Restaurant Review: Kembang Goela (Aquila-Asia, Jan-Feb 2011)

Kembang Goela is an exquisite addition among the small ranks of premium Indonesian cuisine in Jakarta. Located strategically but also somehow hidden from sights at a separated building resembling a house inside Plaza Sentral premises on Jalan Jend. Sudirman.

Kembang Goela symbolizes itself as a woman arrayed in colorful kebaya seated elegantly on a chair. This is a pose of a proud Javanese mother that brings the aura of dignity and royalty. The colors of red and pink of her kebaya represent bravery and tenderness. It happens also that the owners of this beautiful establishment are notably five ladies, a joint venture of sisters who share their love of Indonesian food.

Beautifully designed, Kembang Goela represents Indonesian antiquities with minimalist modern interior style. Separated into several sections, the common room is the main dining room. On the side of it we can see private rooms for families. The rest are the lounge room where customer awaits to be seated or for just plain coffee time and finally the Rijstaffel Room where they usually held conference, seminar, wedding or private banquet.

I particularly remember that there were some classic photographs of Javanese nobles during the Netherlands occupation in the lounge room. I remarked one beautiful picture where a Javanese noble arrayed beautifully in old noble attire, who had been also influenced by European style especially when you see the shoes, standing hand in hand with a Dutch officer. That makes it a very unique sight indeed which of course can be rarely seen these days even to the traditional royalties in Yogyakarta or Solo.

Mr. Williams, the PR of Kembang Goela told me once that there was once a group who specifically asked for this custom private banquet. The guests were all seated on a long table with each waiter attends to every one of them. The private dinner was designed special, similar to royalties of past where the attendants serve and wait for any of their master’s needs. For this occasion, he said that he had to collect enough employees to do such ‘massive’ scale of dinner from everywhere since they’re short of available personnel in Kembang Goela. That feels like a privilege used to be attained only by nobilities now available for everyone and in this case, by enjoying Indonesian dishes!

So what about the food? As we can see from its inner appearance, Kembang Goela presents Indonesian dishes fused up with late colonial heritage from the Dutch and a bit of Peranakan touch. This has always brought the color to Indonesian diet even until now. We can see easily, for example, during religious holidays where people usually bake Dutch-originated hampers or that we usually found many Peranakan dishes in hawkers everywhere. Truly, this is the reason why this assimilated cultures have become an integral part of Indonesian way even in the smallest scale.

Asinan Sayur

Even so, what I had that day was not particularly all about fusion dishes. I was specifically asked for their specialties starting from appetizers to dessert and Chef Ferry Hidayat has been a gracious host for introducing us with the best. The opener was the all fresh Kembang Goela’s Asinan Sayur or many people familiarly knew as Asinan Bogor. It consists of minced vegetables of carrots, bean sprouts, lettuce, and cauliflowers spread with fried ground nuts. What makes Asinan different than the usual rujak or other kind of salad is the use of peanut sauce and a dressing which consists of mixtures of vinegar, red chili, salt, and onions. These dressings then will be poured all over the vegetables and topped with spiral rice crackers. The mild spiciness and the fresh sour taste will guarantee everyone to enjoy it more and more. The Asinan Sayur is served on top of a vessel made of pineapple splitted in half, making it look fresh, inviting, and feels ‘tropical’. You might want to enjoy Asinan next time while you’re relaxing on a beach.

Dendeng Balado

For the main dish, we were presented with Kembang Goela’s specialty, the Dendeng Balado. Originated from Padang, Dendeng Balado has always become one of the most sought dishes within the ranks of many plates served all at once in every Padangnese restaurants. The dendeng was made out of cow’s thigh, boiled first and then sliced thinly before dried by soaking it under the sun. Once done, the dendeng will be fried and given sambal balado on the top. Chef Ferry version, however, is a bit different. The usual dendeng balado is usually a bit thicker and chewy but here, he made it thinner and crispier making it more like crackers in which Mr. Willy told me that once somebody, an indigenous Padangnese, protested this kind of version but he said that it’s Kembang Goela’s unique interpretation of Dendeng Balado. At any rate, it was good, crispy, spicy, but since it’s missing its Padangnese authenticity in it due to the thinness and the crispiness I suppose it’s no longer considered as a proper main dish anymore but more of just ‘crackers’ as I said before. Lucky it came with big portion for everybody but you should really need to order something more fulfilling than this.

We were also served with some side dishes for the main course. Both of them were Asem-Asem Iga and Tumis Genjer. The Asem-Asem Iga is a soup served on a small bowl made with tamarind stock which makes it sour. The soup filled with imported beef rib, belimbing wuluh (tree sorrel, still one family with the usual cucumber but smaller and more sour), and small green tomato. It was wonderful addition and the level of sourness instead of giving me a hard time with stomach, was refreshing and tasty.

The other company was the tumis genjer or sautéed velvetleaf. Velvetleaf is a rare commodity and can only be found mostly in Indonesia or South East Asia’s paddy fields. Velvetleaf is mild in texture and has long edible stems. Usually only sautéed with onions but such simplicity manages to produce a very satisfying taste. I would even eat it without a spoon be it in an casual place to dine and that’s how we originally do it the genuine way with Indonesian food.

Scrambled Pancake

For the dessert, Chef Ferry also presented the brand new dessert out of his own creation, the Scrambled Pancake. It’s not the usual pancake found in any pancake parlors in Jakarta because he made it from different dough, more of a poffertjes dough where there’s a certain degree of chewiness in it. He also put caramels with the dough and once baked, it’s poured with caster sugar, raisins, and strawberries. It’s not Indonesian at all but hey, that was fresh, creative, and a good indulgence for a dessert. How was it anyway? Delectable and sweet but somehow I missed the presence of a scoop of the good ol’ vanilla ice cream.

With many selections of colorful authentic Indonesian and fusion dishes plus the fact that I felt very comfortable during my visit here, I would really suggest that you should book your lunch or dinner early because it’s gonna be swarming with many businessmen during lunch and those who fancy good Indonesian cuisine for dinner while waiting for the traffic to be cleared. So steer you wheels here during such hours after you book because you’ll enjoy hours of good dining here.

KEMBANG GOELA

Plaza Sentral, Jl. Jend. Sudirman Kav. 47-48, Jakarta – Indonesia

RSVP : 021 – 520 5625

Delivery Availability: Dine in only.

Halal Meter: Halal. No pork dishes and no lard at all. All meats and poultry are local except for ribs and oxtails are imported from New Zealand.

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes. All is customizable for vegetarian needs. You can even order something out of the menu but expect waiting time for preparation.

Ambience & Interior: Modern minimalist with a touch here and there of Indonesian colonial heritage antiquities, gloriously fused, creating a grandeur display. The contemporary Indonesian classic music brings back the memory and making it an extravagant nostalgic moment.

Service: Very prime. Everything was done swiftly, helpfully, and you will be attended from time to time for your needs.

Pricing: Appetizers, Soups, and Light Meals IDR 19,500 – IDR 87,500; Mains IDR 39,500 – IDR 175,000; Desserts and Traditional Drinks IDR 20,000 – IDR 37,000.

Recommended Dishes: Sosis Om Yance (One meter chicken sausage), Iga Bakar (grilled ribs), Buntut Bakar (grilled oxtails), Asinan Sayur, Dendeng Balado, Rijst Koening Kembang Goela (Indonesian yellow rice with many accompaniments), Tumis Asparagus, Tahu Telor Bledek.

Reservation: Recommended.

Operating Hours: Opens daily from 11 AM to 11 PM.

Payment Methods: All cards accepted.

-As seen in Aquila Asia Jan-Feb 2011 Edition (unedited)-

-Photos courtesy of Saesarez Novandito and Aquila Asia Magazine-

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