UNION Café, Ready to Take on The New Terrain

Much to everyone’s excitement, UNION Café was recently unveiled as the latest entry from The Union Group – the big family that shapes the F&B scene of Jakarta for years now.

Known for the endless innovations when it comes to various dining concepts, UNION Café in a way differentiates itself with the siblings. Emulating the success of UNION as the group’s flagship restaurant is already a challenge, but to leave its own mark of distinction to curious Jakartan diners would be an admirable feat.

Within just few weeks of their opening since before Eid this year, the establishment has already become the talk of the town. The welcoming atmosphere, the circular shape of the café, and the alluring display of bakery would entice even UNION’s most seasoned patron. Once inside, it’s all about comfort and privacy – albeit pretty much the whole Senayan City can see the hustle and bustle of the café.

The distinctive features came mostly from the menu and perhaps this is the first time in the history of UNION that we have Indonesian-inspired dishes more than ever. The inspirations for the menu was either creatively driven or derived from personal experiences of chef proprietor Adhika Maxi and his wife Karen Carlotta. The result is an exciting lineup worth every penny to indulge.

From the starters, UNION Café boasts the collection of Indonesian snacks such as the prawn and chicken tahu isi with daun jeruk, singkong fries “soto flavor”, scallop bakwan jagung, and bakwan fishcakes. Alternatively, you can choose international flavors such as the lemongrass tuna tataki with tempeh crumbs or the calamari with San Marzano tomatoes and tartar sauce.

Heading to the pasta section, the Indonesian flavors can be seen right away from the appearance of crispy teri aglio olio spaghetti and the crispy chicken penne with sambal matah. The latter shows UNION Café’s new commitment for bolder taste. It’s not just about the depth of flavors and the sophistication of the dish, but also the level of spiciness. This would be a new height that perhaps only a few internationally-themed restaurants in Jakarta would be brave enough to climb.

Heading to the main course, one certainly must play along with UNION Café’s signatures. For example; the Indo Spiced Steak with cabe rawit confit, colorful vegetables, and rice would be a great substitute for your usual Steak Frites. Other than that, the café offers the appetizing nasi bebek garing on garlic rice and served with 2 kinds of sambal. Not stopping on those, we have all the goodness from slow cooked short ribs with tamarind sauce, nasi goreng kepiting, and seafood mie goreng.

Heading straight to the desserts – a specialty that has contributed so much for UNION’s success, is also not short of surprises. Firstly, we have the es teler ice cream bolu roll, and pisang coklat with cinnamon sugar and burnt caramel ice cream. The rich display of cakes and pastry would be great for takeaways as well.

With this, one would be curious enough to see with what UNION Café in particular, would conjure again in the future with its potentials. As they say, UNION made is well made, and certainly we’d be looking forward to more exciting things coming from the group and its other ventures.

UNION CAFE
Lower Ground Floor, Senayan City,
Jl. Asia Afrika No.19, Jakarta
Phone: +6221 7278 1145
www.unionjkt.com


Featured on Passion Magazine

NAMELAKA, A Refined Pâtisserie at Its Best

Passion meets Yoan Tjahjadi and Ivan Setyawan, co-owners of the rising star pastry shop Namelaka at Shophaus Menteng. They share a story about their humble beginnings and how in just less than two years, they are ready to take the pastry world of Jakarta by storm.

One decade is all that we need to assimilate ourselves within the global culinary culture. It was quiet on all fronts back when I started writing and observing about Jakarta’s food scenes back in 2009. And now, we can see it clearly that everyone is contributing a part to further embolden our local food culture – from a writer and up to restaurant owners, from starting out in a long chain of hospitality industry and up to become an accomplished chef. This also includes the appearance of food start-ups, influencers, and other aspirations.

Everyone is always inspired with something and that’s the drive needed to gain the foothold in this so-called journey of life. That’s the case for both Yoan and Ivan as well.

Pastry has always been a thing for Yoan, who started it all from zero. She did it first by learning about cookery in general from a short course in Jakarta, while also at the same time finishing her graphic design study. Meanwhile Ivan was already on his way studying about cookery and accounting. Long story short, they met at William Angliss Institute back in Melbourne – each in pursue of their aspirations within the food industry.

Graduated, they both returned to Indonesia and promised themselves that they should leave a mark in this world somehow. Namelaka was then established in 2016, starting humbly as an online pastry business and joining food bazaars around Jakarta.

“One time there was an offer from Shophaus to open up our first store here”, Yoan says. Both were excited about the opportunity, but they realized it was all about renewing their own commitments for the business. A decision that they must face sooner or later.

Thus, December 2016 was historical for Namelaka as finally Yoan and Ivan agreed to commit themselves wholeheartedly into the business now. The production flow has been set to full motion now and all their resources were assigned to make that happen.

But what’s the difference between Namelaka and the rest of the competition, I ask them. “Number one, we don’t follow what’s trending out there. Our products are simply based on the flavors that we personally like and we try to be creative with that”, she explains.

Ivan quickly gives example, “Back when I was in college, I used to really love this hazelnut coffee from Starbucks and that inspired us to create the Coffee Caramel Hazelnut cake”. “Or in my instance”, says Yoan cheerfully, “the Honey Lemon Ginger Tart which was based on a flavored beverage I really like!”

Their signature product now is the choux pastry with a wide variety of unique flavors such as the Thai milk tea, salted caramel, mango lassi, and many more. Other than that, Namelaka prides itself with their collection of cakes; namely the Intense Chocolate, Earl Berries, and the Noisette. Each boasts its luscious look and a curious blend of quality ingredients.

Last Ramadan, they paid homage to the holy month with their unique creation of Nastart – a combination of the much loved nastar with homemade pineapple jam, compote, and almond crumble on a pie base. Additionally, they were busy producing the all-time favorite hampers for Eid.

Business may run well for Namelaka so far, but they do not stay idle. I ask them what they are planning after this. “Rather than focusing on opening new shops, we want to focus on increasing our capacity. We are planning to relocate our central kitchen to a bigger place”, explain them both. They hope to increase their efficiency when responding for more online orders specifically.

With their current pace and their commitment to quality from this tender age, it’s safe to assume that we will see more of Namelaka from time to time. It would be exciting to see what other creations they will come up with in the future and how the crowd would react to that. As for me, I have found a new sanctuary within the verdant Menteng area. And that is to sip a good old cup of coffee here and a slice of cake from this patisserie.

NAMELAKA
Menteng Shophaus, Lantai 1
Jl. Teuku Cik Ditiro No. 36, Jakarta


Featured on Passion Magazine

“Dining In The Dark” Fundraising Dinner by Fairmont Jakarta

As part of AccorHotels sustainability efforts, Fairmont Jakarta presents a one-of-a-kind fund raising event called “Dining in the Dark” which will be held on 3 December 2018 at the Ballroom. The event is in collaboration with and in support of Yayasan Mitra Netra – a non-profit organization that focuses on efforts and initiatives to support people who are visually impaired.

The concept of dark dining takes place in a dark restaurant, where the customers do not see the food they are eating. The basic concept is that the removal of vision enhances the other senses and increases gastronomic pleasure. At the Dining in the Dark, Fairmont Jakarta invites guests to experience a culinary journey through taste, smell, touch and sound, in total darkness. Guests will be served a sophisticated 12-course set menu that is meticulously crafted by the team of talented chefs to indulge the senses.

Seated in the pitch-black dining room, the guests will be guided and served by blind individuals who have been specially trained to offer guidance to sighted guests. It would be a life impacting experience when the roles are reversed – the blind become the eyes, opening minds to a deeper consciousness.

The event also serves as a form of solidarity for the people suffering from blindness. The guests will be challenged to do the usually taken-for-granted activities, like enjoying the menu and pouring drinks, in complete darkness. This affinity leads to mutual trust and respect, and a realization of the value of their work and overall ability to carry out tasks.

Serving the tables that evening are the visually impaired individuals from Yayasan Mitra Netra. The foundation provides educational services, as well as initiating work field diversification programs for the blinds.  People with visually impaired sights – some since born and some lost their eye sights during adulthood – come to the foundation to learn on how to enable themselves in getting education and work opportunities.

Dining in the Dark is available for guests at IDR 2,500,000 per person, where the fund raised will be donated to Yayasan Mitra Netra. For reservations, please call (+62 21) 2970 3333 or email diningreservations.jakarta@fairmont.com.

AB Steak: The Haven for Steak Aficionados

Staying true to the roots while continuously expanding his visionary F&B empire across the globe, the Korean chef Akira Back opened AB Steak just last year and has since garnered rave reviews. As for what makes the steakhouse really special, let’s find out.

Following the huge success of Akira Back Indonesia – the chef’s first restaurant in Jakarta, there’s no way for Chef Akira but to move forward from here. The untapped potentials and endless curiosity of Jakarta’s diners sparked the brave move and at the same time making Jakarta among the few cities in the world with more than one Akira Back’s restaurant.

Akira Back Indonesia itself has set the bar very high in the competition, thanks to its highly consistent quality as well as service. It is only natural that the crowd would expect the same from AB Steak and our visit there last time exceeded all the expectations.

AB Steak by Chef Akira Back is a revolutionary restaurant that incorporates the American-style of steakhouse imbued with lush Korean flairs. The restaurant offers a new level of dining experience not just for gourmet food seekers but for true steak aficionados as well.

As one can see from menu, already AB Steak has prepared a complete lineup of in-house dry aged beef from 30 days and up to 120 days. The dry aging method is very much preferred nowadays in many steakhouses all over the world. The process itself makes the flavor more concentrated and at times, giving away unique characteristics like for example the taste of aged cheese and the pleasant meaty texture.

The best part of the dining experience here is when the chef themselves visits your dining table personally and grill the meat in front of the guests. The cut of your choice was previously trimmed to minute details and then brushed with garlic oil to give that glossy good look. After that, it is simply rubbed only with salt and pepper, no marination needed. The steak then grilled to perfection, sliced, and ready to be enjoyed – optionally using six different salts with different flavors from truffles, yuja, yuzu, Sriracha, garlic, and the Himalayan salt.

As for the steaks, diners are encouraged to traverse across different cuts of meat. Choices of the premium cuts are ranging from grass-fed wagyu of NY strip or skirt steak and up to the luxurious Ohmi short ribs or Chateau Uenae’s Hokkaido “Snow” California cut. The must-try came from the lineup of in-house dry aged meat selections such as the 45 days or 90 days old porterhouse, the excellent and juicy 21 days old “Picanha”, and the exquisite Spinalis Dorsi or the crème a la crème of the ribs.

The more pronounced Korean part also appears from the starters and side dishes sections. Among our most memorable was the Chilean blue mussels with wagyu meatballs, and accompanied with crispy tteokbokki – all dressed in gochujang butter sauce. Other than that the Tuna Yukke was presented neatly with cucumber and scallion muchim and decorated with seaweed bugak and sesame sauce. The mind-blowing appetizer goes for the bone marrow, perfectly roasted and paired with beef tartare made from wagyu, served on toasted brioche.

One of the best accompanying dishes for the steaks is the roasted Brussels sprout with garlic confit and the crispy rice puffs. Another interesting choice would be the bibimbap with foie gras, poached egg, mixed vegetables, short ribs, with the always delectable gochujang sauce.

Chef Akira himself is no stranger in the world’s top class fine-dining scene. It all started with years of his upbringing as a professional chef, and even previously as an athlete, in the United States. Not only in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Toronto; Chef Akira Back has already now spread his business across to Asia – from Seoul, Bangkok, Singapore, Hanoi, Jakarta, to as far as New Delhi. DOSA in Seoul is among his highly successful restaurants which was opened just mere two years ago and was already awarded with one Michelin star in 2017.


Original link:
http://www.passionmedia.co.id/b/ab-steak—the-haven-for-steak-aficionados

Photography is courtesy of AB Steak

Chef Marco Lim: Indonesia’s Envoy of Padang Peranakan Cuisine

Passion meets the man behind the renowned Padang Peranakan restaurant Marco by Chef Marco Lim. The executive chef himself shares us stories behind his love for food and the mission to expand abroad.

It has been a long time, Chef Marco! What are you currently preparing for your restaurant these days?

This Ramadan we have prepared a new set menu – the Nasi Padang Berjamaah. Inspired by Middle Eastern cuisine, we are serving our own take of nasi kebuli using the rice from Solok, West Sumatra. It has similar characteristics – a bit elongated and not sticky. Much like basmati rice.

We are also pairing the rice with kambing kurma. This dish is very popular in Pandangpanjang, especially during Ramadan. Traditionally, it doesn’t use any dates at all as the name implies, and the green color came from the use of coriander. The dish comes in family portion. It’s something like what we call in West Sumatra as makan bajamba – the time of the year after harvest when people gather and eat to celebrate.

What makes Marco different than the rest of the competitions?

I’d like to think that the restaurant is more of a mixture between authentic Padang cuisine and my Chinese inheritance – or Peranakan. The food is what my family cooks back at my home in Padang for four generations now. For example, we have in the menu – dendeng cah pade, my grandmother’s version of dendeng cah darek from Bukittinggi.

Other than the flavors, I also make sure that the colors and aroma are the same as what we have back in Padang. That’s why the ingredients are brought here fresh from the country – starting from the rice, chilies, turmeric, and even the crackers. For Ramadan, we are importing about a ton of ingredients!

As for the cooking process, we are still using traditional wood-fire stoves at the central kitchen. This way, you can even sense that the aroma is different than when cooked using modern stove. The meat itself becomes smoky. That’s how we devoted ourselves for authenticity.

You also have several different concepts within your already established restaurants. Care to elaborate that?

Sure. Based on the demographics study, we decided to open our first coffee shop concept at Gandaria City. There we emphasize more on beverage and snacks. As for the main dishes, they are instead served like a rice bowl.

We have secret menus as well. For example, our dendeng batokok is using wagyu rather than the usual beef but only at Pacific Place. Additionally, we have our mie goreng rendang only for delivery orders. You really should try the latter. It was our best seller during one of our missions with the Tourism Ministry back in South Korea.

About your collaborations with the ministry, can you tell us a bit about it?

We did several trips with the ministry to promote Indonesian food to South Africa, The States, South Korea, and Spain a while back. Madrid was an exciting opportunity especially. We were given the opportunity to serve a 7-course Padang-style dinner.

We even brought around 125 kilograms of ingredients from here! Only the three of us did the whole cooking and plating for a gala dinner a lot of guests. We also prepared about 600 sticks of sate Padang. After that, I was also given the opportunity to teach about Indonesian food at a local university.

We heard that Marco is planning to expand abroad. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, we have plans to open new restaurants in Bali and Kuala Lumpur. We are still in the middle of planning it properly. My major concern is how to retain the authenticity of our ingredients and transport it abroad. The restaurant’s concept would be similar though. We are still going to serve our dishes in their original form and taste, all freshly cooked. We are planning to open our first restaurant abroad hopefully in 2019.


Original link:
http://www.passionmedia.co.id/b/indonesias-envoy-of-padang-peranakan-cuisine-

Photography by Edwin Pangestu

The exciting gastronomic escapades of a foodie journo!

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