TGA Milestone: What’s Cooking in 2012?

Dear readers,

How are you?

I hope you are in tiptop shape since it’s about time to enter a new year and I bet you have great agendas to celebrate it.

As for me, I am currently having a peaceful one, partly because I’m rejuvenating myself after a tiring but joyous 2011 and also aiming for new things. There is no time to stop thinking about what I want to invent and having great fun in-between.

First thing first is perhaps to fill in the gaps I made in some sections still written as TBA. Next is to present the most convenient way to share the details about ratings, addresses, etc. So in all, it’s still pretty much the same but my idealistic thoughts won’t let me, forever, to present something half-baked.

So assume that I will treat you the best of my ability as a writer, a critic, an aficionado, a cook, a photographer, a moviegoer, a traveler, and anything that I could seek and share for my satisfaction and yours! Let’s pray that we have the strength to carry on and bring the best!

Well, that’s it from me and see you next year! Thanks always and God bless.

RF

Restaurant Review: Aoki (Aquila Asia, Nov-Dec 2011)

Fresh Sashimi

Heralding the true flavour of Japanese cuisine from Nagoya, Aoki now completes its resurrection with a dashing new look and exciting new dishes. Its compatriot upstairs Le Gran Mahakam has successfully indulged Aquila Asia in the past edition, now it’s the time of truth for the new Aoki.

Aoki has actually become a fine addition to a city that no longer strange to Japanese culture. But to stand up against the tide of overwhelming competition, it had to undergone an intense makeup since the late 2010 until very recent, Aoki finally reopens and ready to get into the competition again.

The place it resides in, the Mahakam Street, is actually in heavy conjunction with Blok M and Melawai vicinities which have always been known traditionally as the most Japanese district in Jakarta. Take a look at, for instance, the Little Tokyo area just nearby all geared up with Japanese izakaya (Japanese bar), restaurants, hotels and Japanese supermarkets. While it’s a common thing for most Japanese expatriates to reside in Southern Jakarta salubrious districts during their tenure here but the thing is that they do have one common taste they longed for, Japanese restaurant with a very Japanese flavour.

Shabu Shabu

That’s probably one of the reasons why originally Aoki, hailed from a famous eatery back in Nagoya, was franchised by Gran Mahakam. As the basics, Mr. Ignatius Suyanto, the manager of Aoki for the past decade exclaims that Aoki still imported sauces such as wafu (Japanese vinaigrette dressing) and ponzu (Japanese vinegar and citrus dressing) straight from the original Aoki. However with the appearance, Aoki also daringly produces new dishes infused with modern fusion Japanese as well as retaining the originals such as mentioned on the tagline, sukiyaki (Japanese sweet hot pot) and shabu-shabu (Japanese savoury hot pot). Mr. Suyanto further explains that to maintain the quality it’s a must for the backbones in kitchen department to receive specific education first abroad at Aoki in Nagoya.

So how does it look like now? Enter from the special entrance for Aoki, you will then be escorted to a stairway heading for the lower level of the hotel. Suddenly the intensity of dark and elegant surroundings of blackish floors, green lights, modern partitions and finally the oriental wooden parquets will seize you and taking you instantly to the twilight world of Aoki. It’s so different now! What used to be perceived as an old fashioned restaurant has now evolved itself into an elegant yet intimate dining scene. Beautiful though personally, I think that no matter how this facade may cater your privacy needs but surely a constant gloomy appearance can actually ruin your appetite especially when you encounter a type of cuisine known with its beauty in its presentation.

Surely Aoki has plenty to offer besides that and clearly it never ran short with fresh and inviting openers. For example, if you happen to stumble upon tobiko (flying fish roe) salad, a combination of kyuri (Japanese cucumber), carrot, nori (seaweed), flying fish roes, with wafu  dressing, then you are guaranteed with a boosted appetite.

Fresh Crab Handroll

Aoki’s signature fresh crab hand rolled sushi is probably the most intriguing one since it’s quite rare in Jakarta to find a sushi joint that consider a substitution for the use of nori. Instead they use the soya paper which actually tasteless but acceptable for the use in creating sushi or maki and still they look very appealing. The interior which consists of rich and tender combination of crab and tuna are definitely what makes this hand rolled sushi more than just edible but also very delectable!

Dry Sukiyaki

Next if you’re heading straight for the specialties, make sure at least you see how Aoki’s preparing the newly invented dish called dry sukiyaki, served moist unlike the original which usually served with the broth but amazingly still preserve the true flavour of real sukiyaki. Though what you usually experience with sukiyaki and shabu-shabu is when people surround, cook and eat from a hot pot full of thinly sliced beef and plenty of beautiful vegetables. A very hearty meal indeed! But here in Aoki, it’s served individually, one by one in turn, thus making it lack in the togetherness value.

Nevertheless it’s undoubtedly delicious thanks to the supreme quality of the Wagyu beef, fresh vegetables and most of all, the secret concoction of Aoki’s sukiyaki sauce. Then again, if you wish to rekindle the family values, you can always choose the original sukiyaki or the shabu-shabu cooked on the middle of your dining table over a kaminabe (hot pot made from paper).

Homemade Ice Cream

For the closure, make sure to enjoy Aoki’s special homemade matcha (green tea) or ogura (red beans) served on a vase filled with dry ice and that makes the ice cream looks steaming up and very alluring. Surely what other wonderful way to wrap up your dinner if not with a thick and fulfilling bowl of ice cream? Even the kids would love to have it more!

With such apparent result, the rejuvenation of Aoki was indeed not a futile effort though also not without its flaws. It’s arguably a terrific option for business or a private session but a family dine out actually requires a more vigorous surroundings. Even so, you’d still be very impressed with how they treat you as kings and queens. Not to forget also, the gorgeous dishes and how flavoursome they are. It’s Aoki, ladies and gentlemen.

AOKI

Gran Mahakam Hotel. Jl. Mahakam I No. 6 Blok M, Jakarta 12130, Indonesia

Website: http://www.granmahakam.com

Facebook: Gran-Mahakam-Hotel

Twitter: @granmahakam

RSVP: 021 – 720 99 66

Halal Meter: Halal-friendly.

Vegetarian Friendly: Yes.

Reservation: Recommended especially for Sunday Brunch and group meetings.

Opening Hours: TBA

Price: TBA

-As seen in Aquila Asia Nov-Dec 2011 Edition (unedited)-
-Photos courtesy of Gran Mahakam Hotel and Aquila Asia Magazine-

Restaurant Review: Madeleine Bistro (Hang Out Jakarta, October 2011)

Meet Madeleine Bistro, the latest French eatery di Kemang yang berbaur di dalam kemegahan gedung Kemang 89. Sebetulnya terlihat dari luar Kemang 89 lebih seperti butik desain interior seperti banyaknya bisnis serupa di Kemang tapi tunggu dulu, cobalah masuk lebih dalam lagi and meet Mademoiselle Madeleine.

Seriously it’s not the name of the proprietor tapi rasakan senyum terkembang seiring langkah mendekati keberadaannya. Lantas yang terlihat adalah suatu tempat yang jauh dari bayangan bistro Perancis yang rustic, owing to the new building of course, tapi mereka mendesainnya agar tetap terasa hangat. More like a family restaurant with a personal touch. Hanya yang janggal adalah Madeleine Bistro bertetangga langsung dengan Decorus, sang toko desain interior tersebut.

On for the gourmet stuffs shall we?

Yang eksotik khas Perancis tentu adalah Madeleine’s Escargots yang sayangnya tidak tersaji secara tradisional di plat a escargot tapi rasanya masih belum sekaya escargot yang pernah dimasak langsung oleh native chef Perancis dari sebuah restoran lain yang pernah saya kunjungi di Jakarta. Still, all those garlicky buttery sinful goodness still gonna make you drool anyway. Yang tidak kalah seru adalah Nicoise Salad yang tersusun cantik dan lezat dengan tambahan potongan pan seared tuna yang lezat.

Tapi highlights malam itu ada untuk Roasted Pumpkin Chowder dan Duck Confit. Keduanya sebetulnya cocok dan saling sahut menyahut. Sup yang satu ini benar-benar terasa segar, manis, gurih, dan menggelitik semua indera untuk segera melanjutkannya dengan the real deal from main dish! Sempat ragu bahwa rasa labunya tidak akan terasa namun itu benar-benar dugaan yang salah! Justru rasa kuat dari labu sukses terpadu dalam kuah sup yang kental dan kaya serta wangi dari cinnamon. Selain itu rasa ayam dan apel yang menyegarkan sungguh membuat chowder ini menjadi menu pembuka yang sangat menyenangkan!

Escargot & Duck Confit

Segera lanjutkan saja dengan paha bebek Perigord yang legendaris. Sungguh rasa bebek ini begitu sempurna. Pertama adalah rasa daging yang lembut dan matang bersama-sama dengan bagian fatty dari bebek tersebut yang gurih. Selain itu kulitnya yang crispy benar-benar menambah semangat melahapnya. Tapi jangan khawatir, Madeleine Bistro mau berepot-repot menyediakan salad yang kaya sebagai pendamping bebeknya so steer away from salad for appetizer then. Also if the duck’s getting heavy, simply combine it with the orange from the salad! That’s one helluva beautiful combination.

Penutupnya terang apalagi kalau bukan menu rahasia Madeleine Bistro yaitu Semifreddo kopi yang wangi dan nikmat. Or care to try the strawberry and blueberry mousse?

Either way, it was a wondrous experience at Madeleine Bistro. I’m in awe.

Rating: ***

Address: Jl. Kemang no. 89, Jakarta 12730

Phone: 021 – 7179 4538

Cash and all cards accepted

Website: http://www.madeleinebistro.co.id/

Twitter: @madbistrojkt

Facebook: Madeleine-Bistro

Price: Appetizers and Soup IDR 40K – 185K, Main Dishes IDR 75K – 150K, Grills IDR 285K – 305K, Desserts IDR 40K – 45K

Opening Hours: 11 am – 11 pm daily

-Featured in HANG OUT JAKARTA October 2011 edition-