I consider Umaku as the one and only local sushi haunt that I really like and my friends even fancy their omakase for its reasonable price. However, I will keep the restaurant story for some other time and instead, let us focus on its chef and co-owner, Slamet “Uki” Basuki.
Chef Uki is an accomplished sushi chef and a restaurateur, but that not was not how it all started for him. Aside from his home cooking background during his school days, he originally wanted to work out on the sea. “I used to think that studying seamanship would land you a really good paying job, but on the contrary, it wasn’t at all for me for some reason. However, to make ends meet during my student years, I worked as an apprentice at a sushi restaurant,” he says.
That was probably the time when he realized that running a sushi restaurant could be a promising business he thought in the back of his mind, since you could only find a handful of sushi joints then. What’s favorable for him was that he can learn about the business directly under the tutelage of a Japanese sushi chef there. “I was simply inspired by his work and I always wanted to learn about everything that he does. I jotted down every recipe and practiced a lot. Not long after, he gave me more responsibility”, Chef Uki reminisced.
During the period, Chef Uki encountered a loyal customer in the late Gatot Purwoko who was fond of his work. Chef Uki shared with us their conversation, “He said that we should work together after he retires sometime. Several years later he called and told me that the deal was on!” From there, they started Umaku together and Chef Uki went to the length of learning more on how to appreciate sushi in its authentic way and trained his palate by going to Japan, guided by his former mentors.
Despite the exquisite ingredients he often works with on a daily basis, he confessed that eventually, what he really fancies most are his wife’s cooking. “I can never get enough of my wife’s tempe. She can fry it straight, or dices it into orek tempe, or anything, me and my family will never get tired of it!” said the chef.
There we were then, while exchanging our thoughts about sushi and sashimi altogether on the same dining table, we savored the best from his wife’s home dishes. Everything was impeccably delicious, starting from the tempe, salted fish, lalapan, sayur asem, and a really good yet spicy sambal. “You can’t beat this with something else for us Indonesians, right?” challenged the chef.
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE May 2014 edition
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Photos by: Dennie Benedict