I don’t usually hunt for an Indonesian culinary experience in high end restaurants. I believe that the best Indo food can be found in warung(s) (Traditional street food tents), gerobak (wagons) and humble traditional small restaurants. My favorite Indonesian restaurants chain such as Bakmi GM (is that Chinese or Indo? Chisindo?) or Nasi Padang Sederhana and Satay Khas Senayan are as ‘posh’ as I get to dining out with Indo food as a vocal point. Oh wait…wait… I probably
spoke typed to soon. Lara Djonggrang was a high end Indonesian restaurant that I enjoyed a couple of times. But as my foodie mother would say about the atmospheric and slightly ‘eerie’ restaurant “We are paying for the ambience”.
Another reason why I don’t really favor high end indo food is the price. As an Indonesian, growing up with Indo food all my life, I find it hard to justify ordering high end
expensive sayur lodeh (Soup with coconut broth) or tempe (soy bean cake). Lodeh is lodeh and tempe is tempe. It shouldn’t cost as much as a salmon or steak. If I was forced tempted to go the semi high end route, it’s usually because of a specialty in the menu such as bebek crispy (Crispy duck) or ayam betutu (Balinese chicken dish with aromatic spices). Don’t shoot me patriots! It’s just how my stingy brain functions.
So what was I doing in Tesate Menteng the other day? Ramadhan is not only a month for devotion but also the month for Bukbers (Buka Bersama/ Communal Iftar or eating after sundown that usually involves dining out in a big group). And due to the location, Tesate Menteng was chosen. I had my apprehensions. Rumor has it that Tesate was not only overpriced, but food was okay and service so –so. I’m pleased to say that my fears never manifested. For one, the place sold me from the start. Subjectively, it is so near my place that I give it an 8 before setting foot on the place (Ramadhan Jakarta traffic close to Buka = Hell!). And as I arrived, a solid 8, 5. The first floor where I was seated is semi open air but refreshingly cool. With its glass to glass walls and easy breezy ambiance, patrons are transported to a pseudo Bali feel. If you have been to one of the posh-er cafes in Seminyak Street, Bali, you’ll know what I mean. None of the wayang murals or batik decor that usually screams tacky at most Indonesian restaurants. Tesate is modern, sophisticated yet cozy. And as the night approaches, the lighting really gives Tesate Menteng a very international feel.
(Picture from their Facebook page)
Our reserved table overlooks the Sam Ratulangi street. One of the nicer Jakarta streets. I swear, if I squint my eyes, I can almost see the beach and not the Menteng gas station. But of course, Indonesian culture still shines through (or else what’s the point right? Yay patriots!) in the form of the Menu that is made to look like the fan that a traditional satay maker would use to fan the satay sizzling on the traditional grill. But what took my breath away was the live gamelan that started halfway through our meal. Live gamelan is not a big thing of course. Many Indonesian restaurants use gamelan as a form of entertainment. But with the modern backdrop, it’s a as if gamelans are now accepted to perform in a sophisticated cosmopolitan setting that is usually reserved for jazz or classical music.
I don’t know about the service in Tesate Plaza Senayan and Tesate Pacific Place, but service here was good. There were 15 of us dining and all our orders came prompt and correct. The waiters and waitresses are well trained and very helpful. They take our order using what seems to be a blackberry. They did mix up my dessert order, but understandable since we were a large group. And they quickly remedied the situation no questions asked.
Now on to the food itself. As with Indonesian dining, we ordered many dishes to share. Yes, it is expensive and can seem a bit intimidating. Was it worth it? Well yes and no. Taste wise, yes Tesate has some awesome dishes. Do order the Rujak Pengantin Salad with its sour yet savory dressing that is a perfect start to a meal. The lumpia petruk, in my opinion is very reminiscent to authentic Lumpia Semarang. The unique musky taste of bamboo shoots (not everyone’s cup of tea, yet I rather enjoy), fresh sweet prawns, and the slightly spicy dipping sauce is delightful. But my favorite appetizer has got to be the uniquely named Tahu Udang Berontak (Rebel Prawn Tofu). I love me some crispy tahu! And this one is crrrriiisspy. It is stuffed to the brim with mushroom and prawn filling making it crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.
(Pictures from jenzcorner.net)
For the mains we ordered the Sate Kambing (mutton satay), Sate Ayam (chicken satay), sayur lodeh, Sate Bebek (Duck Satay), Tumis Pucuk Labu (Stir fried Chayote leaf with egg and sambal) and tahu telor (Fried Tofu wrapped in Egg with dark sauce). Verdict on the satays? Could be improved. The sate kambing was tender and juicy. The peanut sauce for the sate ayam is full of flavor. However, they didn’t strike me as anything special. Delicious, but for a place called TeSATE, I had bigger dreams. The Sate Bebek was not a favorite. It was slightly too dry and the flavor were not memorable.
The big stand out for me were surprisingly the veggie dishes. The Tumis Pucuk Labu was a very nice discovery. I had to Google what chayote leaf was (a chayote is a small pumpkin. Who knew?!) and was very pleased with the taste. It’s what I would describe as bittersweet. The medium spicy sambal (chilli sauce) is what ties the fried egg and leaves together to create a very distinctive dish. Another joy was the Sayur Lodeh. Apparently lodeh is not only lodeh at Tesate. US ribs strips are added to the mix of veggies giving it that extra richness. The coconut broth is very light but full of flavor. It’s one of the best lodehs I’ve ever tasted. Even my mom in law’s lodeh come a close second. As for the tahu telor, I find it to be a very similar to Sate Khas Senayan’s one. And I joyfully discovered that Sate Khas and Tesate belong to the same group. As with its counterpart, this Tahu Telor brings such comfort. The familiar taste of fried tofu, the smokiness of the fried peanuts and the dark sweet sauce is a safe yet sound choice.
(Photo from citydirectory.co.id)
(Picture from id.openrice.com)
Indonesian desserts don’t usually appeal to me. But it was Ramadhan and I had a sweet tooth to indulge. The Es Cendol Durian (rice jelly, coconut milk and durian paste) is adequate. Although I had to scoop off the amply served durian dollop sitting majestically on top of the cendol. Yes people, I’m an exclusive few who despises durian. Due to the chaotic nature of our Bukber (15 very hungry women moms are never easy customers), I didn’t get a chance to ask the waiter to customize my order and remove the dollop of durian. I also ordered hot tea which can be refilled as many times you want. This is another good thing about Tesate. Instead of tea bags, the tea leaves are held in a special holder. It is then dropped inside the cup and the tea flavor is dispersed by pouring hot water. Remove the holder after water has darkened to your taste. A waiter would happily refill your hot water many times over. I ordered mineral water but found it more
cheap practical to keep refilling my tea.
(Picture from id.openrice.com)
So again, was it worth the high end price? As a foodie I would say yes. But for those who expect big portions to tally up with prices, I wouldn’t want to assume. Tesate’s portions are by no means small, but not huge either. An exception for the desserts which is actually be better shared between two people. My group of 15 ordered almost two of everything to satisfy our hunger. But again, we were fasting the whole day. So for those of you Indonesian foodies who are looking for something to update your culinary experience, Tesate is a very good start.
PS: I’m photo grabbing (but referenced of course) due to the fact that it’s a hassle to stop and take pictures of the food when you are with party of 15. Again, I’ll visit Tesate soon and update.
Final Judgment: Splurge a little and give it a try! Better yet, take a tourist with you. See it through their eyes how delicious and rich our dishes are. Merdeka!
Price for Satisfaction: We paid roughly Rp. 200.000 each. It’s actually the standard price range for a high end restaurant in Jakarta.
Trivia: Love the vintage ginger candy they give out with your change and bill. Nice touch!
Notes: Do reserve for immediate seating. Parking space is quite small so be prepared.
Overall 1-10: 7,5