Posts for the 'Jakarta' Category


Grand Cafe at the Hyatt Hotel

Today, I found my way to the Jakarta zoo (Ragunan), or rather the kindly taxi driver drove me there. He was pleasantly friendly, but despite all his efforts on the 45-minute journey, conversation proved futile on account of my inability to speak Indonesian. He was also a little lacking in stature, probably a head shorter than me, so it amazed me that he actually had a line of vision above the dashboard.

Ragunan boasts the largest collection of Indonesian animals in any zoo in Indonesia. I found it to be a pleasant surprise, in particularly the primate collection which included many endangered species. The quiet of Ragunan zoo almost provided a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of central Jakarta and the ever-so-slightly cooler clime was also a welcome relief from the sweltering heat that I had been enduring over the previous two days.

I had to confess however that the attractions of (Ragunan zoo) were not my only motivation for staying another night in Jakarta. For having frequented the Grand Café at the Grand Hyatt Hotel two nights earlier and perused their buffet selection, I had been salivating at the thought of their lobster ever since. Unable to resist the temptation, I finally succumbed, which was where I found myself this evening.

My lobster (and prawn and oyster) plate

My lobster (and prawn and oyster) plate

I started with what I had come to the Grand Café for, the lobster, and along with that the prawns and oysters too. The lobster was fresh but cold, obviously having been cooked and then refrigerated prior to serving. I prefer lobster freshly cooked and there had been many an occasion when I had gone to the Fish Markets in Sydney and bought live lobsters which I cooked fresh (steamed, not boiled, to maintain all the flavour). This wasn’t quite as good but it didn’t stop me going back for seconds, for lobster is lobster.

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Nasi goreng and Indonesian pancakes in Jakarta

Colonial Jakarta

Colonial Jakarta

On account of the heat and jetlag yesterday, I had done little else but wander around the air-conditioned shopping malls.  So today was my first real sightseeing expedition of Jakarta. On the whole, it was a little lacklustre – a maze of traffic and chaos, a concrete jungle interspersed with shanty buildings. However, my visit to the Indonesian National Museum proved to be reasonably interesting.  There were cultural artefacts from around Indonesia on display and a collection of Chinese ceramics including some from the Han Dynasty.

Night traffic in Jakarta

Night traffic in Central Jakarta

This evening I decided to eat Indonesian street food, having started the day in such a fashion.  On all my travels throughout South East Asia, I generally haven’t been able to fault these vendors, in terms of flavour at least, although some were obviously better than others.  They were authentic, cheap and filling, and catered to local taste buds as well as wallets.  On occasions I found the food at these little one man mobile operations better than at some restaurants where you paid more, although you obviously compromised on service and ambience.  No doubt the key was to head for the busiest stall, the one with the most locals.

On a street around the corner from my hotel, there was an abundance of warungs (food vendors on mobile carts) dishing up an abundance of Indonesian specialties.  They offered a variety of local dishes including nasi goreng (fried rice), mie goreng (fried noodles), sates, curries and fried meats such as fish and chicken.  I headed for one of the busiest warungs I could find and ordered nasi goreng (about 60p).  It was mildly spicy and mixed with shredded chicken, finely diced beef, liver and spring onions and was suitably tasty, although it was missing a pan fried egg on top.  It also came with prawn crackers, which the Indonesians seemed to love as an accompaniment to their food, and of course the mandatory chillies. Also available on the table was sambal (a spicy Indonesian condiment) for those wanting that extra bit of kick.

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Indonesian breakfast

Realising I had missed breakfast this morning at the hotel, I suddenly developed a craving for pancakes. In a city such as Jakarta where pancakes are probably not the normal breakfast choice, I realised this was probably futile, and instead headed out to wander; ‘hunt and gather’ if you will. Stumbling upon a bakery, I proceeded to investigate. Not being sure whether the lady behind the counter could speak English or not, I tentatively made some inquiries about the items on display, whereupon her responses led me to make the following purchases:

My Indonesian breakfast

My Indonesian breakfast

“Its egg, beef and mayonnaise” she said, referring to the item on the left. It turned out to be egg and ham. “Its chicken and potato” she said, referring to the item on the top right, but was actually beef and potato. “Its shrimp and chicken” she said in reference to the bottom right. No second guesses, but it turned out to be tofu with some indiscernible matter pasted on top. But they were all tasty and filling enough, and interestingly boxed with chillies, a mandatory Indonesian accompaniment. All this cost only about 60p.


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Grand Café at the Grand Hyatt Hotel: Wagyu beef rendang

One of my most enjoyable experiences of eating wagyu beef was a few years ago at Per Se, the New York City outpost of the illustrious chef Thomas Keller of French Laundry fame. The experience left me gasping. Deliciously fatty and tender, it was the most gratifying of oral experiences. Growing up in Australia, I was particularly proud that the wagyu was of Australian origin, but thereafter it prompted my boyfriend at the time to affectionately bestow the nickname of wagyu (Australian cow) on me. Well we are no more, and I have had wagyu many times since, including notably at one of London’s best Japanese restaurants, Umu. However nothing had ever come close to being as divine as that time at Per Se which will forever be etched deep in my memory as one of the most memorable dining highlights of my life.

Wagyu beef rendang with rice

Wagyu beef rendang with rice

For tonight’s dinner I chose one of the restaurants in the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Jakarta: the Grand Café. Essentially a buffet restaurant with a large capacity to feed the masses, the decor was designed for such a purpose in the style of unpretentious comfort. For about £12 it was also possible to have the buffet which appeared to be quite varied with seafood, Western and local dishes, and scrumptious looking desserts. Wines appeared to be available although these weren’t listed on a drink menu, which instead included soft drinks and cocktails.

However what had drawn me here was the wagyu beef rendang. Wagyu is such a fine piece of meat that to me it should be cooked medium rare. I was intrigued by how this dish would turn out as rendang involves the meat being slow cooked for several hours in coconut milk and spices till the spices are absorbed. However, with such a fine piece of meat, and rendang being an Indonesian specialty, I was hoping that the combination might unexpectedly work.

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