I just heard crazy rumour that Apple spends zero amounts for advertising. It looks like good management people from the company sends free stuffs to production houses to use in their movies as much as they need. Hmm, zero budget, huh? That reminds me of one cafe that does the exact thing; Koultoura, a relatively new trendy cafe in West Jakarta area.
Unlike other restaurants or cafe, which try to attract attention by giant opening parties and strange promos, Koultoura simply takes over the Instagram and start posting delicious pictures of Italian pasta, green tea latte, and Chicken Gordon Blue. You know how many likes you can get with #foodporn. Just a few months after that, the cafe becomes huge. People come and go taking pictures like crazy and join their photo competition in order to get free cappuccino. Famous food bloggers giving reviews for Koultoura (mostly positive, though I have read some bitter experiences). In short, the cafe owes its delirium success to Instagram. Zero advertising budgets!
However, along with those new-found popularities, huge responsibility also handed to Koultoura. Now, people critically observe the foods, the atmosphere, and the service. Every single thing is an issue. The pressure is higher than ever, just like Apple. The question is; can Koultoura lives up to our expectations? Like usual, I come down there with a few friends myself to find the answer.
While other popular cafes located in exclusive areas like Pantai Indah Kapuk or Senopati, Koultoura is happily occupying a two-story building in Greenville, known for its famous flood and ageing house complexes. Half stone half glass, Koultoura stands proudly between Pizza Hut and some kind of a street vendors’ food court. Perhaps, the best thing about Koultoura is its design interior. Huge wooden bar occupied half of the first floor, functioning as baristas art-space and cashier, decorated with signature bright orange cups and colorful plates. The guests have to order first at this counter and honestly, it can be quite annoying, especially if the person in front of you can’t decide what he/she is going to order. Fortunately, beautiful illustrations of Koultoura’s original mascots keep me busy with their cheerful colors and dramatic natural lighting. One weakness though, the music is somehow a tad too loud. I have to speak louder than usual with my friend. It’s okay when they’re playing songs that I like (Imagine Dragons, Ed Sheeran, Taylor Swift), but you know… it quickly becomes annoying.
When our turn comes, we find ourselves fighting for the menu books. There’s only two crippling menu books and we have to share them with a group of giggling college girls behind us. It turns out that Koultoura used to have more than two old menu books, but because of their cuteness some people decided to ‘borrow’ them for undecided amount of time. Not cool guys.
We discuss what we want to order and quickly decide on two types of Italian pasta (seafood and classic carbonara) and grilled chickens (Maryland and Gordon Blue). Coffees are a must here, so another battle round and… we are set! Time to get our coffees and find the perfect table.
No doubt, Koultoura has hired great baristas. They are politely calm and work as fast as Starbucks employees (with better presentations). Our orders come right up to our hands, though without plastic trays or something like that. Well, what can I say? They look pretty busy, since the cafe is packed during lunch hour. I heard somewhere that you can ask the barista to make a devastatingly beautiful latte art out of your foam. Panda face, for example. But I don’t dare to disturb their attentions or ask for something too bizarre. I get what I can get (standard leave shaped latte art) and it’s pretty decent actually.
We carefully take our beverages and bring them into the second floor. If the first floor is concentrated for counter and kitchen, the second floor is fully used for costumers. Wooden tables with matching seats, big sofas with coffee tables made out of glass. It’s definitely more comfortable than the first floor, even though not as practical since you have to go down stair to order your foods or to go to the toilet.
We settle ourselves, ready our phones, log into their Wi-Fi and begin taking as many as pictures as we like. Under the big poster of a bear, beside giant window facing into busy Greenville streets and even a few candid photos of busy looking woman with her huge laptop and a pile of paperwork. Its fun, chic, and deserves a lot of hash tags.
Our orders come not long after that. Not really hot, but they don’t look like they’re fresh from the oven either. Lets say they are acceptable.
Green Tea Latte
A cup of green tea powders with warm milk. I ask the barista to make my latte ‘warm’, not ‘hot’. I can tell from the look of her face that this is not a usual request, but she has done a good job with my latte’s temperature. It’s comfortably warm and doesn’t burn my tongue when I sip it. The green tea is very dense and the milk is too foamy for my liking. It tastes quite good though. There’s a balance between the sweetness of the milk and the bittersweet sensation of the green tea. Still, I hope the latte is more watery and less foamy. After a few sips, it feels like I am sipping on sugary green clouds. What a strange feeling….
(left to right)
Cherry Root Beer Float
A glass of cherry flavored root beer with vanilla ice cream on top. I have to say, this is not the prettiest drink in our table. Its like someone decides to pour a glass of cherry syrup into coke and dump one messy scoop of ice cream on top. Nevertheless, this drink is delicious. There’s a childish fun every time I sip this drink. The cherry flavored root beer tastes funny in my tongue combined with soft milky ice cream. I feel like drinking a bottle of cough syrups with more sugar and less nasty chemical ingredients. It’s quite a new experience for me, to be honest.
Ice Wild Chocolate
The cold version of Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow. If my latte and hot chocolate suffer from foamy milk and dense chocolate, Ice Wild Chocolate needs more…well, chocolate. This drink tastes really bland, more like water than ‘wild’ chocolate. I even have to hold the urge to pour my hot chocolate right into this drink. Gosh, just add some milk!
Hot Chocolate with Marshmallow
A cup of hot chocolate and two simple marshmallows. Same with my latte, the milk is too foamy and the chocolate powder is just too much. The result is one cup of really sweet hot chocolate with even sweeter marshmallows. I don’t hate this particular drink, but I am not a big fan either. Nothing special or interesting, Koultoura needs to add more twists to this one. Peppermint maybe? Or something more extreme like chili powder? Wait, I know! How about more water?!?
Spaghetti Marinara Seafood
A bowl of nicely cooked spaghetti with a few mussels cooked in tomato sauce and cheese. I don’t touch the mussel, but the pasta needs some serious works. Its hard, a little bland, and the tomato sauce definitely needs more time in the pan in order to mix with the pasta. I am not saying that this is the worst dish ever; it’s… decent I guess, if you can ignore the hardness of the pasta.
Two pieces of chicken meats (breast and thigh), boiled potato wedges, a few slices of lettuces and tiny bits of mushroom sauce. I am a little bit disappointed with my Chicken Maryland. Even though, everything looks nice in presentation, I hope Koultoura would be more generous on the sauce. Classic Western dishes like this one relay heavily in sauces. In serious American grilled restaurant, one steak can be served with three different sauces. Yet Koultoura thinks one delicate swipe of mushroom sauce is enough for the salad, potato wedges, and two pieces of grilled chicken. I just don’t get it. Apart from this mistake, I quite enjoy the chicken. Its cooked nicely; the meat is soft and juicy, the skin is a little oily and gooey with evil fat pouring out every single time I slice it, but its better this way I guess. Still, my salad and my boiled potatoes taste bland without enough mushroom sauce.
Chicken Gordon Blue
Melted cheese and ham covered with chicken steak, accompanied by french-fries, salad, and mayo sauces. If my Chicken Maryland suffers from the lack of sauce, the Gordon Blue basks in glory with small bowl filled with sour mayo. The chicken is nicely done, fried until it turns golden without being too dry. However, the main star is the cheese. The delicious glorious beautiful melted cheese. I need to give praise for Koultoura because they are able to pull off the melted cheese move. The cheese is warm, soft, and delicious. Instead of making me nauseous like usual, the cheese increases my appetite and give a nice aftertaste in my mouth, simply amazing. The ham is okay, a little bit outshines by the cheese and the chicken. It’s a normal thing though, cause just like what we used to say; two is a company three is a crowd.
Fettucini with cream sauce, mushrooms, and half-cooked egg. Little Miss Sunshine, as simple as that. Creamy pasta with delicious looking egg? Nothing can go wrong with these two. I like the creamy milky taste of the sauce, the softness of the fettucini and the half-cooked egg. It’s simply delicious. There’s a lack of surprise, of course. It would be much better, if they add more mushrooms or maybe bacon into the party.
After howling down our foods, we sit there for a few hours that weirdly feel like a minute. I don’t know if it’s because my friends hilarious stories or the ambience or both. But I feel perfectly relaxed and happy. It’s been a long time since I laughed this hard. The music slowly becomes less annoying, the foods become more delicious and the drinks suddenly taste like heavens! Our waiters come and go, carrying empty plates and glasses, but they still maintain they calm composure, not minding our business or make annoying hidden gestures to make us leave.
I guess this is what Koultoura is all about. They don’t serve the most delicious drink ever. The foods are nicely done, but need a lot more improvements and (more importantly) experiments. It’s about the ambience. The cafe is a perfect place for friends to meet and have a good time together or for students who need some ‘alone’ time to browse and do their studies. Just like Apple devices; they are not the strongest in the market, but their designs and interfaces are impeccable. Koultoura is (no matter how silly this may sound to you) the Apple of Jakarta’s culinary world. A little bit overrated, but it serves its purpose nicely.