Jakarta sits at the intersection of some of the most unique and explosive food in all of Asia. Hell, I would say, the most unique foods across the world! While Indonesian cuisine may not be instantaneously familiar to many Americans, the cuisine’s roots can be seen in many dishes all around Asia. In fact, if you look at the surrounding cuisines such as Malaysian, Thai and Chinese, you’ll clear notice that there are clear signs of Indonesian influences. For example, nasi goreng, an Indonesian fried rice, is a beloved favorite in both Malaysia and Singapore and are commonly found in lots and lots of food stalls/restaurants. Even the base ingredients such as coconut milk and curry are common ingredients used in many different cuisines. Therefore, enabling people who love Malaysian, Thai and Filipino food, feel right at home with each bite of Indonesian cuisine.
Street food can be a cantankerous topic to many western eaters. I, myself, am a huge fan of street/hawker center foods and will always jump at the opportunity to try as many street varieties as I can. With a rich street food culture, Jakarta is a food destination that easily rivals places such as Penang, Singapore and Taipei as the ultimate street food experience. But, Foodamentals does understand that not everyone is as adventurous.
JJ Royal Brasserie, located at the Lotte Shopping Avenue in Southern Jakarta, melds the best of the Indonesian street food world with the comfort and elegance of an upscale western eatery. The restaurant serves authentic Indonesian fares with a sanitary standard that is bar none, one of the very best in all of Asia. Essentially, JJ Royal Brasserie has taken the best of Indonesian street food and brought it indoors in a comfortable, inviting and accessible manner. We were fortunate to have met Eric Dharma, owner of JJ Royal Brasserie, and his ridiculously friendly staff who enthusiastically introduced us to some amazing Indonesian food.I don’t know quite how to describe the decor, but damn, is it pretty awesome. Anime-inspired caricature of Japanese geisha dolls(which, for some reason, reminds me of the Bratz line of fashion dolls) adorn the ceiling, chairs and walls. Pop music and top-40 hits give the entire experience a very modern and “with it” feel that reminds me of a French cafe, but with a lot more flair. The space is definitely impressive and the wait staff all have fluent English abilities so out-of-towners won’t be left in the dark.
Typically, western fried poultry is breaded, producing a thick, satisfying crunchy coat on the outside of the white meat. Whereas most Asian-style fried meats opt for a more “natural” presentation style that leverages the use of sauces to augment the meat. Bebek Goreng is a Presto cooked(pressure cooker) & fried half duck in bumbu kuning(Indonesian seasoning), served with steamed long grain rice, crackers, lalap(raw vegetable salad) & sambal ijo(sambal sauce). Usually, when duck meat is fried, the meat comes out really dry since duck meat is naturally fatty. JJ Royal Brasserie‘s bebek goreng was juicy and the skin gave off a great crunch that really surprised me. When paired with the sambal ijo, it was pure bliss.
Soto Pak Kumis
Soto pak kumis is a unique wheat based noodle dish that looks absolutely glorious. This Indonesian version of noodle soup(with beef) is served with accompaniments that lets you change the flavor profile of the soup to suit your taste. Whether it is added spice, crunchy spring rolls or a pinch of sourness from the limes, this is one of the most complex, yet delicious noodle dishes I have ever eaten. The beef stock amplifies the taste of the wheat noodles, but does not overpower it. Pieces of beef round out the dish. I tend to think of this noodle soup as one that is designed for the carnivorous eater in all of us. Soto pak kumis contains beef stock, egg, yellow noodle, kwayteow, bihun, Indonesian spring rolls, potatoes served with thin emping crackers
Cempedak Goreng JJ
Admittedly, most of my experience with jackfruit has been either in its raw fruit form or in the form of chips. Jackfruit isn’t something that we can readily get in the United States, but I make sure that on every visit to Southeast Asia, I make sure to stuff my face full of it. JJ Royal Brasserie’s version of jackfruit comes in a deep fried batter served with a contrasting palm sugar sauce that is infused with pandan leaf. The fried jackfruit has a great crunchy outside that contrasts with the milder/smoother texture of the jackfruit. The palm sugar sauce adds a sweet calming effect to the overall experience and I truly believe, for many westerners who haven’t ever eaten jackfruit before, this is a fantastic entryway in doing so.
Nasi Goreng JJ
The quintessential Indonesian dish. Nasi goreng is beloved not only in Indonesia, but all around Southeast Asia. It is essentially Indonesian’s version of fried rice with the notable difference being the addition of sweetened soy sauce(kecap manis), tamarind and chili powder. Not only do these ingredients give the dish a beautiful brownish/red tint when compared to say, Chinese fried rice, but the taste of the spices really hits the back of your tongue so that you KNOW you are eating nasi goreng. While nasi goreng is served at every single Indonesian restaurant in the country, JJ Royal Brasserie really nails it with the addition of bits of fried chicken and chicken satay. I mean, who doesn’t love fried chicken and chicken satay? In that regard, JJ Royal Brassier is the big winner here. Ingredients for this dish include long grain rice, fried chicken, chicken satay, sunny side up egg & cucumber served with thin emping crackers & prawn crackers.
JJ Royal Brasserie is a must go, especially if you find yourself in Jakarta and need a great food primer. I had an opportunity to try different street foods around Jakarta and JJ Royal Brasserie does not play second fiddle to any of those hawkers. For the Americans reading this, if you like Thai food, you will definitely love Indonesian food and what better place to experience than in a comfortable and familiar surrounding? Prices are reasonable, the wait staff is courteous and the ambience is in a class all by itself. Seriously, if you make it down to Jakarta, JJ Royal Brasserie should be amongst your first stop in your food quest. Foodamentals can’t recommend this place enough!