Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Miscellaneous Food: Jakarta Part Two

On the second night, we ventured out to Kemang for some dinner at Payon. Kemang is the entertainment area in Jakarta, filled with pubs and cafes, including this lovely outdoor restaurant.

We were warned to bring some lemongrass or repellant, given the gardens surrounding the eating area and this is very good advice, also, do sit under the lights and nearer to the central area and kitchen if you're trying to avoid feeding the mosquitoes.

It's definitely worth a trip though, as the decor is quite aunthentic (although still a little cute, for example, the thin rice paper menus come ensconsed a locked-up wooden book and the food is very good. It's prepared by an open kitchen of chefs, who work behind the counters as you watch.

The food, I found was more simple than the other restaurants but wholesome,freshly prepared and served piping hot. It was also decidedly cheaper than the rest of the restaurants, I think a full meal here came up to perhaps SGD$10-12 a person.

The star of the show here though, was definitely the spring rolls. We're such greedy glutton asian girls that we ordered the spring rolls almost everywhere we went and these were fairly unusual. What made them good was the home-style filling, very full and crunchy, but it was also the thin yet crispy skin, which was a curious tan brown colour (as opposed to the usual pale chinese egg spring roll wrappers).

True to form, we also ordered the weirdest sounding vegetable dish on the menu. I don't even know what this is called, or if it indeed has an English name but it's like a mix between mustard greens and celery leaves. It was delicious though and not at all sharp tasting.

Payon is not fancy but its not declasse either (the steamed rice came in a woven basket, as opposed to shaped like an elephant or wrapped in banana leaves) but it was the best meal we had over the course of the trip, as it was hearty, well-cooked and almost, healthy.

The one thing that wasn't great though and which left us pretty disastisfied, was the desserts and drinks at Payon. This is a strawberry something-or-other that we ordered and it came, disturbingly, with grass jelly and selesek seeds. It was like cough medicine, quite undrinkable.

We were so dissatisfied with seemed a sad end to a lovely meal, that we thought to go to Cafe Batavia in the north part of Jakarta for our dessert. This is a old and venerated establishment, during the normal times, I've heard of swing nights and socials here but tonight, it was empty except for the three of us.

When it's that quiet, it's quite ghostly, I guess given its post-colonial Straits Bar feel. It really is a lovely place, with arched ceilings, old rattan furniture and fronds hanging from the ceiling. We had two desserts, a lemon tart and a strawberry cheesecake.

The light was quite bad inside and the photos didn't turn out very well so I won't post them here but suffice to say, they were adequate but not particularly special and the lemon tart came with a garnish that was dark chocolate sauce and some bright blue carucao sauce intertwined.

The trip also ended somewhat nightmarishly, because after paying a pretty expensive price for the two mediocre desserts, we boarded a taxi which drove us straight into a police barricade (for those Jakarta-bound, the restaurant is near the red-light district and is a pretty sensitive place for police and political rallies during the Ramadan month).

Our cab was swarmed by a group of men who insisted on raiding our bags, asking our age, marriage status, nationality and religion and then hauling us to a desolate police station to wait for 3 hours until our passports arrived and we paid money to free ourselves. Trust Developing Asia.

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