Since its days as a Dutch colonial outpost named Batavia to its rise to a global megacity, food in the Indonesian capital Jakarta has evolved, absorbing culinary influences from the outside while refining its endemic Sundanese and Batavian recipes, such as kerak telor, a spiced omlette with coconut, and soto betawi, the ubiquitous soup seen throughout the city. But Jakarta also has a fine reputation for Chinese food. Many of its gems are, however, hidden, so we met up with one man who knows where to look.
William Wongso is Indonesia’s foremost culinary authority—from cooking for Hillary Clinton to managing his extensive portfolio of restaurants—so we asked him to take us to three of the city’s best eateries.
Located in the diplomatic district of Menteng, Trio (Jl. R.P. Soeroso No. 29 A, 62-21/3193-6295) has been serving Hokkien delicacies since 1947. This humble restaurant has held onto its charming, old-town feel and has not moved since its establishment 65 years ago. Try the fried frog with butter or the beef tongue.
Established in the center of town in the 1950s, Mandala (Jl. Wolter Monginsidi No. 80, 62-21/739-8537) has become a household name for many Indonesians. Don’t be put off by the restaurant’s eccentric décor—focus instead on the fried squid in oyster sauce or the fried rice with crab.
Amidst the hustle and bustle of the Chinese district of Pluit, in the north of the city, Fong Tu (Jl. Pluit Barat I No. 12; 62-21/669-6118) is a 20-year-old Chinese restaurant that specializes in Hakka food. MSG is off-limits here and the steamed fish is worth the journey.