Asia’s Top 50 Restaurants

Result of a Google image search for 'Manado Food"
Result of a Google image search for ‘Manado Food”

The Wall Street Journal blogged a list of Asia’s top 50 restaurants. There is a lot of Japanese restaurants and some Chinese outfits making the list, based on a survey of “900 people across the world—an anonymous mix of chefs and restaurateurs, food writers and critics, and food experts.”

Indonesia is represented by one restaurant in Bali. No restaurants in Malaysia or the Philippines made it on the list. See the full list here.

I guess it’s good that oriental cuisines reigns in the Orient, but it’s more because the cuisines of the Malay Archipelago  – vastly more varied, rich, and tasty – are not yet accessible to international visitors, who may shun street-food and mom-and-pop establishments. Well, it’s their loss and … more for me!

Jakarta’s Best Restaurants, my version

A few of my own favorites are below, all of which are basic restaurants with hearty and spicy foods, brisk service and cheap prices. Places where locals go for a hearty meal, and which I’ve personally frequented for more than 15 years. But if you are new to Indonesia, best to visit these places after a few days when your stomach have adjusted to the spicy. And by ‘spices’, I mean not only chilis, but various spices as even the basic Indonesian food can use many types of spices in addition to your basic shallot, garlic and chili. But if you’ve been on the road in Southeast Asia for a while, go forth and conquer!

I’m too lazy to complete the list with addresses and phone numbers; these should be online if you do a bit of googling.

1. Beautika, Hang Lekir (Kebayoran Baru) and Abdul Muis. a Manadonese restaurant serving hot and spicy fares. If you have a strong stomach and tongue, just run with it. With everything. Everything is good and authentic. The Hang Lekir branch has the better selection of deserts and sweets. A place where locals go for a rewarding meal.

2. Tinoor, Jl Cik Di Tiro, Menteng. Manadonese with no reserves (pork, dog, bats galore). Very good pork dishes. Where I go for a rewarding meal. Their food are ready cooked, and served buffet style where you line up to choose what you want, so go a bit early before they run out. Best to go for lunch, as their dinner offerings are pared down.

3. Seulawah, Jl. Bendungan Hilir. Aceh food, almost like a hole in the wall and somewhat suspect from the outside, until the foods start showing up and you wonder why the place hasn’t moved up in the world. Avoid ordering from the ready stock meals in the window, but opt for freshly cooked items from the menu (‘mie aceh’, or the fried birds with lemon leaves (‘burung puyuh’), or if you have the time and energy for it, the noodle with crabs (‘mie kepiting’).

4. Medan Baru, Pasar Baru. Aceh food, again. Very busy, best to avoid lunch hours (come a bit earlier rather than later as things may run out). Basic fare but good, though not something I seek out specifically since it is out of the way of most business travelers. If you’re a fan of picking through a gigantic head of a snapper, this is your place.

5. Daeng Tata, Casablanca road around its Tebet portion. South Sulawesi cuisine. Spacious but basic space, right by a very busy road. They’ve got two locations on either side of the street, almost facing each other, so whichever way you’re going, they’ve got you covered. The barbecued ribs are what it’s about. But the soups are also good, as well as the interesting drink of caramelized Pepsi colas.

6. Lapo ni Tondongta. Senayan or Pramuka branches. North Sumatra Batak food. The barbecued pork is delish. Two servings of that and a bowl food of pork soup will fill you up for a couple of days. A carnivore’s playing ground, though the chopped cassava leaves in coconut milk (‘daun singkong‘) is also a hit with my foreign friends

7. Ikan Tude Manado, Kelapa Gading and Blora. Simply the best Manado seafood in Jakarta (though they also have meat dishes). The corn fritters (‘perkedel jagung’) is a meal unto itself; ask for a freshly fried batch, and you’ll earn respect. Their hot sauces can be very hot (this is one place which can actually make my ears ring), but over the years I think they’ve down-graded their hot-ness (or else, I’ve up-graded mine, ha!). Ask for the ‘rica’ to be served on the side (rather than sloshed on top of the dish) if you’re not sure of your threshold. Otherwise, go wild! Everything is good and they all go well together.

8. Kubang. You will notice there’s a few Kubangs around town; this place originated in South Sumatra and have branched out nationwide though by no means are they all related or within one franchise, and indicate more a type of cooking. They use ‘rendang’, meat cooked in coconut milk and a bucket of spices, for their signature dishes (‘martabak’, fried rice or ‘nasi goreng’, etc). They’re all pretty good, but the place I like is on Saharjo, Tebet.

9. Gado-gado Cemara. Tanah Abang V. Probably the only one on the list that is Javanese in origin. I don’t generally like Javanese food as they are generally too sweet for my taste buds. But this is one is not bad, though I have not been to their new location in Tanah Abang (it’s a bit out of the way compared to their old locations of Cemara and Wahid Hasyim, near Menteng). The signature ‘gado-gado’ is of course worth trying (steamed vegetables in peanut and cashew nut sauce) but my favorite is their Jakartan style lontong (‘lontong cap go meh’), a soupy dish with steamed rice cakes, some veggies, egg, shrimp crackers small and large, etc. Which reminds me I have to visit the new location soon.

10. Bakmi Gajah Mada (Bakmi GM). Many branches in Jakarta. Their signature dish is the bakmi, a noodle dish. They indeed have very good noodles, but their best dish is the ‘pangsit goreng’, fried wonton that is thick, soft and crumbly with no sign of grease at all. It comes with a sweet and slightly sour red sauce, and together they are a match like Ricky and Lucy. Their other dishes are basic but everyone, from toddler to your 90-year old grandma, can find something they like, which is why this is a very popular family restaurant in Indonesia.

Let’s go go go!

 

Best Indonesian Restaurants in Jakarta (via MSN)

Jakarta’s one (and only?) redeeming factor, I think, is its culinary offerings, so one should take advantage of it to the max. MSN listed the best Indonesian restaurants in Jakarta, which I re-list below along with my comments (only those I’ve tried). Note that I can’t vouch for these addresses and phone numbers; you might need to re-google to get it right.

EDIT: Actually, MSN translated this article from this website, The Culture Trip. MSN did reference the site, but I thought that it clarifies the author’s affiliation rather than indicating the actual article as an outright COPY. Geez MSN. Thanks to beautyintheeyesofbeholder for pointing this out!

    1. Angke Restaurant, Jl K.H.Zaenal Arifin Blok B I/1, Krukut, Tamansari, Tel. 6343030.
    2. Bandar Djakarta, Jl. Pantai Indah Pintu Timur, Impian Jaya Ancol, Tel. 6455472. Specializes in seafood, located on the waterfront inside a huge amusement park complex. Very, very busy during holidays and weekends (thus best avoided if you are anti kids running around, people shouting over the din of kids screaming, bad random person singing on the stage, etc). Food is generally good, just make sure you order very different types of dishes, since a lot of them taste almost the same. But good. You can choose your own dining victims, many of which are still crawling/swimming in the various aquariums. For the food quality and ambiance, the price is surprisingly reasonable, bordering cheap.
    3. Harum Manis, Jl. KH Mas Mansyur Kav. 24, Karet Tengsin Tanah Abang, Tel. 57941727
    4. Ikan Bakar Cianjur, Jl. Cipete Raya 35, Tel. 75900222
    5. Pondok Laguna, Jl Batu Tulis Raya No 45 Pecenongan, Tel. 3459993. Chinese style cooking with great seafood menus. The place is always busy, but they’re very quick and usually efficient, so you should not have too long of a wait unless you have a large group (in which case, reserve and order ahead).
    6. Dapur Babah, Jl. Veteran 1 | 18 – 19,  Tel. 7060 2256. If you’re a novice to Indonesian cuisine, this is a good place. The decor is interesting, the food is delicious in a tame sort of way.
    7. Lara Djonggrang, Jl. Teuku Cik Di Tiro 4, Menteng,Tel. 3160288. This is another best enjoyed for its ambiance, and to impress the newly-arrived foreigners.
    8. Seribu Rasa, Jl. Agus Salim No. 128,Tel. 392 8892. This place is the happy medium between ambiance and taste. The food is delicious and hearty, but not overly sharp. Given the extensive menu, however, if you are a novice to Indonesian food, choosing what goes together well, might be tricky. But mostly, your money will be well spent.
    9. Sate Khas Senayan, many locations in Jakarta, take your pick. I believe this is the first franchise of Indonesian cuisine. Menus have been tried and tested for decades, but honestly they are not too tame. The best value for money in this list, and although there is an extensive menu, dishes generally complement each other well. One could dine here for a few days in a row without being bored.
    10. Sampan Matsuda Sentra. Jl. Teuku Cik Ditiro II No. 1, Gondangdia, Menteng, Tel. 31924617.

The one I would add to the list above is Tesate (Pacific Place Mall, Plaza Senayan, and Menteng). This is the up-market sister of Sate Khas Senayan. There is a twist of western flavors and sensibilities, while keeping the Indonesian characters of the food.