Talking about food in Kuningan, South Jakarta won’t be complete without mentioning Warung MJS. Years have gone by and the neighborhood has seen numerous more fashionable F&B establishments, but MJS remains strong. It seems that MJS’ roots have made its way deep into the local community, creating an inseparable connection between this restaurant and the people. You can see a lot of customers coming for lunch, dinner, or events on a daily basis.
What makes Warung MJS attractive to its patrons, you’re asking?
If you’re thinking of the current café standards of the word “comfortable”, you won’t find them here. Most of Warung MJS is a semi open space; there is only one small air-conditioned room that can fit around 15 people. People who usually spend their time at a minimalist coffee shop with plenty of negative space will be shocked for sure.
Warung MJS feels like a never-ending art project with a mishmash of ornaments here and there. The space is adorned with knick-knacks brought by the owner from his travels. See a kimono collection hanging on one wall, a collection of traditional cigarette boxes on the other. Do check out the Dagadu Djokdja-style jokes plastered on every corner, or the male toilet if you can. Hint: The latter involves hotel key cards—lots of them. Perhaps everything is a way for the quirky owner to show his personality.
Nevertheless, people seem to be having a great time and take the situation as a part of the experience. The disarray is the charm, if you will. My visits to Warung MJS are proof to this strange but welcome phenomenon. The first time I went there, it was packed with local Bataknese church goers, while a high school reunion was taking place during my second visit.
But is the food as fun to explore as the eccentric physicality?
I believe so, especially if classic Central Java and Semarang-influenced flavors are your kind of food. Here, you dine warteg or Padang style, which means everything is already laid out in front of you. All you have to do is point the ones that pique your interest. At the same time, it’s going to be a tricky situation if a lot of dishes look good. I always end up with a lot of food on my plate. But worry not, the price is reasonable and more pocket-friendly than eating at the mall.
Warung MJS offers more than 70 dishes. There must be something for everyone. As if that’s not enough, every a couple of months, MJS revamps their menu and adds a new dish. Some of my favorites are the savory Cumi Hitam and the extra spicy Ayam Setan. With a challenging heat that lingers on your tummy for a day, Ayam Setan is a must-try for chilli experts.
Besides those two, Asem-Asem Daging (the late Pak Bondan’s favorite), Oseng Kikil, and Kue Cubit are also worth trying. I enjoy the balanced flavor of sweetness and tangy asam jawa in Asem-Asem Daging, the perfect texture of Oseng Kikil, and the bang-for-your-buck Kue Cubit. With IDR 10,000, you get a Kue Cubit cooked to your liking in a clean kitchen, but with the same taste that you get at a street food stall. Last but not least, I have a special spot for Sambal Demit, which for me tastes like the perfect fusion between chilli and my favorite tempe bacem.
Besides unique ambience and great Indonesian food, Warung MJS helms a new sub-brand called Kopi Susu Bu Lurah. But first, disclaimer: This might sound biased because I have a personal attachment to this product. I think the branding is brilliant, from the naming to the tagline, “Kopi susu ter-enak se-Indonesia, kata Pak Lurah.” It’s very clever and easy to capture. The way they place themselves in Go-Food is also smart. While others start the name of their brand with “kopi”, Kopi Susu Bu Lurah uses the term “kopi susu”. This is a small but significant differentiation.
Disclaimer aside, I will try to explain the taste of the coffee objectively. I usually take my coffee black, and milk for me is an addition that I don’t always enjoy. But for me, Kopi Susu Bu Lurah with its IDR 22,000 price tag is quite a fascinating cup of coffee. It’s not the cheapest version of kopi susu available, but understandable since most kopi susu brands use robusta beans, while Bu Lurah exclusively uses arabica beans that are more friendly to your stomach. The flavor also reminds me of those black coffees I usually enjoy at specialty coffee shops. I often find kopi susu with an overpowering milk and coconut sugar taste, but not this one. I can still taste the coffee and enjoy the whole thing. And the fact that they make their espresso with a manual machine pulled by hand? Interesting.
If you need more reasons to come to Warung MJS, listen to this. Freebies. They have lots of freebies. Free jamu welcome drink, free crackers, free bananas, and free valet. So if you’re like me and you think parking fees suck, this might just be the place for you. So, see you at Warung MJS? I, for one, will be back for that kopi susu and Cumi Hitam soon.