Fish head curry? Then come to Medan Baru, as people would say in Jakarta. However, there’s more to the story behind this restaurant that has existed for four decades now. Come and join us as we unravel the mystery behind their good food and excellent service.
There will always be a feast of food when one decides to have his lunch or dinner at a Minang restaurant. Whether it is at a lapau or small restaurants in residential neighborhoods or at big, notable restaurants in the main streets; they will still offer you dishes numbering at least a dozen. Not many, however, knew that each restaurant is supposed to have its own specialty dish.
While specialty dishes are usually mentioned on the signboard of each restaurant that I encountered back then in West Sumatra, I never saw the common case happens here in Java. So anyone would make their own choice among the array of delicacies presented on the dining table. Some would opt for rendang, gulai tunjang, or ayam pop for example.
As for the case of Rumah Makan Medan Baru in Krekot, Central Jakarta; it is impossible to not know that its specialty is the gulai kepala ikan kakap and other interesting choices influenced not just purely from West Sumatra’s legacy of recipes but also from a bit of Acehnese and North Sumatran.
It was by the initiative of Mr Ibrahim A. Wahab who started his business here around 40 years ago. Learning his tricks of the trade from the previous restaurant he was employed at, he decided that he should start his own a few years after that. “I started out as a dishwasher and working hard can get you your own restaurant in the end”, says Pak Ibrahim.
The evolution of RM Medan Baru is a natural one as the idealistic nature of Pak Ibrahim calls him to nurture everything in details when it comes to service, food, and the whole business. Carefully over the past decade, Pak Ibrahim has opened up two branches at Sunter, Puri Indah, and renovated his signature restaurant here with better facilities.
When it comes to quality, Pak Ibrahim is very picky with his choice of ingredients. “Our mackerel’s head came fresh from Lampung or Papua, I personally supervise every ingredient coming fresh daily from the market, and even for the orange juice; we pride ourselves by using the best from Acehnese oranges”, explains Pak Ibrahim to the length that he wants to achieve certain characteristics of taste for his food and the importance of sustaining the quality every single day.
With this standard, even the staffs became very attentive with the needs of the customers. “We always make sure that the food came in with the right temperature and they will take care of small but important things like for example, asking if you need additional rice. We want to deliver it warm for you every time”, he adds.
Among the rarity found in RM Medan Baru when compared with its peers is the appearance of several unique dishes, there’s an addition to the rich fish head curry which is the epitome of what Medan Baru stands for in the past four decades. The restaurant also offers fried green pigeon, sop buntut with tomato-based broth, fish tail curry, duck curry, chayote leaves cooked in coconut milk, and asam ganja as an excellent condiment.
With the good reputation made over the years, it has become common for RM Medan Baru to cater the VVIPs of the country and also foreign people specifically coming to entertain their senses at the restaurant. “We often receive guests from cities far outside Jakarta and up to Singaporeans or Malaysians. They often take away our fish head curry back home as an oleh-oleh”, says Pak Ibrahim.
Lunch time at any popular restaurant may feel chaotic and disorganized but thanks to Pak Ibrahim instructions, the staff can still allocate everyone to their seats immediately. A group by the dozen is a common sight during rush hours. The use of technology to communicate between staffs helps a lot to ease the traffic of customers. Moreover, the staffs responsible with the food are working fast to deliver it fresh for those who have sat. Everything can be achieved well in such a short period.
In the meantime, Pak Ibrahim greets the incoming guests and hover around the restaurant to personally see that their needs are fulfilled. Not long, he came by and gave out a good trick on how to enjoy the fish head curry to maximum pleasure. What is it? Well, it is something that you have to learn from personally the next time you’re there.
From this we learn that upon the fourth decade of its existence, Rumah Makan Medan Baru has set a new standard of service and quality for a restaurant specializing in Minang cuisine. Although customarily people came to dine briskly and would complain of nothing else aside from the food, there’s a degree of elaboration to smoothen up the whole process for the sake of their comfort.
This is what Pak Ibrahim is good at and the restaurant is known reputedly other than its scrumptious offering that we all in love so much.
RM MEDAN BARU
Some dishes are suitable for vegetarians
Jalan Raya Krekot Bunder no. 65, Pasar Baru – Jakarta
Featured in THE FOODIE MAGAZINE Sept 2015 edition
Download it for free here via SCOOP!