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Category: Indonesia

Alila, Jakarta Jul 2015

Alila is an excellent 4-star hotel located towards the north of Jakarta city, in the district of Gambir. The hotel is located not far from the Independence Monument.

Gambir is an administrative district. In other words, there are many government offices and ministries around the hotel.

The street, along which the hotel is located, is definitely not glamourous. There are small run-down shops and garages. There are a couple of mini-marts along the same street as the hotel as well as a couple of small restaurants. There are no shopping malls nor supermarkets in the immediate vicinity. The nearest supermarket is Carrefour. As the hotel is towards the north of the city centre, its location makes for a good base to explore Sunda Kelapa and Old Batavia (Kota Tua)—– these places are near, the taxi fare will be cheaper and you can probably avoid a good few traffic jams.

Regardless of the surroundings, the hotel offers functional accommodation and hidden charms. The rooms feature contemporary, minimalist décor. All the usual amenities are available and the hotel provides free wifi.

I would highly recommend getting an Executive room. Executive guests enjoy access to the Executive Lounge on the 7th floor where great value and enjoyment await guests.

Alila beats innumerable other hotels in Jakarta by offering an a la carte breakfast menu (in addition to buffet items) at the Executive Lounge. When I first learnt about the a la carte menu, I was like, “Wow! This is like Ritz Carlton.”

The a la carte menu is pretty extensive and offers items such as:

Alila Big Breakfast
Two eggs cooked any style served with mushroom, grilled tomato, chicken/ beef/ pork sausage, bacon and breakfast potatoes.

3 Egg Omelet or Egg white Omelet
Prepared with your preference of tomato, mushroom, ham, bacon, cheese, onion, bell peppers and chilli and sausage

Eggs Florentine
Two poached eggs with ham and spinach. Served on toasted English muffin and Hollandaise sauce

Steak N’ Egg
Sirloin steak topped with fried egg and breakfast potatoes

Scrambled Salmon
Soft scrambled eggs with smoked salmon. Served with grilled tomato and wheat toast.

Served with cinnamon poached pears

With caramelized pineapple and maple syrup

Morning Burrito
Chorizo, peppers, cheese and scrambled eggs in a flour tortilla roll with tomato salsa and baked beans.

Bubur Ayam
Indonesian chicken porridge with boiled egg, Chinese croissant, leeks and fried shallot. Served with sweet soya sauce.

Soto Daging
Clear beef soup with vermicelli noodles and vegetables. Served with lime, emping crackers and sambal.

Japanese Miso Soup
With tofu, seaweed and served with steamed rice, broiled salmon, nori, tamago omelette and tsukemono pickles

Nasi Kuning
Indonesian yellow rice served with braised beef, shredded egg, vegetables, coconut salad, homemade sambal and crackers.

Even the excellent Shangri-la Jakarta offers only bacon, eggs, sausages and the like for its a la carte menu. During my stay at Alila, I never once bothered to head down to lobby restaurant for breakfast. I always had my breakfast at the Executive Lounge. The a la carte items here are delicious! You can order as many items as you want, as many times as you want. They are simply and elegantly presented. Overall, this calibre of product is just excellent value and far exceeds other Jakarta hotels.

Come evenings, the Executive Lounge offers a pretty good cocktail hour. There are 2 hot items, burritos, canapés, dessert, wine and cocktails. Interestingly, they always try to feature a few different types of chilli sauce from different parts of Indonesia.

Should you feel peckish at any time during the day, you can always head to the 2 restaurants in the hotel: Buzz and Shanghai Storm. Buzz is the all-day dining restaurant of the hotel. Being the all-day restaurant, I did not really have high expectations for it; I thought it would simply be average and exist to support the hotel. However, the restaurant far exceeded my expectations. The cuisine here is excellent.

Braised Oxtail Terrine and Scallops
Madura – East Java
With cauliflower, edamame, shallots, chilli lime dressing and oxtail essence
The scallops were thick, white and fresh. The chilli lime dressing added zing to the dish and totally enlivened it.

Fresh Squid Ink Pasta
Kepulauan Seribu
With prawns, garlic, semi-dried tomato, sambal olek and coriander

Pan Fried White Snapper
Lampung – Sumatera
Served with vegatables, peanut pickle, spicy tomato vinaigrette

Shanghai Storm offers authentic Chinese cuisine served in a casual setting. The dishes are offered in Tapas portion and Main Course portion, which makes it convenient to try many dishes.

Other things I enjoyed about the Alila:

Every evening, they would put little tea lights on the floor by the walls in the lobby. The lobby is transformed and the ambience became so magical. Who would have thought that such an inexpensive thing (tea light) would create so much value?

In the bathrooms, they provide chemical-free soap handmade from virgin coconut oil, palm oil, vegetable glycerine, honey and essential oils.

They have a great gym— big and very complete

The spa treatment rooms are spacious and clean.

The staff speaks good English. There is no problem communicating at all.

Alila definitely surpasses bigger and more expensive international chain hotels.

Trattoria, The East Building, Jakarta Jul 2015

“The Best Risotto I Ever Had”

Trattoria is a chain of authentic Italian restaurants with locations that stretch across Southeast Asia. A Tuesday afternoon found me at Trattoria The East Building, which is an office block, located at Mega Kuningan, a neighbourhood with a lot of office buildings.

This restaurant is helmed by Chef Bruno Paolo Olmi, who hails from Sardinia and has extensive experience working on ships, in his native Sardinia, Milan, Sydney. Unsurprisingly, in addition to the usual Italian favourites, this Trattoria branch specialises in Sardinia dishes.

Every meal here starts with a complimentary buchetta—- fresh tomatoes, a little lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, basil on crispy bread.

My antipasto was Insalata Tiepida Di Polpo Al Aceto Balsamico IDR95,000

Lukewarm octopus salad on a bed of rucola, cherry tomatoes and balsamic dressing
Using light, fresh ingredients and flavours, this is a great meeting of the sea and garden. Generous quantity of octopus is first boiled and then left to cool to a lukewarm temperature. The seafood is transferred to a bed of rucola and halved cherry tomatoes dressed with balsamic vinegar and a dash of olive oil. Refreshing! The satiating octopus has been cleverly balanced out by the raw vegetables and the balsamic vinegar.

Risotto Ai Fruitti Do Made E Asparagi IDR98,000

Italian Arborio risotto with mixed seafood, cherry tomatoes and asparagus
The risotto was outstanding. Firstly, garlic is sauteed in some olive oil. Then the seafood is added in and sauteed as well. Finally, the rice and fish stock is added in and some tomato juice is added for that lively vermilion colour. The rice is slowly simmered for 14 mins. When the rice is ready, some butter or olive oil is added for that rich creaminess. The chef claims this is normal Italian food but this is the richest risotto I ever had. The richness fills your mouth in the first mouth. The seafood is also very fresh.

Filetto Di Red Snaper Tricolore IDR145,000

Grilled red snapper served with cherry tomatoes, boiled potato and asparagus in lemon sauce
This is a Sardinian dish. Served on cherry tomatoes, boiled potato and asparagus, the baked red snapper fillets have the colours of the Italian flag- red, white and green as its base. The flavour comes from a buttery lemon sauce. The sauce is a small adaptation for Asian market. In Europe and America, they prefer fish to be dry.

This restaurant is always busy with executives from neighbouring offices. The restaurant buzzes even when lunch hour is over, with many business discussions taking place here. At such affordable prices, this is a hardworking, unpretentious restaurant that delivers better value than it looks.

All prices are subject to 10% government tax and 5% service charge.

Liberte, Jakarta

Located on the second floor of Galeries Lafayette at Pacific Place Mall, Liberte is a relaxed French brasserie that wows diners with flavorful, filling and earthy classic French style cooking.

Reminiscent of a leisurely stroll down the Champs-Elysees in Paris, with the Arc de Triomphe in the distance, Liberte is evocative of the chic and relaxed lifestyle of the French, who always have time for the best food and drink.

Complementing a warm and comfortable interior, Liberte’s menu is built foods which are stylish and elegant yet simple and hearty. The cuisine is undeniably French, utilising both traditional and modern cooking techniques and is partnered with attentive yet unobtrusive service, creating an enjoyable dining experience.

Tarte Flambe Beef

Chocolate Layer Cake

Tiger Prawn with Couscous, Coriander Sauce and Squid Croquette

Popular with the nearby office crowd, when I was there, the brasserie was busy past lunch time with executives from neighbouring offices talking business.

La Luce, Jakarta

La Luce is an intimate Italian fine dining restaurant located in the gleaming and manicured business district SCBD. Helmed by Executive Chef Alessandro De Boni, La Luce wows discerning palettes with innovative creations with the finest ingredients.


Sea Bass Carpaccio with Caviar and Green Apple Powder
The flavour works well. The green apple wakes up the palette and gets it ready for more. The fruit also goes (somewhat) with the lukewarm fish. The dish would have worked better if both the fish and apple were ice cold. That way, it would have been really refreshing to the palette. Moreover, for raw meat and fish, I would prefer if it was ice cold for food hygiene reasons. Also, just the thought biting into lukewarm raw meat/ fish is a little gross. It’s as if it has been left out in the open for some time.

Pan-seared Scallops on Polenta Cheese with Sun Dried Tomatoes

Freshly-made Spinach Tagliatelle with Lobster and Sea Urchin
This one is a winner. Interesting colours. Very rich flavour. The seafood is fresh.

Pan-seared Black Cod with Bell Pepper and Hazelnut Mousse, served with Almonds, Bell Pepper and Green Peas

This one works. Bite into the cod with some of the caramelised bell pepper and the saltiness of the fish and the sweetness of the bell pepper balance well.

Grilled Blackmore Striploin with Black Truffle, Pepper, Potato and Asparagus
Ahh…truffle. Its unmistakable aroma was immediately apparent when the dish arrived. Loved the fat content of the beef——- made the beef so soft and delicious.

What I liked most about this restaurant is its intimate ambience. The restaurant is not too big and comes complete with a bar top, a fire oven and beautiful private dining rooms. The restaurant can be a little hard to find so make sure you know the directions and not leave it up to the taxi driver.

Dapur Babah, Jakarta

Dedicated to keeping alive “the art, soul and romance of Indonesia”, Dapur Babah is the off-shoot of a personal project of the founder Anhar Setjadibrata.

When he was a student in Bali and working as a guide on the side, he was often asked by visitors where antiques could be bought. He was sorry to see these antiques go abroad. After forays into medical school and then law school, he became a successful lawyer. Having now the financial clout, he began collecting antiques. Over time, he had amassed so many antiques that he started his first hotel to display his antiques and to keep alive the idea of romance. From his first hotel in Malang, the business grew to eventually include Dapur Babah.

Taking over the space that was a tailor’s shop during the 1940s, each room in the restaurant—– the Babah room, the Sukarno room, the Angela room, was carefully and tastefully curated by the founder himself. The antiques include relics left over from the Dutch East Indies Company and the Ming Dynasty in China. It was impressive to be surrounded by so many antiques.

While pondering the evoked history, diners can enjoy authentic Peranakan cuisine. “Dapur” means kitchen and “Babah” is another word for “Peranakan”, a term that came about around colonial times in Jakarta to describe the fusion of the East and the West; when Dutch-influenced Javanese women married Chinese settlers. As such, Peranakan cuisine is a melange of Chinese, Javanese and Dutch influences. The menu here certainly reflects that. Dishes are organised into Javanese Peranakan cuisine, Chinese Peranakan cuisine and Dutch Peranakan cuisine. True to its name which hints at a homely influence, all the dishes at Dapur Babah are made from traditional recipes passed down through generations, so authenticity is guaranteed.

For an atmospheric ambience and authentic cuisine, Dapur Babah is a great bet.