Keyaki Japanese Restaurant at the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel

Posted on Tuesday, 26th August 2008

The first thing that struck me as I tried to exit Jakarta’s International Airport late yesterday afternoon after clearing immigration was that there were no taxis. Not a single one. Perplexed I searched high and low with my very unyielding luggage trolley, attempting to gracefully dodge this scary looking man yelling at me in a language I could not understand. With no taxis in sight, was I meant to catch one of those packed buses with all the locals hanging out of the bus door? Surely Jakarta couldn’t be umm… this backwards? The yelling did not cease despite what I thought was my well judged inclination to ignore him, but eventually with his persistently wild gesticulating arms, I was made to realise that I had used the wrong exit, the workers exit, and I was to retrace my steps back through to the other end of the airport, to a more civilised arrival hall with ATM machines, foreigners, and taxis waiting.

Common form of Jakartan transportation, the Bajai (auto rickshaw)

One type of Jakartan transportation, the Bajai (auto rickshaw)

The first crisis over, I was swiftly faced with crisis number two. On attempting to withdraw cash, using both cash cards and in all five ATM machines three times over, I realised neither of my cards worked. With only the sum total of £5 in my pocket it was not enough for cab. So it was to be the bus after all. My thumbs were a blur as I sent frantic messages to my bank manager during the long bus ride into town, but it would be some four agonising hours before my account was “unlocked”.

Which was why that night, after all was resolved, in a ‘Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Moment’, I did not eat dinner, feeling all too exhausted and all too jetlagged. I woke up absolutely ravenous, but as I didn’t want to leave the air-conditioned comfort of my hotel room to brave the 35 degree heat, I only finally emerged at about lunchtime. By my count, this meant I had not eaten for some 26 hours since the noodles at the airport. Surely this justified some comfort eating once more.

I headed for the buffet at the Japanese restaurant, Keyaki, at the 5 star Sari Pan Pacific Hotel. Jakarta’s searing heat was like a surge of electricity to my system so the restaurant being air-conditioned was one irresistible draw card, that and the fact that it is rated by Indonesia Tatler as one of the best restaurants in Indonesia in both 2007 and 2008. It is styled in the usual Japanese fashion; glossy dark wood tables, lantern light fittings. Also, the presence of the atypical sushi bar is perhaps also a giveaway.

Sashimi and sushi selection

Sashimi and sushi selection

I circumnavigated the restaurant floor to view my prospective lunch options, weaving giddily about like a girl in a chocolate shop, for the sight of food always has the effect of giving me heart palpitations. The selection was of gargantuan proportions, vast and various, most of the typical Japanese staples. It was perhaps a bit questionable as to the authenticity of the food that the staff manning the counters weren’t Japanese, but there would be only one way to find out the answer and that was to eat.

First round of sushi and sashimi, more to follow...

First round of sushi and sashimi, more to follow...

The sushi and sashimi were wonderfully fresh but the rice was perhaps a little bit crumbly to be truly authentic. From the teppanyaki hotplates, prawn and beef tenderloin were being churned out as if on a conveyor belt. Dosed with a buttery pepper sauce, it proved a treat with the sheer quality of the ingredients intermingling with the dreamy richness of the sauce. Grilled fish was fresh and perfectly cooked with a nice crispy, charred skin.

Grilled fish cooked fresh on the spot

Grilled fish cooked fresh on the spot

On the pre-prepared meals, these included such staples as beef teriyaki. Again a cut of beef tenderloin, it was succulent and meltingly tender, but the sauce had slightly congealed on the beef and proved a little sickly. Also on offer was a perennial favourite of mine, chawan mushi. This is a more traditional Japanese dish and is essentially a steamed savoury egg custard set typically with chicken and mushrooms and flavoured deliciously with dashi (a Japanese stock). This version lacked the strength of a good Japanese dashi stock but was authentic in its form.

The sukiyaki disappointed however...

The sukiyaki disappointed however...

However, there were some drawbacks, namely the tempura and the sukiyaki. Good tempura is defined by the batter which should be light, fluffy and crispy. This comes from cold rather than room temperature batter being placed in hot oil. Here the tempura batter was too thick and clumpy. The sukiyaki with beef and vegetables was cooked in a broth which was too thick and too sweet.

The dessert selection was plentiful with a large number of miniature options to choose from, including a delightfully rich chocolate ganache cake and a pandan and coconut cake. The red bean and green tea ice creams were also excellent. Every time I have green tea ice cream it always takes me back to when I first fell in love with that deep green tea flavour. I was 16 years old and on a school trip to Japan. Riding the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto was exciting in any case, but eating the green tea ice-cream bought from train attendants in perfectly tailored suits and white caps bowing to me was that little cherry on top.

A small sample of the dessert selection

A small sample of the dessert selection

Overall, the food did not tantalise but was pleasant for its freshness and abundance of variety. Not limited to a buffet, the restaurant also offered a la carte, with most main meals being priced at about £5. There was also a reasonable range of French, Italian, Spanish and New World wines, generally for about £20. The service was friendly and efficient, and best of all, when paying with American Express, there was a 15% discount, which took the price of my meal, including drink, service and tax to about £11.

Keyaki Restaurant at the Sari Pan Pacific Hotel, Jakarta
Jalan M.H.,
Thamrin 6,
Jakarta 10340,
Indonesia
Tel: +62 21 3902707
http://www.panpacific.com/KeyakiJapanese.html

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