Kaum Jakarta understands that in order to create an impression, sometimes you have to go against the current. Do something extraordinary, such as creating a conceptual Indonesian food restaurant in Hong Kong, get yourself listed in Michelin Guide Hong Kong & Macau 2017, then open a new outlet in Bali, and finally Jakarta. In that order. Before I say anything else, let me just state this: Kaum Jakarta is another home run from Potato Head family.
As we have talked about here, this is the momentum that Indonesian food has been waiting for to achieve its long-overdue global recognition. Kaum Jakarta is another proof that there is an increase in number of restaurants that are presentable to the eyes, tongue, and taste of foreigners, without forgoing taste and authenticity. Over the course of a few years, Chef Antoine Audran and culinary emissary Lisa Virgiano travelled all over Indonesia to explore Indonesian specialty ingredients and cooking techniques. The result is a diverse menu consisting of food from West to East Indonesia—Maluku, Java, Sumatra, among others—that represents a specific region.
It’s true that not all Indonesia’s 34 provinces and more than 600 ethnic groups are represented. Some dishes can be considered safe and found at other restaurants. Having said that, I can see some menus and tweaks that are exclusive to Kaum Jakarta.
Balinese-style Ikan Goreng Sambal Kecombrang is indeed your everyday deep fried fish, but the use of kecombrang (ginger flower) is what makes it special. Kecombrang is a common flower in Indonesia, yet few has utilized its maximum capacity in cooking. The first time I tasted kecombrang was in Chris Salans’—still a foreigner, despite having lived in Bali for a long time—Kecombrang Sorbet, his dish in Jakarta Culinary Festival 2012. I have faith that kecombrang can be promoted as something uniquely Indonesia. With its distinct flavor, this flower can add another layer of flavor to a simple menu.
Sate Buntel Acar Rujak from Solo is everything a good satay should be. Fat, juicy lamb meat encased in its own fat, grilled to perfection. The dish only comes with four skewers, but well worth the price. Meanwhile, Bobor Bayam Merah Kelapa Muda is a first for me. This soupy Central Java dish reminds me of jamu drinks, but in a subtle way, perhaps because of the use of kunyit (turmeric) and kencur in the coconut milk broth. But the winner is Gohu Ikan Tuna: Fresh tuna, served with lemon cui (a family of lime), walnuts, and ginseng leaves. People usually associate raw fish with Western or Japanese cuisine, but this Maluku dish is 100% Indonesia. I’ll be back for this one. As for sweet endings, our pick falls to Kue Kojo Kukus Saus Kopi, a pancake-like dessert. It is fluffy, a touch drier compared to pancake, and served with a fragrant caramel coffee sauce.
Not stopping at food, Kaum Jakarta presents everything in a neat, beautiful packaging. Physically, it showcases everything Indonesia in little details, including decorative fabrics and the menu book. The restaurant resides in a restored old building in Menteng area, complete with vintage tiles that you normally find at Dutch colonial-style houses. Since it’s a Potato Head creation, imagine all of those traditional aspects meeting a touch of quirk from the art installation and funky walls. Service is also satisfactory. Although casual, the staffs take the time to stand beside you, explain about the menu, and ask about your opinion afterwards.
Kaum is a brave establishment. It heroes Indonesian food, yet started all the way in Hong Kong before making its way home. As Potato Head’s CEO Ronald Akili writes on the first page of the menu book, Kaum aims to be a global brand ambassador of Indonesian cuisine and hopes to open in other countries in the future. Besides that, from a local’s point of view, the restaurant also manages to introduce me to new Indonesian dishes, yet in a seamless and familiar way. If I had to place Kaum Jakarta, it would be somewhere between Sate Senayan and 1945 at Fairmont.
Kaum has great ambience, great food, and great pick of cocktails. Potato Head’s famous concoctions, including Barong Zombie, are available in Kaum Jakarta. In a nutshell, this restaurant has so many things to offer. Do yourself a favor, come to Kaum Jakarta, and get lost in Indonesian cuisine.
Address: Jl. Dr. Kusuma Atmaja No. 77-79
Price Range: IDR 48-420K (Food)
Google Maps: Click Here