Last year showed us that Jakarta’s culinary landscape is a very dynamic place where innovation and variety keeps on blossoming. From restaurants at the mall, swanky coffee shops, the come-back of stand-alone restaurants, to the ever-popular upscale bistros, the scope is growing, literally on a weekly basis. So what should we expect this year in terms of restaurant trends?
Last year I noticed the restaurant business increasing all around Jakarta; encompassing everything from cafes to fine dining restaurants, independent restaurants to hotel venues, from traditional to more modern approaches. Some of these new venues are now thriving or at least beginning to become popular while others were thwarted by bad taste, confusing concepts or below par service.
How do I know? Well darling readers, yours truly gets various invitations for both ladies’ luncheons and dinners on almost a daily basis! Believe me, in between arisan and gossiping over coffee, we take careful note of the ambiance, food quality, price and service of the restaurant. For us, there is nothing more exciting than going to try a new place!
Japanese, Italian and Indonesian cuisines proved still to retain their popularity last year. Places such as Sake+, Akira Back, Gia, Three Buns, Akasya Express and Plataran Dharmawangsa were some of our favorite new restaurants of 2014. These places not only produce great food but also show the potential to become one of those iconic food ‘institutions’ in town.
During a recent chat with a few Jakarta food bloggers, we agreed that aside from the above categories, this year will likely see a demand for things like French patisseries and chocolate salons. Existing venues, like Cacaote, Pipiltin and Amber, will most likely get competition this year, either by local restaurateurs or even from international players such as Ladurée or Pierre Hermé.
Interest in Indonesian food itself is always high and we will surely see more exploration from small enterprises, which will either promote a specific cuisine from a certain region or create their own versions of well known Indonesian dishes. Perhaps this concept will merge with the recent trend for food trucks, transforming the concept of warung as we know it.
Last year we also witnessed the emergence of the ‘green lifestyle’ where keywords such as “green smoothies,” “kale” and “organic” were popular (and still remain trendy now). Will we see a restaurant that serves only organic food coming soon? Maybe not yet, but it is something to watch out for as more and more people are now changing their ways and looking toward a healthier, more organic lifestyle.
At the end of January this year, Letter D opened in the Kebayoran vicinity, boosted by the fact it was the brainchild of Indonesian Masterchef judge, Degan Septoadji. Famous for uber delicious fried duck at his first restaurant Café Degan in Seminyak, Bali, he decided to try his luck in Jakarta by opening this bistro and bar. During the opening, I was truly impressed with his new creation of salmon lodeh,prepared in the true manner of east-meets-west fusion. It is just a matter of time before his fellow ex-Masterchef judge, Vindex Tengker, follows Degan’s footsteps since he is now no longer running the kitchens at The Dharmawangsa Jakarta.
Talking about hotel chefs, I got to experience the dishes of Chef Michael Muller at the end of last year at the sneak preview of the new and about to open Raffles Jakarta. Known as the chef who started one of Singapore’s fabulous culinary institutions, Jaan, in 2003, Chef Michael Muller enticed me with his artisanal French cuisine that was simply out of this world. I can hardly wait to taste his food again when the hotel opens this coming March.
Staying on the topic of restaurants at hotels, we witnessed the opening of the new Fairmont Hotel right next to Plaza Senayan in January. During the opening, I learned that the hotel has 9 F&B outlets, though they are currently still running with only the coffee shop. My expectation is already high with the hope that the hotel’s food can once again rejuvenate our palate, like in the past. I will get back to you on this matter in another article.
With the revival of Pasar Santa as a culinary destination (thanks to the city’s thriving hipster culture), we also got to see a different approach to the restaurant business; where the focus is on taste rather than ambiance or décor. We can also note some new food innovations there, including the popular black hotdog aka “Black Dog”. Hopefully this concept will be infectious, influencing existing markets elsewhere and helping to bring back the fun. Having said that, I would also say that this concept is still on trial; this year will be their ultimate test to see if they can keep up the hype.
Oh and my take on the ever increasing number of coffee shops? It won’t stop, trust me! I do wish we had more tea houses as well to balance it out though… But I guess that is just my opinion.