the occasional bakpaos (meat buns) and durians. Everywhere you turn, all you hear is the middle-aged and the senior citizens yelling in Hokkien (the Fujian dialect) to each other.

It’s not the prettiest scene in the world, but if there’s one thing the provincial culture is famous for, it’s their food.

In this case, we’re talking meatballs.

You may think, there are countless other places in the world to get your dose of meatballs. After all, the add-on is not limited to the Indonesian-Chinese cuisine alone. Bakso, or literally “shredded meat” in Hokkien, prevails in the Asian world, and it’s undoubtedly a Chinese food signature. You can most certainly spot some meatballs in his bowl 90% of the time when you see a Chinese guy eating noodles.

But let me tell you, you’ve never tasted anything like Akiaw’s meatballs.

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While there are up to five branches of Bakso Akiaw in Jakarta alone (with its primary outlet perched at Mangga Besar), the one I’m reviewing now sits fittingly within the Muara Karang neighborhood, and if you haven’t been familiarized, the district is best known for its Indonesian-Chinese residents as well as the larger Hakka community.

Normally, and this goes for almost all major street vendors in the area, people just call delivery or order a takeout instead of dining on location, but on that night I was really hungry and I wanted to have my noodles in front of me immediately.

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Valentine’s Day 2014

 

They say thanksgivings is a must in living a happy life, so this me counting my blessings.

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I’m blessed to receive the numerous blooming bouquets from 10, and I’m starting to lose track.

These beautiful white roses and my paper toy piggies made up our Valentine’s Day in 2013. This year, it’s 10 stalks of crimson roses from my perfect 10, along with 14 date ideas wrapped in handmade fortune cookies :)

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I couldn’t think of anything he wouldn’t expect, and I was determined to stray from the conventional V-day card. So after a couple of hours Googling the net for romantic ideas and DIY paper crafts, I decided to go for this fortune cookie date nights idea, since this year’s February 14 falls in conjunction with the last days of the Chinese new year.

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I’m giving all the credits to Homemade Gifts Made Easy, despite the fact that I jazzed my own up instead of printing the original version. I had thrown in 14 personalized date ideas with 10, each wrapped in 14 fortune cookies. It’s pretty straightforward and you can create your own in no time, but I’m keeping the date ideas between 10 and I ;)

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* * * * * * * * * *

Also, it’s been a long while since we’ve dined at a fancy place. We’ve been so comfortable with each other that anything goes for a dine-out, especially since our tastebuds are that of an elderly (porridge and tea, anyone?).

Unbeknownst to me, he arranged a special dinner at Italian restaurant il Mare, where we had one of our earliest dates at and instantly loved.

Unfortunately, the night’s air was quite rowdy.

The place was fully occupied. Waiters haste around to serve the next course in line, while diners had to amp up their volumes to hear anything remotely audible across the candle-lit tables.

As it turns out, all of Hotel Mulia’s restaurants, including il Mare, were celebrating the special day with pre-set menus for their lovely patrons. il Mare has nailed it with an exclusive 6-course dinner set menu that pairs with two glasses of sweet, rosy sparkling wines to stir up our guts.

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In addition to that, every girl in the room received a stem of red rose, as well as a pair of miniature chocolates, courtesy of the restaurant.

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If I have to condense what the dinner tasted like into one word … it’s intoxicating.

It was the best. The meals felt like a slow, progressive foreplay as the night went by, as if they’re meant to max out your fancy.

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I mean, the bread bowl was sumptuous to begin with, all crisp and cheesy and crusty, and so I started to snap everything else in flash.

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Orange-marinated shrimps, brunoise, sea urchin

Gosh, seafood has never been this refreshing. The last time I had a juicy bite of sea urchin, I was stoked. This time I’m completely stirred, what with the cool cucumbers, the black truffle and all the citrus freshness.

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Yellowtail carpaccio, angel hair, papaya, bottarga

Fish and fish roes are my best friends – especially when they’re this raw. This is one of the best carpaccio dishes I’ve ever tasted. I bet no one would’ve thought papaya could go along great with the classic angel hair and truffle combo.

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Slow-cooked egg, truffle and potatoes, almonds truffle

Ah, is there anything better than eggs? Not with the sweetness of almonds titillating me alongside of it.

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Montasio cheese and walnut tortilla, spinach truffle

I died by this dish. You know how I feel about cheese. And spinach. And pasta and truffle. The doughy cheesy bitterness was sensational.

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Combination of Hirame fish with dried vegetables and veal tenderloin with whole wheat polenta

As for this combo of fish and tenderloin, I kind of wish it was some other squishier types of fish, like a Dory or sea bass, instead of a flounder. But other than that it was pretty good. I also love the mushy polenta, and the veal was oozing sweet, sweet juices at every cut.

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Baba’, ricotta and orange blossom ricotta ice cream

Last but not least, I climaxed at the rum-soaked baba, a beloved French dessert. Rum is awesome enough, but the dough was also stuffed with orange zest and essences at its core.

I scarfed it all down pretty quickly, so I don’t have a picture of the inside. The dough was also baked to a perfect texture that’s chewier the average bread, but slightly harder than that of a cake. It was exceptionally sweet, but not in the sugary way.

And again, you know how I feel about cheese. Usually I hold my tongue back whenever I come across desserts that taste basically like nothing but an amass of sugars. But throw in some soft ricotta morsels and drizzles of orange water, and you won’t need so much fructose to spice up an ice cream. Enriched with subtle hints of citrus and a berry-bittersweet romance, it was the perfect bouquet to end our night.

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Our toast for the night? May our bellies be happy always, and may St. Valentine continue to bless us today, tomorrow, and forevermore.

Much thanks to il Mare for the incredible dinner :)

 
 
 

il Mare
Hotel Mulia Senayan
Jl. Asia Afrika No. 19 Jakarta Selatan 10270
(021) 574 7777
Visit Facebook page at Hotel Mulia Senayan, Jakarta
Follow @HotelMuliaJkt on Twitter
and @hotelmuliajkt on Instagram

www.hotelmulia.com

Operating Hours
M-Sa Lunch
12:00pm – 02:30pm
M-S Dinner 06:30pm – 10:30pm
S Brunch 11:00am – 02:30pm

 
 
 
 
 


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Enjoying my curry at Jakarta’s Curry House CoCo Ichibanya

 

If there’s only one curry chain in the world that you can trust, I believe it’s CoCo.

I do, though mostly because they don’t serve pork :p1

 

With a bold portfolio of over 1,300 stores worldwide, starting from Japan to Hawaii (and throughout the US), China, Taiwan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and now Indonesia, you can be sure they’ve got something fab in stores that’s got the whole world demanding more of it.

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Though this is my first time giving it a try, I’ve heard the hype about CoCo from people who’ve resided overseas, saying it’s a must-try if you love the saucy condiment. What made me curious was also the buzz it’s created around town since it’s first opened a couple of months ago.

I didn’t notice this until I finally sat down on my seat, but the modest interiors might get you second-guessing about CoCo’s quality. Let me tell ya – it’s far from dingy. The whole space was fully installed with super strong and bright lighting, a feat if you’re the Asian who likes taking pictures before eating (hehe), and the neatly rowed wooden furnitures make for the space’s austerity. These earthy accents don’t compare to the warm greetings and services you’ll receive as soon as you step beyond the threshold. The whole time, the staff was attending to us “briskly, sharply, and with a smile”2.

For a while now, 10 and I have been hunting for THE curry rice a la Japanese we can always go to in Jakarta, and none so far have beaten the orgasmic ones we’ve tried elsewhere overseas.

With CoCo here, it’s safe to say that we can finally pinpoint our find.

I was delighted to see that everything on the menu looks legit. The curry rice dishes are served with everything that fills your heart’s content, from omelette, meats, seafood, veggies, to a mix of all those.

10 had a standard serving of the house favorite  chicken cutlet omelette curry (IDR 65,000), which he gobbled up real clean, leaving no last morsel for the dishwasher to do the extra work.

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The white meat was perfectly cooked to the point where it’s just tender enough for the molten lava to sink in. Texture-wise, it’s like a bulky, feathery cushion brushing against the walls of your mouth with hints of sizzling spice. Unlike those in other places, the curry itself strikes a perfect balance between solid and liquid. I also love that the omelette was cooked in the way that’s true to the Japanese – it was salted minimally so that a curried bite of it won’t taste overtly salty to taste.

I, however, had the pleasure to enjoy a curry meal that was customized to my liking. You, too, can enjoy your plate with as many toppings as you’d like on your curry rice.

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I had mine with just 150g of white rice and hammered by an inspiration from the Indians’ Palakh Paneer: Cheese curry (with a Level 1 spiciness) and spinach.

As always, dairy’s invariably wicked for me.

Bits of melted cheese were on every twist and turn as I was stirring the curry with the rice till they all blend. Even as I eat, it feels like I’m having pizza because I always have the extra cheese oozing out of the blend as I pull out a spoonful.

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Doesn’t look like it, but even before 10 gets halfway through his plate, he’s stolen spoonfuls from my curry more than he can chew. There’s a healthy balance of cumin’s stinging power, chili’s spiciness, cinnamon’s sweetness, cheese’s glories (milky and salty), along with spinach’s bitterness.

I think at the end of the day, dairy will always be the magic ingredient that contains my heart. In this case, it’s set against the backdrop of Jakarta’s best curry rice eatery thus far :)

 
 
 
Coco Ichibanya
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town
West Mall, Level 3A, Unit E0 01-1
Jl. M. H. Thamrin No. 1
Jakarta Pusat 10230
(021) 2358 0960
www.ichibanya.co.jp/english/index.html
 
Operating Hours
M-S 10:00am – 10:00pm
 
 
 
 
 


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Footnote(s):
  1. Don’t kill my piggies!! []
  2. They were beyond living up the catchy company motto. []

Feasting on toro at Tatemukai

 

Finally, I got to try out the cream of the crop in Jakarta’s Japanese dining scene, namely in omakase-style dining.

Been walking past Tatemukai’s façade for years and, like most people, initially thought the wooden-decked walls on Grand Indonesia’s Level 3A are purely for decorative purposes. But then a friend filled me in on the restaurant beyond the Shinto architecture-inspired décor, then challenged me to spot the entrance. I never did – until now.

I stepped beyond the threshold to find a minimalistic cubic room with a full kitchen-cum-counter at its center, which capacitates only up to 22 people to sit on the center’s perimeter. Surrounding walls and cabinets were tiled with rectangular wooden blocks of messages from patrons of the 2010-establishment expressing their love for the delicious creations of renowned head chef Tate-san, who previously oversees Thamrin Tower’s Kinokawa restaurant.
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Usually, Tate-san is present behind the counter during lunchtime hours (see operating hours below). Since I was here for dinner, I didn’t get to catch him preparing my dishes. Even so, you are promised with the freshest, crudest ingredients delivered straight from Tokyo’s Tsukiji Fish Market. That alone underlines itself a premium Japanese restaurant you can’t find anywhere else in the city. Every Tuesday and Friday, the freshwater proteins, particularly the plumply rows of to-die-for toro, would arrive to delight your senses, so it’s a good idea to make your plans for brunch here on those days.

A word of note: Prepare to be spending at least IDR 1,5,000,000 per person, as Tatemukai does nothing less than first-rate and that you’re not going to taste seafood this good elsewhere. Everything I swallowed here felt like velveteen in my mouth – there’s a myriad of rich, buttery, creamy, succulent and ultra-squishy. As a die-hard seafood lover, the huge expenditure was mainly for pleasure and an investment to save myself from the harmful contaminants that tends to persists in the storage room of conventional seafood grubs. You can rest assured that Tate-san and his local army of trained chefs have rigorously stripped the toxicity off the fish and roes and clams before they’re even on your plate.

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Toro sashimi with a side dish of fresh edamame

Because I didn’t come in with an empty tummy, I opted to eliminate a couple of dishes to compensate  for the ones that I was salivating for, namely the meats and a ramen dish at the end. Whichever dishes you skipped will be waived off on your final bill, but you can always sit through the elegant sequence of textures and flavors till the end just to try out everything they offer.

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Toro sushi with edamame paste and uni sauce


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Smoked toro sashimi cutlets


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Toro sushi with foie gras and uni sauce


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Cod sperm sacs in ponzu sauce


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Toro sushi with crab meat with uni sauce


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Freshwater uni, or sea urchin


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Fugu, or blowfish, topped with foie gras


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Wagyu grade 9+ beef


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Nori-wrapped unagi sushi


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Ebi sushi with fish roe


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Grilled geoduck

I was swept off my feet. Stuff from other Japanese joints now seem meh to me :s The mild, balmy, and balanced Tatemukai smorgasbord was spot-on for my taste buds, as I’ve always liked my palate to be simple. I haven’t had such good sushi for so long that I think I’ve gotten used to the locals’ preference of all things over-the-top sweet, salty and spicy.

Even the sweet stuff of Tate-san is crazy simple. Basically, the dessert includes a bowl of green tea-flavored shaved ice with a spoonful of delicate adzuki beans paste, along with one snowy morsel of red bean-stuffed green tea mochi. Together they were fresh, cooling, and unquestionably delightful.

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The finest chefs from around world would agree that simple is tough. Given the amount of attention on exclusivity and on executing quality, and that I have zero complaints about each and every serving of this banquet, every rupiah spent was worth all the while :)

As the year’s coming to an end, I highly recommend this intimate dining experience for some quality time with your close-knit circle – awesomeness guaranteed. Remember to come in with an empty stomach, because you’re in for a long and smooth joyride.

Reserve your seats now at (021) 2358 1807, or keep in mind to do so, because walk-in guests will not be served.

 
 
 
Tatemukai: Japanese Fine Dining
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town
Sky Bridge, Level 3A,
Jl. M. H. Thamrin No. 1
Jakarta Pusat 10230
(021) 2358 1807

Operating Hours
M-S Brunch 11:30am – 02:00pm
M-S Dinner 06:00pm – 09:00pm
 
 
 
 
 


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