Bakerzin Revisited

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A few months ago I came to Bakerzin to taste their infamous macaroons. While I did have a great time in there, one slice of plain strawberry cake at the end of the meal kind of ruined the whole experience. That’s not a reason for me not to come back though, especially with my sister paying this time.

Sunday might not the best time to have a brunch since all of the good tables were already taken, but we managed to score a seat right beside the window, which means better Instagram pictures for me. Our waiters were the same cheerful man that instantly offered us real menu books this time. I will stop here and give a quick compliment to whoever designed Bakerzin’s menu books. Good job, man! Everything is in the right place with the right font and beautiful photos, without being overly decorative to the level of chaotic collages of ice creams and steaks. Kitchenette needs to learn a thing or two from Bakerzin in this particular area.

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Semarang Part 1

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I can’t believe I am sitting in The Tavern, part-bar part-restaurant and ultimately exclusive during New Year’s week in Semarang. Yes, Semarang, one of the sleepiest cities in Indonesia and possibly the world. Semarang’s popularity has faded into quick stop for backpacker heading to Jogjakarta, widely popular for Borobudur temple, and another relaxing spot for truck drivers carrying fresh fruits to Jakarta. Unlike Bandung with its trendy cafes and Paris van Java reputation, Semarang doesn’t have that kind of popularity or charms.

Yet here I am, sipping down my light beer while watching the city lights up with amazing sunset and Merbabu (or Merapi?) mountains as background, my brother (who is a college student and real Semarang-ster) asks for Carbonara Pizza and another round of lemon-infused beers. A single thought come up in my mind; maybe Semarang is not that bad!

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Kitchenette

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Christmas is right around the corner and it is no surprise my friends and I decided to celebrate it a little bit earlier with nice dinner at Kitchenette. Located in the middle of giant artificial park complete with small pond to give the restaurant a Zen-like atmosphere, Kitchenette is just fabulous. It is a perfect Gourmet restaurant for youngsters. The atmosphere is chic without overused acoustic music or overly loud electro beats that are just too much, even for 18-year-old smartphone-wielding group of teens.

I instantly fall in love with crystal clear rooftops with plastic plants hanging around, providing good lighting for my Instagram feed or/and my blog. It can be a little bit hot during the day though, so be careful with timing. The back of the restaurant is not bad, even though its quite gloomy with small yellowish lamps as the only source of lighting and 3 giant window panes providing good, but limited, natural lighting.

After deciding where we want to seat (at the back of the restaurant, near the kitchen), the staffs hand us three pieces of brown cartons which turn out to be menu ‘books’. Each carton has elegant typography describing Kitchenette’s signature dishes, but they show no clear pictures whatsoever. We end up stumbling around, trying to guess what the dish looks like. Even though it is not a really big deal, it can be quite annoying sometimes. I think it is time to change into a real menu books, Kitchenette!

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Sumoboo

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Sumo Boo is exploding like a small sized nuke these past few months. I don’t know whether its because shaved ice based dessert is so popular these days or Sumo Boo’s signature dog shaped ice cream that’s just so Instagram worthy. Whatever it is, the line outside its newly opened cafe in Taman Anggrek Mall is simply crazy, noisy, and very sensitive. A timid looking waitress is trying to calm the costumers in a futile effort while kids running around with their nannies attracting several raised eyebrows.

I squeeze into the line and say my name out loud to the waitress, she looks down and politely say I need to wait for a few minutes. When I ask her how many people left before my turn, she looks up apologizingly and says nine more people. Nine! I brace myself for 30 boring minutes staring at lucky people in their small seats enjoying shaved ice and something like a hotdog.

Fortunately, my stare strategy works. People quickly come and go, acknowledging the impatient line waiting for their seats like a bunch of hungry ogres in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Before I know it, the waitress calls my name in panic and point at small seat near the entrance. Not the best seat in the house, but this is not the right time to complain about anything. Continue reading

Koultoura

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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. Continue reading

Jun Njan

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I can summarize Jakarta’s culinary landscape in two words: Western and Cafe. In the past few years, Jakarta has become the new home for international coffee outlets, brewing tons of caffeine and dominating local magazines with their newest creations. Along with the rise of coffee makers, Western foods are also slowly gaining back their popularities. Mostly because they offer not only glorious melting cheese and smoking beef pastries, but also trendy places with plenty of natural lightings for selfie lovers.

The competition is getting harder day-by-day, and it seems the favor is not in authentic traditional family restaurant like Jun Njan. Jun Njan is more than an old player in Jakarta’s culinary world. Established in 1950s, the restaurant has been serving seafood dishes with classic Chinese touches for at least two generations. Unfortunately, just like many other historical restaurant, it suffers from globalization and trend changes. Though local customers are still ready to order at any time, the younger ones go right across the street ordering coffee to go and beef lasagna. The question that lingers in everyone’s head is; is there really no place at all for restaurants like Jun Njan? Continue reading

Sushi Tei

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After having lunch in Washoku Sato, which is hardly an uplifting experience, I am starting to wonder about traditional sushi, the one with simplicity, elegance, and technique. Instead of random mayo and scattered grilled salmon. At the same time, I also begin to realize that it is really hard to find traditional sushi in Jakarta, Indonesia. The city is filled with Western-Japanese fusion restaurants that look (and taste) awesome, but can’t hold a candle against real sushi. Lowering my expectation a bit, I come to Sushi Tei.

Sushi Tei is probably the most popular or affordable, high-sushi-restaurant in town. Combining great service (unlike Union), fusion Japanese-Western menu, and classic conveyor belt sushi bar, Sushi Tei instantly steals my heart and becomes one of my most favorite Japanese restaurants. What I love most about Sushi Tei is their abilities to add just a little western touch to their traditional Japanese sushi and create a lovely balance from those two, a task that looks simple, but proves too hard for other so-called fusion restaurants.

Stepping into the restaurant during lunch break means having your name written in their never-ending waiting list. Fortunately, my sister and I are able to score two seats right at the end of the ‘bar’. We quickly decide not to order from their two gigantic elegant menus (one for dessert) and just take everything we need from the bar. Our waitress just smiles and nods her head in understanding. Continue reading

Washoku Sato

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In order to be successful a restaurant needs to have two aspects; a good place (means location) and a good food. Usually, there is only one dominant aspect between the two, but that’s more than enough to create enough hype for a short period of time and figure something out. Washoku Sato doesn’t have any of those.

Located inside Central Park Mall in West Jakarta, right besides one of the hippest bakeries in town, Tous Les Jours. Washoku has to suffer being ignored by hungry bakery lovers and deal with bad lighting and fake sakura (cherry blossom) tree. To make things even worse, Sushi Tei is right one level below the restaurant, creating perfect disguise and even more ignorance from customers.

To be honest, I didn’t realize Washoku exists either, I usually walk right to Starbucks or Tous Les Jours or it’s eternal nemesis, Sushi Tei. Today, I am suddenly feeling awkward force forcing me to turn around and face giant transparent kitchen with chefs hanging out and cutting sushi. My curiosity is taking over me and before I know it, my sister and I are already sitting with giant menu books in our hands. Continue reading

Pizza é Birra

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I dreamed about eating a huge plate of pizza last night. It tasted like Pizza Margherita with bold red tomato sauce as base, melting buffalo cheese (!) and some kind of olive leaves, but  they tasted really fresh, sweet, and kinda like meat instead of leaves for some strange reasons. The dough was sticky, crispy, thin, chewy, gummy, and danced in my mouth like crazy Vegas showgirls. I woke up in my bed literally panting for relieve. That’s why I abandon my food schedule and show up in front of Pizza é Birra, one of the hippest pizzerias in the city.

É Birra has been sparking controversies among food writers, bloggers, and even basic food lovers. Some call it a ‘total disappointment’, both in presentation and taste (my sister is one of them). Others claim é Birra has given a tad of fresh air in boring Indonesia’s pizza world, which is dominated by two giant franchises; Pizza Hut and Dominos. I, for one, don’t give a single shit and keep on daydreaming about thin chewy dough and buffalo cheese. 

Calling é Birra beautiful is an understatement, the restaurant is a pure definition of modern urban interior. Standing proudly in the middle of giant fish pond in form of white modern gazebo, é Birra craves for anyone’s attention. Half of the gazebo is used for Kitchennete, a spanish-western-asian fusion restaurant specializing in dessert bar (we are going to talk about  that later). Even though relying on outdoor beauty, é Birra also provides indoor section with crazy flag decoration from all over the world, World Cup screening in flat screen TV, and warm romantic lights.  Continue reading

Bakerzin

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A few years ago, some 5 stars hotels introduced ‘high-tea tradition’ to Indonesia. In an instance, the new trend become viral. People want to taste, enjoy, and become a part of this high-tea tradition. Now, not only hotels, restaurants and cafes finally join the crowd and present their own versions of high tea time. Sometimes, it’s a hit. Most of the time, it’s a total miss for me.

I like to think that high-tea is an upgrade, more expensive version of regular tea-time. And just like regular tea-time, the quality of the cakes are only good when the tea is on par. More like a balance between the soothing, almost bitter aroma of the tea with the sweetness of the cakes. Most of those restaurants fail in delivering this balance, which results in messy pile of expensive hyper-sweet cakes and super-bitter tea.

Bakerzin surprisingly exceeds my expectations and deliver not only good tea and cakes, but also service, ambience, and price. Originated from Singapore, Bakerzin makes it’s own fortune by selling highly recommended shortcake and macaroons. Just like Nanny’s Pavillon, it begins to add some heavy foods, from pasta to grilled chickens, on it’s menu with carefulness and high quality controls. In short amount of time Bakerzin has been exceeding its competitors easily and gaining more fans all over the city. Knowing this fact, I happily stroll into one of it’s cozy cafes with my friend.  Continue reading