As holiday season is approaching its undeniable ending, hanging out together with my friends proved to be more difficult than usual. I have to accept that I am going to have a solo lunch today at this new restaurant called Popolamama. What a shame, I know. To my surprise, not many people have heard about this new Japanese Italian fusion restaurant before. Opening up first in Grand Indonesia, Central Jakarta, Popolamama quickly gained some of the city’s most influential food writers attention and in the blink of an eye, it has opened another branch in West Jakarta, which is also the one I visit for my first ever solo lunch. A risky yet brave business move… I guess what makes Popolamama unique is the fact that they combined Japanese food with Italian. It’s a strange combination. Just imagine Japanese signature raw elegant dishes combined with cheese glorifying Italian pasta. Nevertheless, I feel quite confident sitting on one of their many wooden chairs with matching tables and sipping my lemon green tea (which is freshly delicious, by the way).
Looking at the menu, most of the dishes are Italian based, mostly pasta with a few selections of pizza. However, if you look a little closer, you will realize that instead of focusing in basic Italian ingredients like basil leaves or mozzarella cheese, Popolamama focus on adding classic Japanese touches like grilled enoki and crispy seaweed to name a few. Frankly speaking, I feel a little bit disappointed with the menu, I was expecting for something extremely bizarre and experimental, like Chawanmushi with Bolognese sauce inside. But still this is not the worst numbers I have ever seen, just a little too ‘safe’.
Since I have heard good news about their home made pasta from my sister (and internet), I decided to order their basic tomato-based pasta with mozzarella cheese. It feels like a safe choice to me. They have another more interesting selections of course; I have seen something like seafood soup pasta and cinnamon pizza with ice cream on top. Perhaps for another time…
I need to wait for a few minutes, fifteen maybe, but it feels so much longer when you are alone with nothing to look at, except giant mural about the history of Popolamama. It would be nice if they play some classic ballad music to accompany lonely guest, like me, or even better, a stack of magazine.They have Wi-Fi, but for some unknown reasons I have difficulty logging in and don’t want to whine about it.
My pasta comes in white porcelain plate with a single basil leaf for aesthetic reason, I think. It’s not really hot, more like lukewarm. But I can tell that the pasta is freshly cooked, though I can’t say the same about the sauce. The pasta is chewy and soft, reminding me of Japanese udon. Its definitely different from the ones you usually eat in either pocket friendly Pizza Hut or high end Italian restaurant in Kuningan area. In this case, Popolamama has proved that they are a true fusion Japanese Italian restaurant with signature dish, not just giving people empty talks. Salute to that!
Unfortunately, at some point, I feel like the pasta is getting a little too sticky and gooey, like eating overcooked instant noodles. On the other hand, the tomato-based sauce is very very smooth with a little sweet and sour after taste from small cuts of boiled tomatoes hidden beneath all those chewy pasta. I kind of like it. Yes, I hope that the sauce is a little bit stronger with more melting mozzarella cheese, but this one is not bad. I feel strangely fresh and excited actually.
I can’t deny that Popolamama has quite a success combining Italian signature heavy dishes with its much softer Asian counterpart. Even though I am technically eating a plateful of tomato pasta right now, it feels like I am slurping a bowl of hot udon with cheese and tomato soup. I can’t really judge whether this is a good thing or not, since each person has their own different perspectives. Some people may prefer more ‘original’ Italian atmosphere in their plate, while others may preach Popolamama subtler approach in their pasta.
One thing for sure though, Popolamama is not disappointing. Even I have been thinking to bring some of my friends here, so I can order that delicious looking mushroom pizza my neighbors have been enjoying so much. Until next time!
- Taman Anggrek Mall, 4th Floor
- Tanjung Duren Timur 2 Street, Tanjung Duren, West Jakarta
- Phone : 021 5639339
- Hours : 10.00-22.00