May 25, 2008

First impressions of Jakarta's "Food Paradise"

Food Paradise. Food City. Those are the nicknames for Kelapa Gading, the neighborhood in North Jakarta where we have been living upon returning home from the United States. And judging from what we’ve seen so far, they are accurate descriptions.

The main thoroughfare of Kelapa Gading, called the “Boulevard”, is lined chockfull with hundreds of restaurants and food stalls for many, many blocks on both sides. My husband and I were gawking like tourists as we were driven through the area for the first time and we told each other: “Ok, you look on that side, I look on this side, and keep in mind what’s out there so we can try them later!”

It is truly a mind-boggling variety: all types of cuisines, from a myriad of Indonesian regional food (Padang, Manado, Palembang, Makassar, etc.) to international (Chinese, American, Korean, etc.) and many interpretations of snackfoods (pisang goreng, pastel, martabak, mpek-mpek, etc… oh, my!). Some are sleekly designed modern restaurants complete with A/C, others are the typical ‘dives’ of open-air tents with benches and tables. They’re all squeezed next to each other for many blocks without any sense of cohesiveness: a gleaming new bakery is built next to a dingy, older restaurant, etc. All advertise their unique dishes on huge banners, the effect is quite chaotic as you drive along the street, but that’s part of the charm... if you can call it 'charming' at all. I’m definitely not in Irvine Spectrum or Victoria Gardens anymore (my old haunts while living in southern California), with their thoughtfully planned and designed public space!

Lest you think we have gorged ourselves in these first few days, we haven’t. Our sore throats, which still persist as of this writing, kept us from doing so (deep-fried stuff is definitely verboten!). So far we’ve only eaten at one restaurant on this ‘Boulevard’, where my brother and sister-in-law treated us for dinner, it’s a Chinese bakery & restaurant named ‘Eaton’ (go figure…). The two-story structure is very nicely designed, with clean and modern interior, and we sat right next to the huge window on the second floor, looking down at the bustling traffic below. Customer service was fabulous, the food and dessert were great. Jakarta has clearly come a long way on a lot of things!

Ok… hundreds more dishes to try in this 'Food Heaven'!

No comments:

Post a Comment