As a staunch proponent of classical cuisine, Chef Degan Septoadji presents the evergreen home food with a twist of his own at the brand new restaurant – Letter D.
We knew him as the calm, collected, and the most experienced of all the judges in MasterChef Indonesia. His honorific career spanning for around three decades in international kitchens was unparalleled. A few years ago, Chef Degan Septoadji made a sensational move to start his own restaurant in Bali. It may be a jaw-dropping moment from his peers’ point of view but ultimately, it was a success.
Now, he starts his debut in Jakarta with an admirable share of confidence. Letter D., as adopted from the initial of his name, describes his life in a canvass of culinary excellence and the desire to achieve perfection through simplicity.
Chef Degan knows well that are challenges coming with this course.
“We have to really make sure that everyone knows what they are doing and that everything is well-made, prepared, and has a twist of my own”, he said.
His two-storey restaurant is an all-round type and showcases complete offerings from the kitchen, the bar, and a specialty coffee bar in the corner. Those who know his background will aim for what he does best, but the option to chill out with the drinks or the coffee cannot be left out. The coffee itself is sourced locally and managed by Tanamera, the artisanal coffee shop that has gained prominence since last year.
A glance at the menu is enough to tell that each of us is returning back to our familiar terrain with comfort food.
“Café Degan in Bali shows how patriotic I am with my Indonesian dishes, but for Letter D., it’s about me being myself”, the chef explained it simple but sure.
“Like Khao Yum for instance. Anywhere it may look like another salad. But when my staff back at Banyan Tree in Thailand made that for me for the first time… Wow! The explosion of flavors overwhelmed me and I was utterly impressed. That’s why my Khao Yum should achieve that intensity”.
He even gave a look of his customers’ surprised expressions when they first tried the salad.
I can immediately relate to that as I traversed through the audacity found behind that simple lettuce look. There were roasted coconut, coriander, mint, and the brave flavor coming out of the kaffir lime with chilies. The whole thing becomes complete with the addition of ebi and rice as well inside.
The authenticity of flavors found with Khao Yum was also found with Chef Degan’s Thai beef salad and the Mediterranean’s avocado prawn salad, but also from the main course.
His genius twist to modernize and elevate sayur lodeh, everybody’s favorite home food, was an admirable effort that works like magic. It is something that will only be achieved by someone who knows the origin well and has the ability to intelligently deliver it.
Chef Degan utilized the most intense part of the santan soup and he whisked it to give the thick texture. He presented it beautifully with sayur lodeh’s usual companions like carrots and chayote, all diced up nicely and each had its own crispness. On top of it, a perfectly cooked and velvety salmon with pounded tempe all lined up on the fish. Beautiful!
I am also happy to say that among its classic peers like sate ayam or nasi goreng, the char-grilled short ribs which derives its inspiration from kambing guling was also an exemplary choice from the mains. The foil-baked snapper with marinara style should be a good substitute if you wish to have lighter flavors.
There may be plenty of expectations from his fans but as one of them, I was thoroughly content. As much as it was intriguing to finish my meals with the classic Eton Mess for dessert that day, but I was more inclined to have it after a porterhouse steak next time with my friends.
Halal-friendly (alcohol is served)
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians
Jalan K.H. Ahmad Dahlan no. 16, Jakarta – Indonesia
Opening hours: Daily, 11am – 11pm
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Feb 2015 edition
Download it for free here via SCOOP!
Photography by Dennie Ramon