Jakarta’s newest upmarket Indonesian venue shows off punchy flavors, traditional recipes, and lesser-known dishes from around the archipelago.
Bali might have an astonishing array of international cuisines represented on its dining scene, but when it comes to regional Indonesian food, it is Jakarta that rules the roost. The capital’s long-standing status as a melting pot for migrants from every corner of the country is reflected not just in the sheer variety of humble warung, but also a growing cohort of notable pan-Indonesian restaurants. The latest of these is Noesaka, which debuted only in mid-December. Part of the One Satrio pedestrian mall in the Mega Kuningan business district, this two-story venue by the Artisan Kuliner Group offers an impressive range of Indonesian fare (the picture-heavy food menu spans 102 pages) for those keen to venture beyond classic favorites like beef rendang and mie goreng.
Starters include putik sari from Banten (the province directly west of Jakarta): lollipop-like fishcakes skewered on a sugarcane stalk, wrapped in corn leaf, and served with a runny starfruit-infused peanut sauce. Carrying the zing of sand ginger, the East Javanese vegetable dish trancam tosses diced cucumber, kenikir leaves, beansprouts, and chopped yardlong beans with grated fresh coconut and cubes of tempeh. Umami-rich genjer belacan uses chilies and local shrimp paste to jazz up chopped leaves and flower stalks of the yellow velvetleaf, an aquatic plant found across much of Southeast Asia.
Carnivores may want to try the satay platters of chicken or beef, while seafood enthusiasts can order Toba Batak–style arsik of whole red snapper or meaty prawns and pineapple in an addictive Acehnese curry. Don’t miss these two specialties from the eastern Indonesian port city of Makassar: iga pallubasa describes a pot of beef ribs cooked in a hearty, lip-smacking stew redolent of cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg (with an egg yolk dropped inside); while bandeng goreng parape is a boneless fried milkfish topped with strands of flaky batter and a sweet-savory-piquant spice paste.
Among the rice dishes for sharing between three or four diners, nasi liwet — aromatic coconut rice sprinkled with tiny anchovies and fresh lemon basil — comes highly recommended. Other carb-based options include regional spins on nasi goreng and uli bakar, or grilled glutinous rice with your choice of sweet and savory toppings: durian kaya jam, perhaps, or Balinese duck betutu.
Noesaka’s beautifully presented iced drinks are also worth a mention. Contrary to its name (“admiral gone berserk”), es laksamana mengamuk does not feature anything spicy: it mixes sour Indramayu mangoes, slivers of young coconut, and basil seeds in a milk and coconut-milk concoction. A refreshing glass of es tamarind pala, or tamarind-and-lemon soda water with candied nutmeg fruit and tamarind ice cream, acts as the perfect counterpoint to grilled meats and heavier stews or curries.
Unsurprisingly for a soft-opening stage, certain dishes and drinks were not yet available, while the current soundtrack consists of one instrumental piece played on repeat. One would expect Noesaka to iron out these minor issues in the days and weeks ahead; the brand-new restaurant already delivers a tantalizing glimpse of Indonesia’s culinary diversity.