First of all, I have to thank my favorite chef Antoine Audran of Java Bleu for letting me know about the best place to enjoy Middle Eastern dishes on Jalan Raden Saleh and clearly, Al Jazeerah itself is already perfect choice. Been here for like three or four times and Al Jazeerah manages to keep its consistency. So what’s it like inside?
Jalan Raden Saleh, the very street it presided at, is the main street that connects Matraman area and Cikini which makes it really busy from morning until even after sundown. Businesses flourish here and there’s a tremendous amount of Middle Eastern people seem to be directed around this area either by tradition, travel agencies, or anything else. That’s also why Jalan Raden Saleh becomes the haven for Middle Eastern cuisine in Jakarta, although it may be a bit upscale-ish if compared with other areas such as Condet or Manggarai.
Well, in any case, I have never yet ventured that far aside from Al Jazeerah on this street. However, thanks to my wife’s newly found interest in this particular genre, I suppose we’re now on the right track to explore more from this territory!
In terms of appearance, I can say that Al Jazeerah is not well-designed. With limited parking space, awkward placements for the interior, and its tacky design, one may not be pleased by just gazing it. All it takes left is to check the babies from the kitchen as Al Jazeerah promotes a very extensive Middle Eastern dishes both authentic and some are fused with Western style by using French fries, for instance. Also one thing, if this is your first time, then rest assured that you’re in good hands since the waiters there are excelled in Arabic and highly knowledgeable.
Best to start with the refreshing cold mezzeh (cold appetizers) whenever you’re here. A combination of Arabian pocket bread with mutabbal (roasted eggplant with sesame paste), taboulah/tabouleh (tomato, cucumber, parsley, lemon juice, and olive oil). fathus/fatoush (similar with taboulah but added with crackers), baba ghanuuj/baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant, tomato, parsley), and the dipping sauce of yogurt with mint and garlic would become one of the best openers you’ve ever tasted in your entire life! Not only that they are all came from fresh ingredients and very appetizing, but at the same time you can feel the elegantly rustic mixture of rich flavors and textures.
Alternatively, starting with hot mezzeh (hot appetizers) such as arayes (pita bread filled with lamb), hummos lahamb (hummus and lamb), martabak, or mulgalgal (sauteed lamb liver) should prep you up well also for the next round.
Yes, it’s time for basmati rice with chicken or lamb, served in a really huge portion, suitable for 2-3 persons at once! Choose between the different flavors of kabsah, mandi, biryani, kabli, or matbi for the rice and pair it with grilled lamb or chicken. Starting with mandi or biryani will be good for starters as they possess the savoriness that we all familiar with. Other options, such as kabsah, is cooked with tomatoes to make it red and the rest is pretty much mysterious even for me. It’s like one type of rice at a time whenever I visit Al Jazeerah! So much fun indeed.
To seal the day, umm ali or muhalabiah should be your option for desserts. The original umm ali or what we know as bread and butter pudding, may be too milky or rich for us Indonesians. However, Al Jazeerah’s version has been adjusted well with our taste, but at the same time, the restaurant masterfully attracts Middle Eastern customers as well! It’s like achieving something that Sushi Tei cannot even reach as most Japanese expats prefer to enjoy their native dishes from individual restaurants inside office premises, far from public knowledge.
So, does Al Jazeerah knows how to customize the taste of each dish in accord with the patron’s nationality every time? Again, it’s a mystery from behind the kitchen, but for me it’s always been a pleasure to visit this restaurant anytime of the day.
Thanks for the recco, Chef Antoine!
Some menu suitable for vegetarians
Address: Jalan Raden Saleh no. 58, Jakarta – Indonesia
Opening hours: Everyday, 11.30 am – 10.30 pm
Spend: IDR 150,000 – IDR 250,000 for two