Life!

FROM 5 STAR TO NO STAR: How I explored Jakarta two ways

HAPPY HOUR at the Skye Bar, 56 floors above Jakarta. Every major metropolis in the world has a rooftop bar for that perfect view of the urban skyline, and a sunset like no other. I wore batik in honor of the location!

I’m not one for lists. I find that if you follow one with single-minded determination, one is bound to run into a disappointment. But my friend Star Naraga is a firm believer in them, and last weekend when I tagged along to his food coma adventure in Jakarta, I succumbed to one.

Despite carefully-laid plans, we had enough leeway to travel my way: notoriously impulsive,
unpremeditated, hinged on chance. It probably irked Star, but boy what photos they brought forth.

Planning to tick off travel boxes this summer? Here’s a good mix of list-love and list-less tips (first 4 of 10) that worked for us on this Jakarta journey.

TRAVEL TIP #1: EVERY METROPOLIS HAS A ROOFTOP BAR, FIND IT.
It helps if you have a chic friend who can help you navigate the scene, of course.

I discovered Shri on the 23rd level of Centec tower in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh because of Cel Aldana-Sanders; Bangkok’s The Roof @38th on Mode Sathorn via Travel Now EIC Marbee Go; Kuala Lumpur’s Marini’s on 57th at the KLCC because of wedding planner Stanz Catalan; and Makati’s 71 Gramercy along Kalayaan Avenue through microbiologist Edmund Azucena. In Jakarta, I discovered Sky Bar on the 56th floor of Grand Indonesia Mall from a tip from Vo Rusiana.

You had to find the hidden lift inside a bookstore in the mall to get here! The payoff? An amazing view of the cityscape at sunset, and potent cocktails. Here, the Skye Sour (center) and the Ginger Mojito.

Skye proposes a clever deal: pay the IDR 250,000 (P1,000) admission fee that you can use to order food and drinks. Not bad for this view and stellar service.

TRAVEL TIP #2: LISTS CAN ALSO GET IT RIGHT. AND THEN SOME!
Guided by a listing on Indonesia’s best eats published on Rappler, Star and I make our way to Restoran Simpang Raya in the heart of Jakarta.

The list merely said this was the best beef rendang in town, but we got so much more than we bargained for. It turned out to be a Padang or Minang restaurant, serving traditional food from the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra in a most interesting traditional way.

Hidang-style meant waiters piling almost 15 halal dishes on your table without a need to order—ranging from dendeng (beef jerky), paru goreng (fried lungs), udang (shrimp), gulai (curry), cumi (squid), sayur (steamed vegetables), three kinds of ayam (chicken), and ikan goreng (fried fish)—and you pay only for the plates you consume.

What happens to those that you do not eat? Well, they end up on the other tables. So yes, your dishes may have been someone else’s leftovers too! If you can get over that little fact, it’s a culinary adventure that may make other meals in Indonesia pale in comparison.

Guided by a listing on Indonesia’s best eats published on Rappler, Star and I make our way to Restoran Simpang Raya in the heart of Jakarta. The list merely said this was the best beef rendang in town, but we got so much more than we bargained for.

It turned out to be a Padang or Minang restaurant, serving traditional food from the Minangkabau people of West Sumatra in a most interesting traditional way.

Hidang-style meant waiters piling almost 15 halal dishes on your table without a need to order—ranging from dendeng (beef jerky), paru goreng (fried lungs), udang (shrimp), gulai (curry), cumi (squid), sayur (steamed vegetables), three kinds of ayam (chicken), and ikan goreng (fried fish)—and you pay only for the plates you consume.

What happens to those that you do not eat?

Well, they end up on the other tables. So yes, your dishes may have been someone else’s leftovers too!

If you can get over that little fact, it’s a culinary adventure that may make other meals in Indonesia pale in comparison.

TRAVEL TIP #3: LISTS CAN ALSO GET IT WRONG.FIND THE SILVER DINING.
It turned out to be nasty goreng, sorry. What was hyped in an online poll as the best nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice),
arguably the national dish, was a bit of a letdown because their service was horrible.

Also, it really is just fried rice with an egg and krupuk (kropek). Even the side of bakso (meatball) didn’t help much.

I truly wonder how this ended up as #2 in a CNN International list of “World’s 50 Most Delicious Food.”

When this happens, grin and bear it, and peruse the menu for other unique items that might brighten the meal.

We weren’t completely held up at Rempah Mafia, their drinks selection was memorable.

Try the Yakult soda!

TRAVEL TIP #4: THE BEST PASALUBONG IS A PIECE OF SOUL.

Bring home a piece of the people’s soul by choosing artwork made by a local. In Jakarta, we passed through a kilometer stretch of shops that sold antiques (both fab and faux) and curiosities along posh Menteng, where Barack Obama went to fourth grade.

Jalan Surabaya is a treasure trove of these finds. I bought myself a pair of wayang golek (3-dimensional wooden rod puppets)
depicting Rama and Sita, the heroes of the Ramayana.

The shopkeeper hid these special ones at the back of his shop because they were antiques, and handmade and hand-painted with their slanted eyes and delicate mouths, wearing traditional batik, of course.

Three shops over, I also picked up a wayang kulit (shadow theater) puppet, this time flat and made of cured buffalo hide, stamped beautifully in delicate lacelike patterns, hand-painted painted vibrant colors, and set in a more sophisticated bone base.

My choice turned out to be Arjuna, the master archer and the only undefeated warrior of the Mahabharata.

Learn to bargain, too! When I started walking away from the wayang golek, the shopkeeper lowered his original IDR 450,000 (P1,730) to IDR 200,000 (P769) for the pair! Much, much lower than “afternoon price.”

TAGS: explored, FROM 5 STAR TO NO STAR, How, Jakarta, two ways
Latest Stories
Most Read

Subscribe to our regional newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and
acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.