Jun Njan may be known to many people in Northern Jakarta area as a conservative Chinese restaurant held by at least two generations since the 1950s. Until quite recently, such ventures have undergone aggressive expansion done by their younger generations who notably received enlightening education from abroad. As I say over and over again to everybody every time they asked me about the current Jakarta or Bandung culinary scene these days, I said to them that these young people had learned a lot from their time abroad and brought all those alien concepts here to be implemented for their parents businesses.
That may not be the case for Jun Njan but the idle time is over and now is the time to show the world! Within a short period of time, Jun Njan has successfully established many branches in big cities of Indonesia especially Jakarta. Starting from the crowd-pleaser shopping mall, they have created a name for themselves much heard than their original restaurant in Batu Ceper. Even I, to be honest, thought at first that Jun Njan is an international brand Chinese restaurant franchise.
Not stopping there, during last Ramadhan, Jun Njan collaborated with Grand Indonesia to further their ‘ambition’ by inviting prominent food bloggers for an Iftar treat. Without further due, let us just skip the chit-chat and promotions from the sponsors and head for the appetizer.
Jun Njan, unfortunately for me, was introducing a series of dismal appetizers. The first one appeared to be promising and they even had to go through a lengthy unimpressive demonstration of how to prepare the dish. The hardest part was probably how to dismantle the lobsters and chop the meat into pieces before combining them with lettuce and finally mixing it all with a dose of disastrous longans with it. As the sauce, they also put some sort of mayo and they longans juice. The intention might be noble by sending the longans as the envoy for freshness from all the stuffy savory of lettuce, mayo, and lobster but it turned out to be a fluke! The sweetness and the size of the longans overpowered the remaining ingredients and it took effort and concentration just to savor the remaining goodness of the lobster. Lucky that Jun Njan is still at the stage of testing and preparation for this menu and I need to tell them to drop the idea. Instead, honor the death of the lobster by preparing something special for these exquisite ingredients.
The other steamed prawns were also not that special if not combined with the special sour sauce a la Jun Njan. It almost felt like the prawns were steamed and robbed of their lives for no reason at all. Instead we need to peel each of those prawns, forcibly joined a competition between bloggers of who gets to peel most prawns and finally, to savor the dismal pleasure. Again, please drop the idea for an appetizer like this. Both of the dishes didn’t successful at all to seduce me of going through the next phase if not because of my whole day fasting.
Chinese food usually inherent with the idea of sharing the meals together and in this case all the bloggers will share each angle of photography first and then with such enormous amount of curiosity combined with hunger, all of us then savor each one of those traditional Chinese dishes. We might have started with a modest amount of Seafood Fried Rice, which was delicious, distributed evenly in bowls but the feast was just far from beginning.
The upcoming dishes were the stars of the show and I must highlight some pros and cons. The arguably best ones coming from Jun Njan was probably the very succulent secret sauce a la Jun Njan that produces savory taste, colored dark, and from what I thought is most likely made out of oyster sauce. The beautiful, dark looking goodness was poured all over fried squid which was not made crispy. I’d say that it’s a new way to serve and show that squid is far from over in Chinese dishes where most people who I know usually aim for meat or prawns.
Previously I tried the Black Pepper Beef before and knowing that Jun Njan probably served one of the best in Jakarta therefore without further ado I treated myself more with that gorgeous and colorful dish. First of all they cubed the good quality beef and stir fried it just right making it tender and juicy. The thick but friendly black pepper sauce was a wow factor as well and the combination of three types of bell peppers contributed the stunning look of it.
The rest of the dishes such as the Braised Tofu with Jun Njan Sauce was not so special but still I have to admit that the tofu was well made and braised. The sticky sauce and some mushrooms also provide a good companion and in this case if you eat it also with steamed rice. Then came the Fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk which actually could be one of the contenders but then a bitter sign came from the ‘over’ fried prawns made the taste a bit bitter but thanks to the exotic egg yolk sauce, the dish still retains its honor.
The remaining two, Deep Fried Carp with Sweet and Sour Sauce and Fried Chickens with Butter Sauce are commonly heard and usually assumed to possess great taste. Some actually not in favor with sweet and sour sauce because they’d prefer something else while the fried chickens actually still promising. Then again the disastrous part was probably because of the fish which was pungent and not fresh then combining it with sweet and sour sauce, which I personally also not in favor as well, made it into a junk dish. Even the other table didn’t manage to finish this very dish. I didn’t know the reason though.
The chickens were fried crisp and inviting but it’s not a brilliant dish anymore since the butter sauce was not that powerful and I’d prefer a wetter dish like the one in Toko You, Bandung and if you take a look a bit at how Jun Njan priced their dishes, you’d hope that they would serve, instead, boneless chickens.
I will not attempt to enter myself discussing about the dessert which was not worth my time to discuss about it anyway but overall, based on my professional opinion, Jun Njan serves amazing main dishes but steer clean from some appetizers dishes as you might get overpowered by the awesomeness of ‘some’ of the main dishes. Desserts? There is no need since you might already be full at that point. The atmosphere was a bit darkly which might lower your real appetite, but I still found that the service was very commendable. I sensed that as well when they serve other tables unrelated to this event.
To wrap it up, Jun Njan. I am proud that you are one of the daring local envoys of Chinese cuisine and I hope that you will set the example of how local, conservative establishments could expand and express itself more not just in Jakarta but show it to the whole world. I bid thee a good luck, but it seems that you won’t need it anyway.
Halal-friendly (ask for the use of ang jiu in the dishes)
Grand Indonesia Shopping Town – West Mall Level 5, Jakarta (refer its website for other locations)
RSVP: 021 – 2358 1988
Opening Hours: Mall opening hours